An expert explains why you shouldn’t hold back your poop

How often should we defecate? If you google this question, you’ll likely find an answer along the lines of three times a day to once every three days.

However, this leaves room for considerable variation. The real answer is when you feel the urge.

In fact, habitually putting off the urge to defecate and slowing down the “transit time” of the bowel can be linked to a higher risk of problems like colon cancer, diverticulosis (small bulges of intestinal lining that protrude through the intestinal wall), hemorrhoids, etc. Anal tears and prolapse.

Therefore, the golden rule of gastroenterology is to always listen to the “call to defecate” when there is a strong urge to defecate.

Eating often triggers the urge

As early as the early 20th century, physiologists found that a powerful stimulus to open the gut was eating food, and they termed this the gastro-colic reflex. It is often most severe after a fast and thus after breakfast.

Babies generally defecate when necessary. However, as soon as we can make decisions for ourselves – around the age when we start walking – we learn to suppress this “call to defecate”.

Learning to control your gut is an important developmental step, but some of us take it too far; We find that sometimes, because the time is not right, we can temporarily make these urges go away if we ignore them for a while.

But habitual suppression of this craving can be associated with the following symptoms:

  • constipation

  • stomach pain

  • variable and unpredictable bowel habits

  • gas

  • wind

  • slow passage of substances through our intestines

Know Your “Runtime”

We probably know how often we open our bowels, but many of us are unaware of our “total gut transit time.” In other words, how long it takes for food debris to come out the other end.

This transit time is important because issues with urgency (a sudden, frantic urge to defecate), diarrhea, and constipation can all be signs of a slow transit.

There’s an easy way to measure it; Swallow a handful of raw corn kernels, then pay attention to the yellow kernels in your poop.

How long should it take for them to appear? It should be between 8 and 24 hours.

A longer transit time

No one is arguing that you should empty your bowels wherever and whenever you want.

But if you make a habit of procrastinating, the residue from your food stays in your body longer than it should. Your transit time increases and your quality of life deteriorates.

On average, we produce about six tons of feces in our lifetime, made up of water, bacteria, nitrogenous matter, carbohydrates, undigested plant matter and lipids (fats).

The longer this mixture of substances sits in us, the more susceptible it is to fermentation and decomposition.

This not only creates wind, but also so-called metabolic products, which then come into contact with the intestinal mucosa and can be absorbed.

The idea of ​​autointoxication from the colon is not new. Since ancient Greek times, it has been believed that waste products in the gut contribute to an imbalance in the four bodily fluids (blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm) critical to good health.

Kellogg’s, part of the temperance movement in the United States in the 19th century, developed breakfast cereals to treat both constipation and poor morals, which they believed were linked.

A longer transit time has been associated with a higher risk of significant gastrointestinal problems, such as:

Recent interest in the microbiome has also linked dysbiosis (or changes in the bacteria that live in our gut) to slow transit.

Therefore, slow transit may also be associated with a broader range of diseases related to gastrointestinal dysbiosis.

A healthy habit

You can improve your bowel habits by increasing the amount of fiber and fluids in your diet, exercising regularly, and staying in touch with your colon.

Some people even use cognitive behavioral therapy to improve bowel function.

Most importantly, you should listen when your colon calls.The conversation

Martin Veysey, Honorary Professor, University of Newcastle.

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. An expert explains why you shouldn’t hold back your poop

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