by Madelaine (Dickinson) Schaufel, RD

Get ready for the inside scoop. What is this post about? The INSIDE SCOOP. AKA bowel movements. Or really, the lack thereof.

As an integrative nutritionist, I talk to people A TON about how things are “going.” And guess what, the topic came up again this week. No need to apologize to me next time you bring it up, this is what I do. My whole goal is to help you have healthy, thriving gastrointestinal tract. This impacts digestion, absorption of nutrients, metabolism, immunity, autoimmunity, hormones, weight status, fertility, mood, energy, and detoxification, to name just a few crucial items.

So naturally, we need to talk about what goes into our mouths, but also how things are going on the other end. Regular bowel movements are critical to good health, and a lack of regular elimination may be pointing to imbalance in your system.

Unfortunately, a lot of us have a regularity problem. Most experts agree that “normal” (healthy) bowel movements should happen AT LEAST once a day, and should be soft, but fully formed (think toothpaste consistency).

So what are some safe, natural solutions if you are having trouble “going” regularly? Here is a handy checklist of some of my favorite habits for optimizing bowel health.

1. Don’t assume the issue is going to resolve itself. Lifestyle factors are a huge culprit when it comes to wrecking regularity, so let’s work on tackling the problem.

2. Are you taking a high-quality, physician-grade probiotic? There are times in life where quality does not matter as much, but this is NOT one of those times. If you would like a tailored recommendation, please consult your natural health care professional.

3. How are those fruits and veggies going? There is no way around a poor diet. Shoot for at least 5 servings of non-starchy vegetables/day (a great source of fiber). Prunes are a classic way to help get your bowels moving. Start with one prune/day.

4. How about Hydration? - Aim for 1/2 your body weight in ounces of pure water each day (Ex. 75 oz. for a 150 pound individual). Inadequate hydrate can contribute to dry, hard stools.

5. Warm liquids. Think tea or warm water with lemon. Try 6-8 oz, a few times a day to help soften stools.

6. Fiber Supplement. One of my favorite products is MetaFiber by Metagenics. It is the best of both worlds when it comes to fiber, featuring both insoluble fiber (adds bulk to the stool) and soluble fiber (gentle, gel-like binder). Start slow, with 1/4 to 1/2 a scoop/day and gradually go up to 1 scoop or more per day.

7. MAGNESIUM - Magnesium is a huge contributor to constipation, in addition to sleep issues and muscle cramping. As many as 80% of Americans are magnesium deficient! One of my favorite products is Natural Calm by Natural Vitality. It is powdered magnesium citrate, which means you can adjust the dose easily. Standard adult dosing is 2 tsp/day (325 mg), but it is suggested to start at 1/2 tsp/day and gradually go up. Consult your natural health care professional if you feel you need to go above the standard dose or for pediatric dosing. If your stools become too loose, reduce the dose. My favorite flavors are the plain and raspberry-lemon, mixed in warm water (best) or a small amount of juice. This product can be purchased online at Amazon or Emerson Ecologics.

Happy Monday,
Madelaine Schaufel, RD