The Importance of Understanding Bowel Movements for Optimal Health

We all go to the toilet, but we rarely talk about it. Understandably, it’s not exactly a great dinner table topic. However, it is one of the most important functions that we do and is an excellent way to check in with ourselves about the state of our health, or lack of. 

It is widely accepted that a ‘healthy bowel movement’ is a once-a-day event. However, we should ideally have a bowel movement after each meal. Why? The process of swallowing that meal stimulates movement in the digestive tract via peristaltic action. Our diet is a major factor of the effectiveness of that peristaltic action. 

Furthermore, as food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water from the food whilst it forms waste product (i.e. faeces). Muscle contractions in the colon push the faeces toward the rectum. By the time faeces reach the rectum it is solid, because most of the water has been absorbed. 

For healthy bowels, our number one tip is to drink up to a litre of water upon rising and then go for a walk to activate the digestive system. Having a bowel movement first thing in the morning is ideal as it’s when our body is working on elimination. Don’t get too worked up on the colour of your faeces as it depends on what you’ve been eating. Eg. Eating lots of STAIT Superfood powder, you’ll have a green colour; eating lots of beetroot, you’ll have a red colour; eating lots of activated charcoal to help with detox, you’ll have a black colour. 

There are 2 main ‘symptoms’ of a not-so-healthy bowel: constipation and diarrhoea. 

Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or if the colon’s muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the faeces to move through the colon more slowly. 

Diarrhoea is defined as the frequent passing of loose watery faeces. Symptoms that may also occur include: cramps and pains in the stomach, nausea, fever, vomiting and thirst. Diarrhoea can be acute or chronic. Acute diarrhoea usually resolves after one or two days. In this instance it’s important to be aware that the diarrhoea is your body’s way of trying to get rid of something it doesn’t want, and so ideally it’s best to support your body’s process of flushing out whatever is causing this by drinking lots of fluids and doing a series of enemas or colonics. Chronic diarrhoea, lasting four weeks or more is usually a sign of another condition that affects the intestines, commonly inflammatory bowel disease. 


Most cases of constipation arise from: 

  • Inadequate fibre and water in the diet

Other factors include: 

  • Lack of exercise (especially in the elderly)
  • Changes in life or routine such as ageing, pregnancy and travel
  • Stress
  • Large amounts of fibre supplements with no water intake
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Drugs/medications, such as antacids, blood pressure medications, antidepressants, diuretics, anticonvulsants, antispasmodics, painkillers and iron supplements
  • Chronic laxative abuse
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Bowel diseases
  • Metabolic and endocrine conditions, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism

If constipation is an issue for you, then you may ways to increase consumption of:

  • High-fibre foods such as, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, carrots, and sweet potatoes. As well as psyllium husks, slippery elm and oat bran.
  • foods high in pectins, such as apples, carrots, beetroot, bananas, cabbage, figs, prunes and prune juice.
  • Supplements that may help include STAIT Superfood and probiotics.

Other lifestyle factors to consider include:

  • Drink an adequate amount of water each day
  • Chew your food properly
  • Engage in daily exercise
  • Assess and reduce stress. 
  • Never resist the urge to have a bowel movement. Try to establish a routine so that defecation occurs at similar times each day.
  • Beware of chronic use of laxatives – they deplete nutrients, gut flora, reduce the absorption of some nutrients and may affect muscle tone. 


 Most cases of diarrhoea arise from: 

  • Food poisoning
  • Bacterial, viral or parasitic infection
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Food allergy or intolerance
  • Stress
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Alcohol and other drugs (pharmaceutical and recreational)
  • High intake of artificial sweeteners (eg. Aspartame)

 If diarrhoea is an issue for you, then you may want to increase consumption of:

  • Liquids – water with electrolytes, green drinks (i.e. STAIT Superfood blended with water) and broths 
  • Miso soup 
  • High-fibre foods such as, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, carrots, and sweet potatoes. As well as psyllium husks, slippery elm and oat bran.
  • Bananas
  • Possible supplements that may help include probiotics and activated charcoal.

Other lifestyle factors to consider include:

  • Most importantly identify and treat the cause.
  • Avoid any allergens and intolerances
  • Assess and treat any bacterial, viral or parasitic infection
  • Grated apple or carrot and black tea are old “folk remedies.”
  • Ginger and chamomile tea may help to relieve cramping.
  • If diarrhoea lasts for longer than 2 – 3 days, and if there is blood in the faeces, severe pain, fever, or dehydration, it would be best to make an appointment with your health care professional.

In conclusion, bowel movements are an important aspect of our health that are often overlooked. By understanding the process of digestion and the factors that can affect it, we can take steps to maintain healthy bowels and prevent constipation or diarrhoea. Drinking water and eating a diet rich in fibre and nutrients can help keep our digestive system functioning properly. Regular exercise and stress management can also play a role in maintaining healthy bowels.

Remember, a healthy bowel movement is a sign of a healthy body, so don't be afraid to talk about it and take care of your own digestive health.

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