Introduction

We’re back again, talking about poo! In Part 1 we discussed what normal poo looked like, when you should see a GP, and some key definitions. In Part 2 we will cover some tips on how to achieve a healthy bowel, including advice on nutrition and exercise, where you can go for more information, and a side note of ‘toilet talk’.

Tips: Getting a Healthy Bowel

If you are struggling with your poo whether it be constipation, bloating, discomfort, or having to go at the most inconvenient times, we’ve come up with some self-help tips to help you establish a regular and healthy poo routine:

1. Diet– Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t get absorbed in your small intestine. Aiming for 30g every day can help promote good poo habits, by pushing food and waste through the digestive system, bulking up your poo, and keeping you regular. 30g is a high target to reach, and the average UK person only manages 18g.

Ways of getting more fibre into your diet without having to eat loads more, includes swapping meat or mixing it with alternatives such as Quorn© mince, which has almost double the amount of fibre per serving. Another tip is try blending 100g lentils or red kidney beans into pasta, bolognaise, mince dishes or curry sauces.  This can add around 8g of fibre.

Why not try adding some seeds to dishes such as breakfast cereal, yogurt, fruit, crumbles the possibilities are endless. Our table gives you a quick idea of how much extra fibre you will get in a portion or a couple of tablespoons. Don’t forget you can always swap white flour for wholegrain wheat flour when baking, white pasta or bread for wholemeal options. Don’t quite fancy this, then why not mix them; start with a quarter and gradually build it up.  Don’t forget to leave skin on fruits and vegetables for some extra fibre and less work, just a quick scrub.  Finally, a recent study has shown that eating 2 kiwi fruit a day has helped reduce constipation, an easy one to try out.  Why not follow us on Social Media and look out for some great recipes on increasing fibre with our ‘Fibre Friday’ dishes coming soon.

Cereals: Nuts & seeds:
Bran flakes (average sized bowl 40g) 7.3g Almonds (average portion 28g/23 nuts) 3.0g
Weetabix (2 biscuits) 3.8g Peanuts (average portion 28g) 2.4g
Porridge (average sized bowl 40g) 3.6g Psyllium Husk (2 tablespoons) 10g
Muesli (45g) example ‘Jordan’s Natural’ 5.2g Ground flaxseed/Linseeds (2 tablespoons) 2g
Wholegrains: Pumpkin seeds (2 tablespoons) 2g
Wholemeal bread (2 slices) 7.0g Chia seeds (2 tablespoons) 9.8g
Wholemeal pasta (100g boiled) 8.0g Fruits and Vegetables:
Pulses: Kiwi (1 average sized) 2.1g
Baked beans (1/2 tin in tomato sauce) 12g Apple (1 medium) 4.4g
Peas (100g boiled) 5.6g Strawberries (8 medium sized) 2.0g
Lentils (100g boiled) 8.0g Broccoli (100g) 2.8g

A word of warning though, increase the fibre content slowly by 2g/day every 3-4 days and monitor the changes; too much too quickly might cause a problem and don’t forget to drink more as you eat more fibre.

2. Fluid– Fluid is really important for our poo. In addition to extra fibre, try and aim to drink between 2-3L fluid every day. Fluid helps soften your poo and make it easier to pass. Did you know although you poo may look solid, 75% of it is in fact water! Also, have you heard that coffee can help you poo? This is true and can work for some, a strong, caffeinated coffee, especially first thing in the morning, can help to wake up your gut or bowels and work with the natural changes that happen as we wake up.

3. Exercise– research shows that regular, daily exercise improves bowel function, and encourages a routine. In particular, aerobic fitness, also known as cardio, which speeds up breathing and heart rate, helps stimulate the contractions in your digestive system too. So why not try running, swimming, cycling, or dancing and aim for 30 minutes at least 5 times a week, in line with government guidance. Yoga is a great way to relieve constipation too, as certain poses massage the digestive tract and help get things moving. Visit https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation/exercises#Deep-breathing-exercises for specific yoga poses on relieving constipation.

4. Sleep and relaxation– These two are lumped together, as one helps the other. Try and aim for the recommended amount of time for sleeping for your age group. This is because sleep disturbances can alter the natural bowel contractions, leading to irregular bowel movements. There are some free useful sleep apps such as ‘Sleep Cycle’ which helps you monitor your sleep patterns, or ‘White Noise Lite’ which offers background noise proven to help many people drift off.  Anxiety can cause both constipation and diarrhoea, so learning ways of staying relaxed throughout the day can help ease your symptoms. Everyone has different ways of relaxing, so have a go at different things to see what works for you.  Some ideas could include a hot bath, meditation, going for a walk, or keeping a journal.

