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Are you pooping all wrong?

By Flavia Nassaka

Those who hold poop risk tougher complications

Fecal matter (Poop) is one of those bodily substances which few of us like to discuss in polite company. Like other secretions, it is something that most of us deal with in private. Yet, Dr. Ismail Tamale, a nutritionist says pooping is very important since it is the body’s way of getting rid of waste. He says people should at all time be conscious of their excretion patterns.

Under normal circumstances, doctors say a healthy person should be visiting the washroom at least twice a day.  Although Dr. Tamale says very normal individuals can even go for three times a day explaining that the time taken between eating food and passing it out is 24 hours for instance food eaten at breakfast should be passed out the following day in the morning.


Doctors however say the frequency of one visiting the washroom is a function of several factors which include:

The quantity and quality of food taken: Dr. Fausta Akech Delafrique another nutritionist says a person who eats a high fiber diet, vegetables and takes a lot of fluids will at most times have no problems pooping whereby they can go to the toilet more than once a day whereas people on poor diets can at times find problems of either constipation or loose bowel movements. Quantity of food can also have an effect on bowel quantity though it’s not always a must.

Weather: Dr. Tamale said while it may be ok for people living in hot countries like Saudi Arabia to take more than 72 hours without pooping, in Uganda it may signal that someone is suffering from constipation or other complications. He explains that in hot weather, water evaporates out of the body through other pores but when its cold people are forced to visit the washroom more than twice a day.

Compatibility of the food with blood group and genotype: different foods rhyme well with different people and therefore, the doctor says, one need to know the best foods for their blood type. He says nutritionists have resorted to using a new approach – specialised personalised individualised nutrition (Spin) where food choices are made in line with one’s blood group and genetic formation. He says incompatible foods could affect one’s digestive system.

Whether one is using medication or not: certain medicines especially some antibiotics and  those used  in cancer treatment usually have a side effect of constipation, says Dr. Akech adding that some medicines may increase one’s urge to visit the washroom.

Physical fitness exercises: just like it’s good for your general body health, exercise helps in the excretion process since it opens up the veins for free flow of blood and body secretions. People who do a plenty of exercises usually suffer less problems and therefore are able to visit the toilet on average twice a day.

When should you worry?

When the stool changes color abruptly from the normal shades of brown and green without change in what one eats can signal a problem for instance black stool could be an indicator of an ulcer whereas people with anxiety issues usually have their stool turn yellow. Stress may turn stool into dark green. However, Dr. Tamale says the change in color can only necessitate visiting a doctor’s office when it is abrupt and persistent. He says the colour of bowels is usually brown because of bile, an important digestion aiding secretion produced in the liver.  Also, when you notice stains of blood in the fecal matter, it is always important to notify the doctor as Dr. Akech says this could be an indicator of danger as big as colorectal cancer but it could also be as a result of injury caused by constipation. If this is complemented with other signs such as lack of appetite, dehydration and headache, one should get more concerned and seek medical help as soon as possible.

While constipation may be caused by irregular dietary practice and irregular emptying of bowel, issues that can be easily reversed, it may point to a serious medical complication that can only be reversed by surgery for instance intestine prolapse.

Dr. Tamale says those who hold their poop – something common among people who work in town where there are no clean toilets, they constrain themselves and may end up getting anal cracks or a heart attack as a result of enlarged bowel that can shift and compress other body organs leading to death.   Diarrhea should not be ignored either as doctors say it is mostly caused by viruses, bacteria or an allergic reaction and can be a sign of complications such as irritable bowel syndrome, a disorder that affects the large intestines.

The misconceptions

Dr. Tamale says there’s a lot of hype about use of laxatives and colons cleansing to improve one’s digestive system yet these things just aggravate problems.  According to him, the body system works naturally and once some of these are introduced to the body, the user will have to depend on them for life.  “With each cleansing, you are flushing away intestinal flora, the useful bacteria together with waste. Nearly 1,000 species of bacteria reside in the colon and aid in the final stages of digestion. When cleansing is done, it’s actually the beginning of your digestive problems” he says.

Another misconception according to the doctor is that poop should always smell bad. He says while it may not smell good, it should not smell like a rotting something as extreme bad smell is an indicator that poop actually took longer than it should have in the body.   Both doctors however advise, to have good digestive health, people should always eat the right quantities, engage in enough physical exercise and always include foods high in fiber, fruits and fluids on their menu daily.

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