What Goes In Must Come Out
Reader's Digest India|July 2020
What Goes In Must Come Out
Healthy bowel movements mean a healthy you. Here's how to avoid or fix problems
Lisa Bendall with Naorem Anuja

There are many good reasons to improve your bowel movements. For starters, maintaining a healthy bowel routine keeps your pelvic muscles fit and your time on the toilet brief. It helps prevent chronic constipation and diarrhoea, along with secondary problems like haemorrhoids, tissue tears and unpredictable stools. Many of the lifestyle changes that promote defecation, such as eating fibre and getting exercise, also reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

Is there such a thing as too many number twos? What about movements that make only rare appearances? “There’s a huge range of what’s considered normal,” says Dr Dina Kao, a University of Alberta gastroenterologist. Some of us are on the throne three times a day, while others poop once every few days. There’s no need to worry about the frequency of your bowel movements if your stool appears normal and you feel well.

“In India, most people visit a doctor for what they consider is constipation or a feeling of incomplete evacuation,” says Dr Ashwini Setya, a gastroenterologist and programme director at Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital.

While not all changes are cause for worry, there are some red flags you should not dismiss. “The first is if someone experiences a recent change or alteration in bowel habits. Second, if there is blood in your stool. Third, if there is a loss of appetite and consequently an appreciable loss in weight. Under all these circumstances, you must go to a doctor and get your problem investigated,” says Setya. Don’t ignore symptoms like fever, pain or dehydration either. Use our guide below to make your bowel movements the best they can be.

Foods That Help Regularity

The high sorbitol content in dried fruits such as prunes, figs and dates acts as a natural laxative. So does flaxseed. Fresh pears and apples sometimes do the trick. Eating breakfast can increase your colon activity and trigger a bowel movement. Dietary fibre is important for your bowel movements. Because it isn’t digested, it bulks up and softens stool, making it easier to pass. Most of us get just half of the fibre that we require.

You can also choose cereals with added fibre. Psyllium is a popular supplement, but watch out for inulin which triggers a sore stomach in some people. Whitney Hussain, a registered dietician in Vancouver, Canada, who specializes in gastrointestinal disorders, suggests adding fibre to your diet gradually to prevent gas and bloating. “Just have one serving of a higher-fibre food, and slowly increase it each day. Spread the fibre throughout the day, rather than having it all at once.”

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July 2020