Some people have all the luck when it comes to regular bowel movements—you know who they are, too, because they tend to brag about your dependable morning release. It’s not even remotely sexy, but it is #goals. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to join their ranks—yes, you, too, can have a healthy morning poop each a.m.
But what does it mean, first and foremost, for a poop sesh to be healthy? According to Peyton Berookim, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist at the Gastroenterology Institute of Southern California, you should be striving for a soft bowel movement without straining, and a sense of complete evacuation.
And technically, he says, this doesn’t have to take place in the morning. On the contrary, you can poop any time of day. It’s just that people tend to be more comfortable handling their business at home.
You may also poop more than once a day, or less than once a day (e.g. every other day), and that’s normal, too, so long as your bowel movement is soft, unstrained, and complete. “It becomes abnormal if you’re not going frequently enough, and then you’re straining and passing hard stools,” says Dr. Berookim.
With that in mind, find the doc’s top 6 recommendations for achieving the holy grail of bowel movements each morning below
1. Drink water regularly
Proper hydration is super important when it comes to regulating your bowel movements. “If patients are dehydrated, they’re going to be constipated,” Dr. Berookim says. Without water, stools can indeed become bulky and dry. And fiber requires water in order to be properly digested, so if you’re eating a lot of fiber without drinking a corresponding amount of liquid, you’re likely to back up.
Ideally, he recommends drinking water before or after rather than during meals and ultimately, you should be drinking it regularly throughout the day rather than chugging it all at once to make up for a deficit. You also need to account for the amount of exercise you do, the amount of heat to which you’re exposed, and the amount of coffee or alcohol you consume, and add more water to your daily diet accordingly.
2. Eat a diet rich in fiber, probiotics, and healthy fat
What you eat makes a significant difference in your stools, too. That aforementioned fiber, for example, is a critical component of healthy digestion. It adds bulk to stools to prevent diarrhea and simultaneously keeps things running smoothly through the digestive system to prevent constipation. You should aim for 25 to 28 grams per day, but you can also just check your poops to gauge whether or not you’re getting the right amount. Foods high in fiber include oats, black beans, lentils, chia, flaxseed, barely, and Brussels sprouts, among others.
In addition to fiber, you’ll also want to make sure you’re consuming adequate amounts of healthy fats, because they also add bulk to stools and support the absorption of vitamin A, which helps maintain the mucosal lining in the colon and prevent inflammation.
Taking good care of your microbiome health is advisable, too. Eating fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, and tempeh can help. And Dr. Berookim further advises minimizing caffeine and alcohol intake because both are diuretics. “Diuretics cause increasing urination, which can lead to dehydration, which can lead to constipation,” he says. “So, moderation is key when it comes to caffeine and alcohol.”
On the flip side, coffee can serve as a laxative, so it can lead to your stools being too loose as well. And if there’s cream in the coffee, and you’re lactose intolerant but don’t yet know it, that can cause morning diarrhea, too.
3. Get moving
There’s no escaping the importance of physical activity when it comes to healthy bodily functioning, it seems. Dr. Berookim says that in order to get things moving in your bowels, you need to get yourself moving first. He suggests, at the very least, walking 30 minutes per day. “Just being fit will help in having a nice, routine bowel movement in the morning,” he says.
4. Invest in a toilet squat stool
If you’re unfamiliar, a toilet squat stool (aka the Squatty Potty) is a stool that you put your feet on when you go to the bathroom so that your knees are lifted above your waist. “By doing so, you’re increasing the rectal canal angle, and it relaxes a key pelvic muscle that makes bowel movements easier,” Dr. Berookim says.
5. Consult with a doctor about your medications
Sometimes, medications can impede healthy bowel movements, says Dr. Berookim. “You may need to talk to your doctors and have them review your medications and see if they can put you on something else to give symptomatic relief,” he says.
6. Consider hormonal issues
Hormonal imbalances can also cause issues in the poop department. Some are unavoidable, such as the regular weekly hormonal shifts in your cycle—to help constipation before and during your period, Dr. Berookim recommends drinking more water, upping your water intake, and taking a supplement such as psyllium. But others are treatable. For example, says Dr. Berookim, you could have a thyroid issue causing you digestive distress, in which case you would need to treat the condition in order to improve your poo situation.
So if you can’t seem to regulate your poops, you may want to check in with an endocrinologist as well as your gastroenterologist.
7. Accept a little help
On that note, Dr. Berookim does recommend supplementation. “For patients who are having trouble having a bowel movement in the morning, I recommend psyllium such as Metamucil ($30), a laxative such as Colace ($9) or an osmotic laxative (which attracts water to your colon) such as MiraLAX ($15) prior to going to bed,” he says. “These are mild and help with morning bowel movements without causing urgency in the middle of the night.”
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