What does it mean?
Understanding our bathroom habits isn’t typically something we learn growing up. However, we can see the biggest health changes by targeting our signs and symptoms to better understand common digestive problems.
In learning what our bowel movements mean, we can make informed decisions about when it is time to seek out help. We should be able to take action on our health into our own hands but we order to make well informed decisions, we need to be aware of when it is time to get help. The problem of taking ownership for our health goals is that it is incredibly difficult to navigate between our sources of information with our current health status.
Many of the following common digestive problems and their causes can also present as nutrient deficiencies or toxicities. Because there are many possibilities of nutrient deficiencies related to each symptom, it is hard to describe how each plays their role.
Some nutrient depletions or toxicities that result in GI symptoms are: antioxidant, fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, b vitamins (B3, B5, B12, folate, choline), chloride, copper, iodine, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin K. Many of these nutrients play a role in digestive health and often rely on each other. An imbalance of one nutrient may lead to an imbalance of another nutrient.
Common Digestive Problems: Composition
Understanding our digestive health can be a clear window into understanding how healthy we really are. Our bowel movements can tell us so much about how well we are receiving nutrients from our food, hydration and even our hormones. Stool can really vary from rock hard to liquid. It can be fully formed, or break up. Here are the basics to what different compositions might mean:
Diarrhea commonly occurs for some of the same reasons as if you were to experience foul smelling stools. Additionally, some people may have diarrhea from overexercise, hormone imbalance, too much fiber or too many refined carbs.
In addition to the causes of foul smelling stool (enzymatic activity, intolerances, and infections), diarrhea is commonly a symptom of stress or anxiety. Due to the active vagus nerve that connects the brain with the digestive tract, stress can easily affect motility and cause nervous loose stools.
Persistent or frequently occurring diarrhea can be a sign that something in the diet is damaging the gut wall. The cells in the gut wall regenerate every three days, and without a chance to heal, you risk exposure of undigested food and pathogens entering through the gaps between cells. In this case, a person may be consuming something the body views as inflammatory or allergenic. This can be caused by already existing damage or an intolerance, like from gluten or dairy.
Additional symptoms you want to look out for with loose, or even healthier stools, is undigested food particles. Stool that breaks apart easily in the toilet is indication that some food is not fully broken down. This can be caused by low enzyme or stomach acid production/activity, but will also occur if food is not chewed thoroughly enough.
Constipation has a variety of causes from poor diet, hydration, hormones and more. Depending on the makeup of the digestive tract, constipation can be very difficult to pinpoint the actual cause. Many people will still struggle with constipation despite trying all of the right techniques with proper nutrition and fiber.
In some cases, people are just built to pass bowel movements less frequently than others. A common cause, however, can be from under-exercise, nutrient depletions or toxicities, low fiber intake, high refined carbohydrate intake, and sometimes too high protein intake.
Constipation is a very common symptom among women because we filter some of our excess estrogen out through our digestive tract. If our body is struggling to eliminate, this can cause a range of symptoms including diarrhea or constipation.
Hydration is also very important to maintain for our digestive tract so we can successfully eliminate toxins. Constipation can potentially become dangerous because it slows down our ability to clean out our internal environment. Dehydration causes a risk that our body will reabsorb some water and toxins back through our digestive tract before elimination for the sake of proper cell and organ function.
Because diarrhea and constipation have a wide variety of causes, it is very important to work with a nutritionist or other healthcare practitioner to assess diet, exercise, routine and any potential underlying deficiencies, toxicities or imbalances to successfully pinpoint the specific root cause for your needs.
Without additional assistance and assessment from a healthcare provider, you risk taking the wrong course of action which not only can waste your time and money, but may put you at a higher risk for worse issues down the road. What is important is making the right choices based off of a complete understanding of how your symptoms relate. The content in this post is meant to inform about common digestive problems and not to help diagnose or prescribe supplementation.