While you may not bring it up with your friends or therapist, pooping 100 percent affects how we feel and move through the day. Ever suffer through a work meeting feeling super constipated? Or experience the complete opposite problem while grocery shopping? Not fun.
Poop perfection may sound elusive, but a new book is full of tips to help you get there. Todd Sinett, DC wrote The Good Sh*t ($13) to educate the masses on not only what their poop is telling them but how to have good poops every day. “The digestive system is how your body talks,” Dr. Sinett says. In one part of the book, he outlines seven steps that anyone can take to have healthy bowel movements. Below, he shares and explains them in more detail, along with gastroenterologist Avanish Aggarwal, MD.
How to have good poops: 7 steps to take
1. Eat substantial meals
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you have to eat enough food in order to have a good poop. Dr. Sinett explains that every time you eat a substantial meal, you stimulate stretch receptors in the stomach that are responsible for triggering contractile waves in the intestines that promote movement through the colon and rectum. In other words, it’s priming the body to poop.
While eating enough to poop is of course important, Dr. Aggarwal says what you eat is more important than how much you eat. “It’s important to eat enough fiber,” he says. “Otherwise, you could eat a lot of food but it could actually lead to constipation.” He explains that loading up on nutrient-poor foods can lead to constipation, but well-rounded meals with fiber, protein, and healthy fats are key to having a good poop later.
2. Eat fiber-rich foods regularly
That leads right into the second tip: getting enough fiber. Both Dr. Aggarwal and Dr. Sinett say that fiber adds bulk to stool (to prevent diarrhea) and also keeps waste moving smoothly through the digestive tract (preventing constipation). The general guideline is to get between 25 and 28 grams a day. It can be tricky to measure how much fiber you’re getting, so Dr. Sinett says a good way to gauge is to check out your poop. “Fiber intake should be consistent for your body type,” he says; different people need different amounts of the nutrient.
If you’re not used to eating a lot of fiber-rich meals, Dr. Sinett recommends increasing your fiber slowly; otherwise it can overload a digestive system that isn’t used to a high-fiber intake. “My tips for patients who have digestive issues with fiber are to keep track of what you are eating, evaluate your sh*t, and make slow changes,” he says.
Watch the video below to learn more about food and gut health:
3. Eat adequate amounts of healthy fats
Besides fiber, both experts say healthy fats are also important for good poops. Like fiber, Dr. Aggarwal says fat adds bulk. Dr. Sinett adds that fats also support the absorption of vitamin A, which helps maintain the mucosal lining in the colon and thus protecting you from inflammation and infection. Sources of healthy fats to work into your diet include olive oil, avocado, eggs, nuts, seeds, and fish.
4. Drink enough water and eat water-rich foods
“If you don’t eat foods with a high water volume, it can lead to constipation,” Dr. Aggarwal says. This is another reason why he says fruits and veggies are so great for poop; besides being full of fiber, they have a high water content that helps keep things moving in the digestive tract. While both experts say drinking enough water is also important to keep the digestive tract swimming right along, Dr. Aggarwal emphasizes that drinking water alone will not lead to good poops—you need fiber and healthy fats to add bulk to the stool.
5. Try out fermented foods
Dr. Sinett says eating foods high in probiotics, like kimchi, sauerkraut, and kefir, can up the good bacteria in the gut, which in turn helps lead to good poops, but Dr. Aggarwal says the jury is still out when it comes to the science backing this up. “There isn’t substantial evidence behind probiotic foods or probiotic supplements,” he says. But even if expert opinions are still mixed when it comes to probiotics, fermented foods typically do contain fiber, so you’re still doing your gut some good either way.
6. Don’t suppress the desire to go
“When you gotta go, you gotta go. Suppressing the desire to go has been proven to not be good for many reasons,” Dr. Sinett says. Dr. Aggarwal agrees, saying that doing so can lead to hemorrhoids. He explains that when you suppress the desire to go, stool builds up in the intestine. That can lead to having to push more out later—a mega poop that could tear the anus. (Yep, about as fun as it sounds.) “One study also showed that an increased fecal load in the colon may increase bacterial counts and create long-term inflammation of the colon,” Dr. Sinett adds.
“Even if you’re on a Zoom call, if you have to go, you should excuse yourself for five minutes and go to the bathroom,” Dr. Aggarwal says. “Don’t wait.” He also adds that pooping should only take about that long: five minutes or less. If you’re sitting on the toilet scrolling Tiktok for 20 minutes, it’s a sign of constipation.
7. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D
While Dr. Aggarwal says the link between vitamin D and good poops is indirect, Dr. Sinett says there is an important connection. “There is some great research surrounding this connection and not enough people are talking about it,” he says. Dr. Sinett says that one study, for example, found that 82 percent of study participants with irritable bowel syndrome weren’t getting enough vitamin D. The reason vitamin D may help lead to good poops is that it may increase the amount of good bacteria in the gut. So taking a little walk in the sunshine could potentially lead to a nice, good poop later.
If you put all these steps into action and still are experiencing poop probs, that’s when it’s time to book an appointment with a G.I. doc who can see if there’s an underlying problem going on and can also provide more individualized tips. But for most people, these tips are powerful enough to really transform your bathroom habits. Now that’s good sh*t!
Oh hi! You look like someone who loves free workouts, discounts for cult-fave wellness brands, and exclusive Well+Good content. Sign up for Well+, our online community of wellness insiders, and unlock your rewards instantly.