This amazing post was written by Dr. Terry Wahls, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. You can learn more about her work from her website, www.terrywahls.com.
Where to Turn When You’re Backed Up and Have “Tried Everything
Hippocrates said it and I must agree: All health begins in our gut! How is your gut? And more importantly how is your poop?
You do not need to spend money on a fancy microbiome test. You simply need to stand up and look at the toilet next time you have a bowel movement. Is your poop soft, shaped like a snake? Or is it hard and pebbly? Are you fixated on your bowels, wishing you could just have a good bowel movement?
Thirty years ago when I was in medical school, we young students often laughed at how fixated our patients seemed to be on their bowels. If the person was constipated, they were miserable. If they were able to have a good bowel movement, they knew they would feel much better. I laughed, and so did my colleagues. We thought bowel movements didn’t matter to health.
It turns out that our patients were right. Being constipated is bad for us! Our colon is home to 100 trillion bacteria, yeasts, and parasites that either helps us run the chemistry of life effectively or gum up that chemistry, making us feel poorly.
Having the right mix of microbes makes it much more likely that our biochemistry is happily humming along–our energy is up, the mood is good, and we feel great. But if we have the wrong mix of microbes, the transit time through our bowels slows. The stool becomes hard and dry. We are more likely to have excessive inflammation and less effective processing and elimination of toxins.
Constipation is a very common problem today. Many children have severe constipation, passing small, hard, pebbly stool. It is not uncommon for people to tell us that they may have a bowel movement once a week or less. Those people are usually miserable, suffering from belly pain, headaches, severe menstrual cramps, problems with erectile dysfunction, and irritability.
10 Things To Do To Help Your Bowel Movement
Are you one of those people who has been pooping rocks for much too long? Here are a few things you can do to get things moving along more smoothly. The goal is to have a soft, snake-like poop at least once a day, ideally twice or even three times.
We talk about poop and pooping a lot because it is critical to the success of our patients. What is your poop like? Rocks, snakes, pudding, or water? Pooping rocks is the most common problem our patient’s report, and that is what I’ll address in this post. These are the steps our patients use as they work to get their microbiome and their pooping back in order.
1. Remove gluten from the diet.
If you do eat grain products, confirm that they are labeled gluten free. Even grains that are naturally gluten-free (such as brown rice) are often contaminated during harvest or processing because the equipment is also used to process wheat, rye, barley, or other gluten-containing grains.
Sensitivity to gluten may be adding to the constipation trouble. Read labels carefully and remove all wheat from the diet for a month.
Read these next: 6 Gluten-Free Foods To Replace Pasta, 10 Yummy Gluten-Free Breakfast Recipes, & 5 Flours That Can Replace Wheat Flour!
2. Replace grain with non-starchy vegetables.
You will get a lot more fiber that way.
3. Limit sugar and other sweeteners to no more than one teaspoon per day.
Do not have artificial sweeteners of any kind. This will reduce the fertilization of the constipation-promoting microbes.
4. Eat a no-grain or a low-grain diet.
This will make room on your plate for vegetables. If you do eat grain, limit it to no more than one serving of gluten-free grains per day.
5. Set a goal of eating 6 to 9 cups (measured raw) of non-starchy vegetables and berries each day.
Eat mostly raw vegetables. Root vegetables are OK boiled, cooled, and eaten cold, which reduces the amount of carbohydrates you will digest from them and increases the digestion by gut microbes.
Feeding your microbes more fiber will make them healthier and happier. If you are very petite, adjust the vegetable intake. You might need only 4 cups of vegetables.
6. If you still have hard bowel movements, add chia or flaxseed puddings.
These are easy to make and delicious. Mix the chia or ground flaxseed with water, nut milk, or coconut milk and let sit for 10 to 30 minutes before serving. Eat enough pudding to have a soft bowel movement daily.
I have several recipes in my cookbook for puddings that are very high in fiber, give terrific support to your microbiome, and are quick to prepare and delicious. Even my teenage children and their friends loved these puddings!
Give this delicious Black Sesame Pudding a try!
7. Magnesium can also help with constipation.
Add 400 to 800 mg of magnesium citrate, magnesium glycinate, or milk of magnesium each day. Magnesium pulls water into the colon, softening the stool. Many of us are low in magnesium so a supplement can help overall health as well as digestion.
8. Eat more fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut.
Eat these on a daily basis to increase the diversity of the gut microbes. Work your way up to 1 cup or more of fermented vegetables daily.
Try these: Kimchi 5 Different Ways and 2 Ingredient Homemade Sauerkraut.
9. Attempt to move your bowels the same time every day.
Sometimes a hot beverage can help with this. Your body will learn the pattern, which will encourage a regular, daily bowel movement.
10. Rest your feet on a stool or short box when you sit on the toilet.
Elevating your feet 4 to 6 inches from the floor shifts the alignment of the pelvic muscles from a sitting stance to a squatting one. The pelvic muscles naturally hold the stool back to keep us from having accidental bowel movements. When we squat, the muscles are out of the way, and it is much easier to empty the bowels. Getting into a squatting position can make bowel movements easier.
If you have chronic loose stools or blood in the stool, see your personal physician for an evaluation promptly. And always consult your personal physician and family before making changes in your diet or supplement regimen so these concepts can be personalized to you.
I have a terrific book to help you learn how to eat for a healthier gut, a healthier body, and a healthier brain. Learning how to cook fast, delicious meals at home is perhaps the most powerful step that you can take to banish pain and improve your memory, mood, and energy. Pre-order The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life and go here for some free gifts to help you jumpstart your recovery.
If you want to dive even more deeply into the protocol that I use, consider attending the Wahls Protocol® Seminar that I teach every August. Details about the next seminar and programs available to help you adopt and sustain the protocol can be found on the shop page at www.terrywahls.com. Join me and the thousands of others in the journey back to great health.
A quick note from our founder-
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Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years.Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and the paperback, The Wahls Protocol A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.
You can learn more about her work from her website, www.terrywahls.com, on Facebook (Terry Wahls MD), and Twitter at @TerryWahls. Dr. Wahls teaches the public and medical community about the Protocol and the latest from her research lab in a three day seminar every August. She is currently recruiting for patients in a new clinical trial, Dietary Approaches to Treating MS Related Fatigue. To learn more about this opportunity email the clinical coordinator, Cathy Chenard. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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