Bowel movements are a topic that we normally try to avoid; however, the truth is that having them regularly is absolutely imperative to good health. We need to have more transparent communication and discussion when it comes to studying our bowel movements. In a way, our bowel movements are the single most important body function that most of us never even think about. We spend most of our time paying attention to our cholesterol counts, blood pressure, even blood sugar levels; but few of us know the basic information we need to know to keep waste from excessively building up in our bodies, and our bowel movements are the key forecasters to our well-being. A variety of foods and medications affect the normal passage through our intestine, and the passage of fecal matter through our colon to the rectum. From our stool we may be able to get clues about our diet, our gastrointestinal health, and even whether our stress, anger, or anxiety levels are too high. The three basics factors required for a healthy bowel movement and a healthy digestive system are fiber, fluids, and exercise.
Digestion begins in our mouth and stomach and ends in our bowels, the lower parts of our digestive tract. When the food we eat reaches our bowels, the water and salts that remain are absorbed. The digested food that’s left becomes formed into fecal material and exits the bowel. Normal bowel movements consist of formed, brown stools, not too hard (constipation), not too loose (diarrhea). If we’re not having regular bowel movements, that might mean that we need to boost our fiber intake by adding whole-grain products like fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, legumes, nuts and seeds into our daily diet. Refined or processed foods like canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals are lower in fiber. This is because the grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fiber content. Enriched foods are able to get some of the B vitamins and iron that they originally lost after processing, but not the fiber. High-fiber foods are good for our health; but remember, everything that is ingested should be done in moderation. Adding too much fiber too quickly can promote intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Gradually increasing the amount of fiber in our diet over a period of a few weeks allows the natural bacteria in our digestive system to adjust to the chemical changes. Fiber adds bulk to the waste material that travels through our large intestine, and this bulk is essential to our colon’s ability to turn waste materials into healthy, well-formed stools. Fiber works best when it absorbs water, making our stool soft and bulky. Water helps to move waste material through the body, and is absorbed throughout the entire length of our colon. Insufficient water intake can cause stools to form far before waste materials reaches our rectal pouch, which can cause constipation. To avoid this, be sure to eat plenty of water-rich foods, and rely on fluid-cravings to dictate how much water to drink.
According to experts, a lack of physical activity can slow our digestive system and contribute to constipation. Our digestive system tends to respond and increase bowel movements as we increase our physical activity. What’s even more amazing is that our bowels react even more when we’re in a consistent exercise routine and exercising at the same time every day. Healthy bowel movements are generated by good overall health. Chronic constipation is the single greatest cause of having an unclean and unhealthy colorectal region, because over time, constipation causes our bowel walls to face extreme pressure. This pressure is created by straining and stronger contractions created by our colon walls to help eliminate hard stools. Excessive pressure on the colon, however, can cause potentially very serious health complications.
There’s no specific number of how many bowel movements we should have daily. How many we have isn’t as important compared to the quality of each movement. With over three decades of expertise in food and service, at Gourmet Services Inc. we to remind those in our community and abroad that when we focus on making positive food and lifestyle choices that produce comfortable bowel movements, we can have peace of mind knowing that our colons are in good health. Regular bowel movements contribute to more than better physical health. The act of digestion and elimination can be seen as a comparison for our ability to absorb what is useful to our bodies and eliminate what is unnecessary and harmful.