Improving Your Poop Health 101
Number “two” has become trendy. With more news stories coming out about fecal transplants, leaky gut (aka gut inflammation), and coffee enemas, we wanted to scratch the tip of the iceberg and dive into poop health 101.
Even if you are a “regular” Joe, don’t skip this. It could be said that just about everything is linked to your gut. Now, let’s learn how to poop better.
improving poop health 101
I used to be shy about discussing poop health, but no more. It’s massively important, and your poop can tell you a lot about your overall health. Over the years, I’ve talked to many people about their digestive health challenges.
Why am I so interested? You guessed it, my poop health story is not a regular one. So before we dive into improving your poop health, I’ll first share a story.
The First Scare
After college, I had a few constipation episodes that scared the sh*t out of me (unfortunately, not literally.) These typically revolved around “guys weekends.” An environment in which I drank more than usual, ate fried food and pizzas and got completely knocked out of my routine.
The first scare, I went two weeks without a bowel movement. Fortunately, I got myself under control rather quickly after loading up my breakfast cereal with fiber (Quaker Oat Squares) and drinking more water.
The Second Scare
The second scare, after back-to-back guys weekends, I hadn’t gone in two and a half weeks without a movement. Frantically, I began researching how to poop better. I didn’t want to go to the hospital, so I tried everything that Google and the doctors in my life advised.
This meant, taking strong laxatives used for colonoscopy patients. I increased my water, stopped drinking alcohol, ate vegetables, went for daily runs, and waited. Thankfully, before I ended up at the hospital, things started moving again. This scare was terrible and made it hard to have fun on my vacation weekends.
The Third Scare
Then, there was a third scare, almost, but by that time, I had wised up and nipped it in the bud when I felt another episode coming. After yet another guys weekend, I was four days without heading to the bathroom when I arrived home.
So, the next day, I had Shakeology for all three meals to increase my insoluble fiber intake. And the next day. Thankfully, on day 2, that helped me poop better.
The Road to Healthy Digestion
Clearly, I hadn’t been listening to my body nor doing it any favors. Outside of these extreme episodes that occurred during and after guys weekends, my poop health wasn’t great. I was never entirely regular without the help of coffee.
To improve, I kept a food journal to identify patterns, actively increased my dietary fiber, and starting drinking Shakeology daily for breakfast. Shakeology was then, and is today, crucial to my digestive health. Whenever I get out of routine, it doesn’t matter because it’s so easy to be consistent with my shake.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve succeeded in improving my poop health through self-experimentation and research. Now, I want to share the six things that will help you eliminate constipation, improve your digestive health, and help you poop better.
poop health 101
How To Poop Better
1. What the Crap?
OK, good question, let’s start there. Regularity can mean different things to different people. Typically, you should be passing stool between 3 times a day to 3 times a week. Between that vast range, doctors will generally say you are “regular,” but it will always depend on your body. My doctor in Dallas (the same one who helped me recover from burnout and low testosterone in my 20’s) told me it’s best to go at least once daily and ideally more than that.
In addition to the frequency, the shape matters too. What does healthy poop look like? Reference this poop health chart, the Bristol Stool Form Scale, to see if your digestive health is in tip-top shape. If you’re not Types 3 or 4 consistently, take it as a warning sign and implement the below to work towards a healthier digestive system.
2. Fix It with Fiber.
Did you know that 97% of Americans have a fiber deficiency? The recommended daily value is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women. Yet, the average American only eats 15 grams of dietary fiber.
For those in the UK, you’re not far behind at 17 grams. On top of helping your body move waste, fiber has been linked to weight loss, controlling obesity, reducing Type 2 diabetes, and lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Fiber is so important to weight loss that we included it in our weight loss challenge (an engineer’s approach) as one of the 5 numbers you track.
So, what’s the problem with the western diet? Not enough plants. Fiber is only found in plants, so load up your plate with beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, sprouts, and whole grains to cover both your soluble and insoluble dietary fiber needs. Learning how to grow sprouts to eat is a great way to add more fiber into your diet.
- 1 cup of lentil soup has 15 grams of fiber
- 1 medium artichoke has 10 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of broccoli has 5 grams of fiber
- 1 scoop of Chocolate Shakeology has 6 grams of fiber
- 1 medium apple has 4 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of lentils has 17 grams of fiber
A note from Alex: before asking a vegetarian, “Do you get enough protein?” instead, ask yourself, “Am I getting enough fiber?” Over 70% of vegetarians and vegans get enough protein while consuming 3X the fiber of a typical, western omnivore.
