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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Poopsy Daisy

I used to go like clockwork. I never had a problem with pooping regularly. I would go right after having my breakfast, and proceed with the rest of the day without having to worry about when and where I had to go. I couldn't understand why some of my friends had so many problems with their bowel movements, moaning and groaning about how difficult the whole process was. But now I find myself in the same predicament and it's really infuriating.
I know it's a subject people hesitate to talk about, especially in polite circles, but really, pooping is as much a part of our daily lives as eating and sleeping. Food enters the body, and unused parts of it need to exit the body.

Pooping was something I just took for granted, because I would go every day, sometimes more than once a day. Really, if you think about it, we eat about three times a day, and it makes sense that we should have the same number of bowel movements as well.

I couldn't sympathize with people I knew who had problems pooping. My own mother had to go through this whole rigmarole of having an orange with a cup of coffee the moment she woke up, and waiting to go to the bathroom before breakfast every morning. I scoffed, because my own routine was down pat.

I noticed a change in my own habit a few months back. I would still go to the bathroom right after breakfast, but I only managed, with great difficulty, to poop pellets, as opposed to what the experts would describe as ideal - S-shaped, light brown poop that glided out smoothly. I would feel bloated and uncomfortable, trying to go again after every meal, having success sometimes, often not.

I knew I was doing everything I could to aid the digestive process. I ate a lot of fiber - I was already having oats for breakfast, and upped my intake of fruits and vegetables. I drank a lot of water and exercised regularly.

It was especially bad when I was traveling through Europe and had to walk for hours through unfamiliar towns and the countryside every day. I felt like I had to go after every meal and worried about toilet facilities everywhere I went.

I did some research and read that pooping pellets was a form of constipation. As I was doing everything right - getting enough fiber, water and exercise - I thought that my system might need a cleansing. A friend had recently started giving herself coffee enemas every day but I found that remedy way too extreme. I know that some people religiously follow the Gerson method of coffee enemas but I'm of the opinion that our bodies have been designed to get rid of waste naturally. If we start giving ourselves enemas, our bodies will forget this process and worse, we might get addicted to these enemas and won't be able to poop without them.

I decided to self-medicate though, got myself a mild laxative and took it, as per the directions, at night. I woke up with the most awful cramps. After drinking some water, I started throwing up and couldn't stop. After a few agonizing hours, I managed to get to the doctor's office. After telling me off for taking a laxative, my doctor assured me that I wasn't constipated, and that my body was just aging and my digestive system was probably less efficient as a result.

With age comes decreased elasticity of the stomach walls and intestines. The stomach can't accommodate as much food and the rate at which it empties food into the small intestine also decreases. Loss of muscle tone causes food to move more slowly along the digestive tract as well.

Along with what I know helps - drinking more water, eating foods high in fiber and exercising, I've now discovered some other habits that I can adopt to aid the digestive process:

• Begin meals with fresh fruit or vegetables, which can help supplement the acids our stomach is missing. Fresh papaya and pineapple contain an enzyme which is helpful in the digestion of protein.

• Don't drink with meals. It not only encourages less chewing, it also dilutes gastric juices.

• Don't lie down or sleep immediately following a meal - light activity such as walking can help the body digest the meal we've just consumes.

I've also found that if I stop obsessing about pooping and being so anal about the process (pun intended!), I can go more easily. I don't go like clockwork after breakfast anymore, but I do go at some point during the day, and my bowel movements are somewhat regular. I guess it's the new norm for me, something I'll have to get used to as I age. I'm turning more and more into my mother so who knows, I may even pick up her habit of having coffee and an orange first thing in the morning!

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