Like many millennial women, my friends and I believed that a “normal” digestive tract must cleanse itself of waste every day, or least every other day. Surprisingly, this toilet talk and constipation takes up more than a fair share of my friends and my discussions, and so I ended up chatting with Alana Kessler MS RD, a functional and holistic nutrition and wellness expert on what “staying regular” is all about.
To be regular, Kessler reports that having 1-2 regular bowel movements every day that are complete and well-formed is a “regular” baseline, though of course, recommends that every person can be different and that regular-ness can oscillate up and down depending on your stress levels, overexercising, sleep disruption, etc.
Kessler recommends that you invest in a high-quality probiotic. Probiotics have been studied extensively to address gastrointestinal discomforts, and in fact, localized digestive improvements are often the most immediate and visceral benefits experienced when starting a clinically-studied probiotic — that’s because beneficial bacteria perform countless functions related to digestive health, including producing neurotransmitters that stimulate muscle contractions for improved motility and ease of expulsion (think: better, more regular poops). Two specific strains in Seed’s Daily Synbiotic (Lactobacillus Plantarum SD-LP1-IT and Bifidobacterium breve SD-BR3-IT) were studied in a 5-year, 300-person study for their combined beneficial effects in relieving intestinal discomfort, evacuation disorders, hard stools, bloating, and pain. Another strain, Bifidobacterium Longum SD-BB536-JP, was studied for its potential ability to promote improvement in the intestinal environment, defecation frequency, and fecal characteristics.
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Outside of taking a high-quality probiotic, Kessler recommends leaning into a plant-led diet chockablock full of roughage from a combination of raw and cooked starchy and non-starchy vegetables and ancient grains, targeting 25-35g of fiber through nutrient-dense foods each and every day. The roughage helps create bulk by retaining water as it travels through the intestine leading to regular bowel habits (i.e. “regular” ness).
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Addition to your nutrition, she also recommends you practice regular exercise and movement (she recommends the quarter dog and bound-Childs poses) and breathwork like alternate nostril breathing to keep you regular without constipation. By practicing regular movement, it allows food to stay a shorter time in the large intestine leading to a lower amount of water being absorbed back into the body. When water gets absorbed back into the body the stool gets dry and harder to eliminate.
Lastly Kessler concludes that you must, must get high quality, uninterrupted ZZZs. Sleep disruption drastically affects your regularity, as your large intestine gets cleansed by the system between 5am-7am as the other organs in your body are being detoxed — that means sans sleep — sans regularity.