3. Water Wins.
We’ve talked about the importance of hydration before, but water plays a critical role in poop health. Not only does water help break down food faster so your body can transport its nutrients, but fiber also pulls water into the colon to form softer stools. Therefore, reducing constipation.
Also, drinking water increases the volume in your intestines, which causes them to push food along for regular bowel movements, just like a muscle. If you were to ask me, “How can I poop better?” My first question would be, “how much water are you drinking?”
As a reminder, the rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water. Therefore, a 150-pound person should drink at least 75 ounces of water a day.
Whenever I’m on a guys weekend, I live by the mantra “drink, water, drink” and do my best to chug a big glass of water in between every alcoholic beverage. Not only will your liver and head thank you for it, so will your gut. It will also help you not have hangovers.
4. Make an Effort to Exercise.
Who else here has needed to rush to the bathroom after (or during) a workout, particularly a long run?! That’s not by accident. When you’re moving, the extra oxygen and blood pumping throughout your body aids in digestion and also works out the muscles around your abdomen and intestines.
Getting things moving with your body also means getting things moving with your digestion. As another side perk, exercise has been shown to reduce stress, which can also factor into constipation. What can’t exercise do?!
Some exercises are better than others when it comes to digestion. Aerobic activities (cardio) such as walking, jogging, and light biking stimulates muscles in your digestive tract. Yoga and tai chi also help because many moves massage your digestive tract (like the yoga pose, seated spinal twist). Maybe you need to try our at-home, 2-Week Couple’s Yoga Challenge.
If you’re not in the mood to exercise, you need to work at a standing desk. At the very least, this will lengthen your insides and let gravity do its job.
5. Become a Probiotics Pro.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria similar to the ones already living in your digestive tract. They are kind of like a special forces team that helps combat the effects of a poor diet, antibiotics, and stress.
They are critical to improving your poop health and even out imbalances in the intestinal flora. Therefore, probiotics are the common treatments to both constipation and diarrhea. Here are some of our favorite probiotic foods.
- Shakeology, which contains probiotic digestive enzymes
- Yogurt or kefir for breakfast
- Tempeh for lunch or dinner
- Kimchi, pickles, or sauerkraut as a side dish
- Drink kombucha or apple cider vinegar
Add these into your diet.
6. Plan Ahead.
A lot of times, people get out of whack when they are out of routine. Be proactive and make a plan to avoid excessively sugary and processed foods and eat as many greens as possible.
Planning ahead means bringing healthy snacks and water along, setting aside time for activity, and scoping out the healthy food options. If you want to improve your poop health, you need to up your planning game since we all get knocked out of routine.
Read more: Our best Health tips for business travel.
Digestive Health Drink
One way you can improve your poop health as a couple is by taking turns making pre-breakfast drinks to prep your digestive tract. Our daily routine starts with this digestive drink, at least once a week.
- One cup of hot water
- One half a lemon squeezed (excites digestive enzymes)
- Two caps full of apple cider vinegar (balances pH levels in the gut for healthy bacteria growth)
- A pinch of cinnamon (to stabilize blood sugar levels).
Digestive Health Foods
Chia seeds! They are loaded with fiber and expand when soaked in water. In a sense, they scrub the inside of your digestive tract to promote regularity.
The best way to eat chia seeds is through soaking to absorb the most nutrients. Mix 1/3rd cup seeds with 2 cups of water or coconut/almond milk in a mason jar to form a gel. Soak them for at least 2 hours, or overnight is best. The gel lasts in the fridge for 3-5 days. Throw them in your smoothies, steel cut oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill brand), or yogurt and granola.
Digestive Health Supplement
In addition to Shakeology, we find the Digestive Enzyme Boost to be incredibly useful. It’s loaded with quality insoluble fibers.
Thanks for reading about poop health, and I hope this helps you figure out how to poop better. If you have an experience, advice, or questions about digestive health, feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.
The Ultimate Healthy Food Guide And Shopping List (PDF)
Do you ever wonder which foods have the highest nutritional quality or "bang for their buck?" Check out our guide and prepare for success before your next grocery store visit. We list our pantry staples, and healthy foods in order of the highest nutrition value.
- The Surprisingly Charming Science Of Your Gut – Ted Talk. “I think this is good information to share, because many people will think, “I have this gut thing, and maybe I also have this mental health thing” and maybe – because science is not clear on that right now – it’s really just that the brain is feeling sympathy with their gut.”
- The Physics of Poop – Scientific American. “We learned that most elephants and other herbivores create “floaters” while most tigers and other carnivores create “sinkers.”
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Hey we’re Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world, originally as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.