Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I am going to be talking about constipation. For some reason, people are generally uncomfortable talking about their bodily functions, like pooping, despite how common it is to suffer from problems such as constipation. This is a large topic, so there is going to be more than one post to cover everything. And we’re going to start at the basics, because I see a lot of inaccurate information out there.
The first thing that I have to address is that your body never needs a bowel cleansing for healthy or normal function. The only time this would be required is if you were instructed to do so by your doctor. Having a bowel cleanse is generally only done when a person is having a procedure or test, but can sometimes be required in cases of severe constipation. Thus, it is uncommon that a bowel cleanse is needed. Most of the time, these colon cleanses are encouraged based on the myth that the colon accumulates pounds of toxic stool that has to be removed for good health. There is no medical research to support this claim. So, what’s the truth?
The truth is that colon cleansing can be a harmful practice because it can cause serious adverse outcomes such as bowel infections, anal fissures, electrolyte imbalance, dehydration and loss of the colon’s normal flora. In general, we produce about 1 ounce of poop for every 12 pounds of body weight we carry. That means that a 200 pound person would only produce about 1 pound of poop each day; which is far less then the 20 pounds that many bowel cleansing promoters claim. Since it only takes the body an average of 33 hours to fully process food from mouth to anus, it isn’t accumulating in the gut and hanging out in the body for prolonged periods of time. This means, that in general, a person only has about 1-3 pounds of stuff in their digestive track on any given day. All research on the colon suggests that it will take care of itself and has no need for any of the products that these scammers are trying to sell you.
What often isn’t talked about is that having constipation puts you at risk for developing other, more serious medical conditions. This risk is more pronounced with those who have chronic constipation rather then the occasional constipation that many of us experience. Constipation increases the risk for hemorrhoids, anal fissure, fecal impaction, rectal prolapse, colorectal cancer, benign neoplasms (growths in the bowel that are not cancer), and bowel perforations among other potential problems. Thus, it is important to prevent constipation and to properly manage it when ever prevention is unsuccessful.
The next thing to address is what constipation actually is, because that isn’t as straight forward as it might seem. Generally, constipation is considered as having less than 3 adequate bowel movements in a week. But it is also when you have hard stools that are difficult to pass or you are unable to completely empty your bowel. There are numerous causes of constipation such as not eating enough fiber, changes in routine or diet, holding your stool when you have the urge to defecate, medication side effects, dehydration and diseases of the bowel. There are medical conditions that are associated with an increased risk for constipation such as anxiety and depression.
Let’s talk about what your stools should look like, because their appearance will tell you if you are suffering from constipation. When considering this question, the Bristol stool scale is the most useful tool. Take a look at the picture below to see that visual scale along with the description of each stool type. The goal is to be passing type 3 or type 4 stools most of the time.
What about amount? Well, that’s a little more vague because the data is generally collected by weight rather then in volume and you are probably not interested in weighing your poop to be sure that it’s the right amount. However, there is some basic math that will tell us about the size that your poop should be. Stool is about the same density of water (this is why it floats some times, but sinks other times) which is 1 gram per cubic centimeter. If the average adult male is producing about 1 pound of poop every day, they should be producing a total of about 2 cups of poop every day. While the average adult female is producing about 14 ounces of poop so they should be producing a total of about 1.5 cups of poop every day. That’s a lot of poop.
Some people poop 3 times a day and some people poop 3 times a week. Both these patterns are considered normal, but they are going to have completely different quantities produced per session of pooping. If you poop 3 times a day, you are going to be passing stools that are about a half a cup. If you poop 3 times a week you are going to be passing stools that are closer to 4 cups each. So, what does this mean? It means, that like everything with the human body, there are averages, but there is a great deal of diversity within the healthy range. And that complexity leaves many people wondering if their defecation is normal.
There are some things that you can keep in mind to gauge the health of your defecation. You really should be having a type 3 or 4 on the Bristol scale. This is a great way to determine if you’re having constipation. Then consider how you are feeling when you pass your stool.
- Do you strain, struggle or have difficulty to empty your bowels?
- Do you have any pain when you are passing your stool?
- Do you have a difficult time completely emptying your bowel?
If you answer yes to any of those three questions about your defecation, you might be experiencing constipation and should have a conversation with your doctor. There are a few other things that should always lead you to speaking with your doctor in regards to your defecation and those include:
- Having any amount of blood present when you pass stool.
- If your poop is black.
- New onset (or never before evaluated) pencil-thin stools.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling about poop today, but don’t worry I will have another post about poop here soon. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!
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