Bowel Movements Indicate Your Overall Health
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January 26, 2008, last updated December 30, 2012

By Susan M. Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other
members of our Editorial Board.]



Bowels movements are not easy to think about, for most of us.  
Most of us would rather have root canal than discuss them with
our doctors.

But did you know that your bowels are great indicators of your
overall health? Let's start with the look of them. If you have
small, marble-sized --what do I call them?--"contributions, that
could mean you are dehydrated.

Bowel movements need sufficient water, oil and sufficient bulk
fiber  to come out the proper size and in the proper frequency.
Insufficient water produces small, hard marble-sized bowel
movements. Sufficient water and roughage produce soft but
formed bowel movements, about the size and shape of small
bananas.

What is that ideal frequency? It depends on what you eat. It
takes meat between 48-72 hours to make its way from your
mouth, through your stomach, intestines and out.  It takes
most vegetables about 2 hours.

But, if you are eating a balanced diet, most doctors expect you
to void at least once per day, more if you're eating a lot of
vegetables and other foods with roughage.

Bowel movements vary in color and smell.  If you are eating a
vegetarian diet, your stool and flatulence will smell somewhat
more pungent at first. This is because the bulky vegetables
interact with the bacteria in your intestinal tract differently than
meat, and also because the roughage "scrapes' away old fecal
matter. This is excellent for your colon even though it is smelly.

Extra iron in your diet or dark green vegetables (spinach, kale)
will cause black or dark bowel movements.

Constipation --- indicated by straining without successful or
minimally successful voiding --- often increases as we age for a
number of reasons. The muscles in our rectum don't relax
when they should to allow easy bowel movement voiding.

























Sometimes, the problem is that we are too sedentary. Exercise
helps you to void by helping the intestines to move the
contributions along. If you are too sedentary, here are
exercises that help improve bowel movements.


Sometimes, our medications are at fault.

Many drugs or minerals slow down the passage of our stool
through the large intestine.  Watch out for foods or drugs high
in iron, calcium blockers, antihistamines, opioids, high blood
pressure medications, anti-depressants, and antacids.


What if you are not voiding? How long can you go without
voiding before it's a sign of an emergency?  Unfortunately,
there is no magic number that fits all cases.  Simple
constipation is different from intestinal blockage.

Intestinal blockage means that the bowels cannot move
through because something is blocking them. This is a serious
medical emergency and requires immediate attention. See www.
mayoclinic.com.  The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms
for intestinal blockage:

crampy abdominal pain that comes and goes (intermittent)
Nausea
Vomiting
Inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas
Swelling of the abdomen (distention)
Abdominal tenderness

Update:

Your Bowels Are the Output of a Clash of Species

But the health of your bowels is indicated by much more than
simply the frequency of your bowel movements. Your bowel
movements are the external product of an intricate negotiation
going on inside your body between your body and bacteria
that live in your intestines.  In addition to watching how much
you pass stool, you should also be aware of any discomfort you
feel when you pass a stool.  Why? Because, in some sense,
your bowels are the end product of a negotiation -- a clash at
times --between two different species, you and the bacteria
inside you.


We humans live as “co-species” with the species of bacterial
microbes that inhabit our intestinal tracts.  For most of human
history, since we have known about the existence of these
inhabiting bacteria, we have been thought of as the being, and
they as sidekicks. When they don’t bother us –don’t upset our
stomachs for example –we don’t think of them at all or when
we do think of them they are regarded as sort of friendly
hitchhikers. However, when they cause us trouble, we are likely
to think of them as invaders or parasites.  

In any of these characterizations, though, it’s been us looking
at them and deciding whether we like them or mot, whether
they are helpful or not, to us, the dominant host humans.  But
that view of our relationship is changing. What if, zoologists
have asked, we are not dominant at all? What if this
relationship we have with these hitchhiker species is not really
dominant-subordinate at all, but instead is more of an equal
relationship. It’s hard to think of it this way but what if we
have evolved not by ourselves but “co-evolved” with them?  
Have they adapted to our changing evolution or have we
adapted to them? Has our evolution adapted, changed, been
shaped by their needs?  Is the tail wagging the dog afterall?
Scary, right?

If we start to think of these intestinal bacteria as rightfully
belonging in our guts, rather than as something we either just
tolerate or sometimes have to get rid of to feel better, we may
have come closer to a harmony that will promote our health. In
this more harmonic view, we should look for foods, exercises,
fluids that make our intestinal bacteria happier, in order to keep
our own macro-physiology which we call our “body” happier.
This realization is part of the impetus behind the "probiotics"
movement around the world.

Newer research into the way our intestines age has adopted
this co-species approach. As a 2011 study from a team of
researchers from the University of Bologna in Italy and the
University of East Anglia in the UK has even called the bacteria
in our body as a “community” influencing our health. The study
observes that  ”The microbial community which inhabits the
human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is widely recognized as a key
component of GI homeostasis, playing an essential role in
maintaining human health”.

In other words, we’re in this journey of evolution and health
together and to maintain a healthy balance in our human
bodies we had better maintain a balance in the bacterial
community that lives inside us. The study concludes that this
microbial community will influence  in large part the our frailty
as we age, the robustness or frailty of our immune system,
whether we develop
metabolic syndrome, muscle-wasting
(
sarcopenia) and even diabetes.

A better understanding of this co-species relationship is
probably the key to solving the riddle of
irritable bowel
syndrome, Celiac disease and others.





Related Links:
Why Americans Read In Bathrooms-The Hidden Epidemic of
Constipation
The Color of Your Bowels-What It Means
Irritable Bowel Syndrome -Causes and Cures
Bowels -3 Keys to Normal Bowels
Exercises That Increase Bowel Movements

Diet and Exercise-A Simple Plan

Snoring Increases Your Risk of Stroke 67%

Six Pack Abs--Step By Step

Foods That Reduce Blood Pressure

Foods That Shrink Your Waist

Owning a Cat Reduces Risk of Stroke 40%


DIETS AND FITNESS

BOWEL MOVEMENTS

INTESTINES-KEEP THEM
HEALTHY

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH
SALT

HOW MUCH SALT IS IN MY
FOOD

SALT CONTENT OF COMMON
FOODS

150,000 DIE FROM EXCESS
SALT

I HAVE HIGH BLOOD
PRESSURE!

FOODS THAT LOWER YOUR
BLOOD PRESSURE

INFLAMMATION INSIDE THE
BODY

FAT--IT'S ALIVE!

WHY WE GO SOFT IN THE
MIDDLE

WHY EUROPEANS ARE
THINNER

>VEGETARIAN RECIPES


MY HEART ATTACK

CANCER SURVIVORS
BRAIN HEALTH

>CROSSWORD
PUZZLES
>LEARNING
>MEMORY LOSS


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