Let’s talk poo!

I know it’s not a sexy topic, but as a naturopath we talk poo all the time because it’s such a good marker of your health.

 If you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) then measuring your bowel transit time can be helpful for you and your practitioner to improve your treatment outcomes.

What is bowel transit time?

Well it’s the time the food takes once it’s entered the mouth to then exit at the other end, your poo! Many things need to happen on the way through too, you may have heard the term “you are what you eat”?
But in our naturopathic world “you are what you absorb” as well. Yes it’s super important to eat a healthy well-balanced diet but it’s also crucial to have a healthy gut so you absorb the nutrients and get rid of the waste in a timely manner. A timely manner isn’t too fast (diarrhea) or too slow (constipation), it’s just right or a Type 4 on the Bristol Stool Chart. 

If your food passes through too fast then you won’t be absorbing your nutrients and if it’s not exiting fast enough then you’ll start to reabsorb some of the toxins that should’ve been eliminated plus your stool will be absorbing more water into the stool making it harder to pass. This can create hemorrhoids and even other inflammation on the gut such as diverticulitis.

It can take between 12 to 48 hours for food to pass through the gut before being excreted. Of course this may vary from day to day and from meal to meal and on your metabolism.

How to test your transit time?

  1. Be prepared to look at your poo!
  2. Eat a tablespoon of cooked corn kernels or a whole beetroot (I like my beets grated into a salad) and write down the time.
  3. Then write down the time when you first start seeing either corn in your poo or your poo is a beetroot red/pink colour.
  4. Keep checking and writing down the time until you don’t see either in your poo.
  5. Work out your transit time.

You may see first traces in a healthy 18 hours but if you are still seeing corn after 60 hours then your transit time is a little sluggish, and if it’s less than 10 hours then it’s too fast.

Your gut bacteria need time to feast on the food and produce the helpful byproducts that we need to keep us healthy such as short-chain-fatty-acids. 

How to improve your transit time?

Depending on your self-test you may need to speak with your health professional. If transit time is too quick there may be presence of an infection, food intolerance, allergy, IBS or inflammatory bowel disease.

If it’s too slow, start by adding more fibre to your diet and make sure you are drinking enough water too. Water should be according to your body weight and activity level: water (in litres) to drink a day = Your Weight (in Kg) multiplied by 0.033. For example, if you are 60kg, you should drink about 2 litres of water every single day. If you’ve been active then add an extra 500mls to 1 litre.

When it comes to fibre, most people are not eating enough. Aim for around 30 grams of fibre a day.
So that may look like:

  1. wholegrain toast with spinach and scrambled eggs (7grams),
  2. chickpea and quinoa salad with tomatoes and rocket (13 grams),
  3. apple slices with almond butter (6 grams),
  4. vegetable, blackbean & chicken burrito (7 grams).

My top tips:

  • When increasing your fibre intake start slow, your digestive system may not be used to digesting the extra fibre and you may also have dysbiotic gut bacteria (not enough of the good guys).
  • Add in a small amount of fermented food too such as a teaspoon of sauerkraut to one meal a day. If that makes you feel bloated then we may need to test for SIBO.
  • Exercise improves transit time too, a brisk 20-30 minute walk daily.
  • Deep belly breathing also helps with Vagus nerve tone which is the gut brain axis and essential for healthy digestion.
  • Always go to the toilet when you feel the urge, don’t delay it!
  • And finally seek professional help! This is what I do, is help you with your poo!
    Improving gut transit time is hugely beneficial for long-term health, so get in touch today.
    Book The Wellness Audit and we can check out what your eating and when, plus your mood and of course your poop (Don’t be scared about talking about your poo), then we will figure out the next 3 best steps for you (that are achievable) to improve your gut health.

Written by Naturopath and Gut Health Specialist - Jane McClurg

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