What is a healthy bowel movement and why is it important?
Many people nowadays pay a lot of attention to the quality of the food that enters their body, but paying attention to how your food leaves your body is equally as important.
Abnormal bowel are becoming more and more common and it can be a part of symptoms of constipation, haemorrhoids, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, polyps and bowel cancer. Bowel cancer is now the cause of the second highest number of cancer deaths after lung cancer, especially affecting people who are over 50 years old.
This is why it is very important to keep your bowel healthy and learn how to recognise symptoms early to prevent a more serious problem.
Why are regular bowel movements so important?
The bowel is the lower part of your digestive tract which includes the small intestine, large intestine and rectum.
The functions of the bowel are to absorb nutrients and water from digested food, and to help the body form and excrete waste products in the form of stools.
Your stools contain lots of toxins that need to be cleared regularly, otherwise the bowel will be the first part of your body to be affected.
For example, bilirubin (a product of broken down blood cells) is one of the body’s main toxic waste products excreted through the bowel that gives stools their characteristic brown colour.
Stools that stay in the bowel longer than they should will tend to become more dry and harder to pass.
Sluggish or incomplete bowel movements will also leave behind toxins that may cause damage to both the bowel and the body over time.
This is why the most common bowel cancers are in the lower part of the bowel where more toxins tend to build up.
What is an unhealthy bowel movement?
- Bowel movements with very hard, loose, smelly or sticky stools
- Bowel movements with abdominal pain or blood in the stools
- Infrequent (less than daily) or irregular bowel movements
- Sluggish bowel movements that are difficult to pass and don’t feel complete afterwards
- Abdominal bloating and passing lots of smelly wind
- Haemorrhoids: pain or burning sensation around the anus
- Very pale or very dark stools
When too much toxins build up in the bowel, this can affect the whole body and cause other symptoms such as:
Body symptoms from an unhealthy bowel
- Tired, heavy and puffy body
- Insomnia, vivid dreams
- Lower back pain
- Red face and red nose, skin rashes
- Bad breath
- Weight gain
Natural ways to improve your bowel movements
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables such as prunes, kiwifruit, oranges, spinach and green beans.
- Drink a glass of warm water first thing in the morning
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time
- Don’t rush and give yourself a regular time of the day to pass your bowel movements
- The best position for emptying your bowels is a squatting posture. Lean forward with your back straight and feet slightly raised (or you may put your feet on a footstool)
If you experience many of the symptoms mentioned in this article please don’t be shy and consult with your experienced Chinese medicine practitioner.