5. Pooping position– How we sit on the toilet to poo is important and can make a big difference. If you are struggling to go, try to relax and make sure you’ve allotted enough time to not feel pressured, as this can cause the opposite effect.  We probably all remember our parents saying don’t strain!  Straining to poo can cause haemorrhoids, or piles. If you’re really struggling, try raising your knees above the hips, squatting over the toilet with your feet on a stool or block in front of you to help get things going.  Then relax and breathe deeply down into your abdomen.

6. Routine– it’s all very well knowing what you need to do, but actually just as important, is when you need to do it; timing is crucial. Try and go to sleep, wake up, have your meals, and do your daily exercise at more or less the same time every day, keeping to the same routine. This helps train your body into knowing what happens when, and when it needs to go for a poo without any confusion.

Where to go for more information

If you want more information why don’t you visit our social media pages, you can find us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sunlightnutritionlimited/?hl=en or Facebook (2) Sunlight Nutrition Limited | Facebook  . In addition, if you fancy a chat with one of our specialist dietitians who can talk you through any poo concerns and give individual advice, please visit our website https://sunlightnutrition.co.uk/about-us/ and contact us for an appointment enquiries@sunlightnutrition.co.uk .  Other helpful websites include Guts UK and the NHS website. For advice and tips for your child The Children’s Bowel and Bladder Charity is a good resource.

If you are wanting to find an easy way to keep an eye on or track your poo, you can create your own ‘poo diary’ on your phone notes, or pen and paper, which needs to include the date, time, duration, unusual traits, and also a spot to draw in if you wish to, to show the consistency. Alternatively, there are many poo diaries/journals you can buy or there’s always an app.

Side Note: Toilet Talk

Hopefully, these two blogs will have raised awareness on the seriousness of the topic of poo, and how important it is not only to be aware of what a normal poo is, for both yourself and your children, but to not be afraid of seeking medical advice if you have any concerns.

Now, all seriousness aside, let’s end with some humour.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t find poo funny? There’s no denying it. That’s not to say there is something wrong in this, because essentially normalizing poo is the whole point of these blogs. In fact, toilet humour, or scatology, is quite possibly the oldest celebrated human tradition since the beginning of time. What is interesting however, is why is poo so funny? A recent study found that even children as young as one years old appreciated toilet humour. However, even the researchers described poo as a ‘taboo topic’ in the results section. It makes you wonder, is there any connection between the notion of a ‘taboo’ in the first place, and finding something funny? The answer is yes, it does. Research now showing that children’s love of toilet humour actually results from being able to ‘get a rise out of adults’. We have been conditioned from a young age to think of poo as shocking, as dirty, as something not to talk or joke about; there is a certain ‘hush-hush’, privacy and secrecy surrounding it all. Which to children, of course makes it all the funnier. However, maybe laughing about poo is one way we can help normalize it and reduce stigmas, by getting rid of negative attitudes? Who knows, it might even make it less funny over the years, if we don’t always view it as a taboo. The importance of reducing this stigma can be shown throughout the life course- from teaching our children from a young age that poo is normal and healthy, right the way through to our elderly, who should not be feeling any shame or embarrassment to seek care with their toileting.

Now, this is not to say that all social rules should go out of the window. Teaching children that toilet humour is acceptable, but only at certain times of the day, such as not at the dinner table, can be a useful way of normalizing poo and seeing the funny side, whilst still keeping their manners. No matter how hard we try to normalize it, somehow poo still manages to be a topic which is undeniably hilarious to the majority of us, and you know what… so it should be!

Summary

Poo is never going to be the favourite topic of anyone’s conversation. But poo is normal, poo is important, and poo can even be funny. Being more aware and educated on what a normal poo looks like for yourself and your children, will not only help improve your digestive and bowel health, but also help reduce stigma and taboo.  This in turn could get more people talking to their GP and seeking the care that they need. Overall, our relationship with our bodies is one that is so important, and knowing all its normal functions, how it works and if something is going wrong is crucial for our health and happiness. So… have you had a normal poo today?

Written By Holly Underhill, Student Dietitian, Birmingham City University

References available upon request