Tips for Maintaining Good Bowel Health: Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle Strategies

Tips for Maintaining Good Bowel Health: Diet, Exercise and Lifestyle Strategies

Maintaining good bowel health is crucial for overall wellbeing, yet it's often overlooked. The digestive system is responsible for breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. Proper bowel function ensures that the body can effectively perform these tasks, contributing to energy levels, immune function, and mental health.

The month of June in Australia is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, with the signature day being Red Apple Day on 19 June. As we know, prevention is always better than needing a cure, so this is the perfect time to focus on how you can maintain optimal bowel health through diet, lifestyle, and an awareness of the signs that may point to potential issues.

Understanding Bowel Health

The bowels, comprising the small and large intestines, play a critical role in digestion. The small intestine absorbs nutrients from food, while the large intestine processes waste and absorbs water, forming stools that are eventually excreted. When bowel function is compromised, it can lead to discomfort, nutrient deficiencies, and conditions like constipation, diarrhoea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Key Practices for Good Bowel Health

  1. Dietary Fibre

Fibre is essential for maintaining regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, found in oats, apples, and legumes, dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance, helping to soften stools. Insoluble fibre, found in whole grains, nuts, and vegetables, adds bulk to the stool and aids its passage through the digestive tract.

You should aim for a balanced intake of both types of fibre. Adults should consume 25-30 grams of fibre daily. Gradually increase your fibre intake to prevent bloating and gas.

  1. Hydration

Water is crucial for digestion and the smooth passage of food through the intestines. It helps dissolve nutrients and soluble fibre, making it easier for the body to absorb them. Adequate hydration also prevents stools from becoming hard and difficult to pass. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day; more if you are physically active or live in a hot climate.

  1. Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support gut health. They can be found in fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are non-digestible fibres that feed these good bacteria. Foods rich in prebiotics include garlic, onions, bananas, and asparagus.

Including both probiotics and prebiotics in your diet helps maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which can improve digestion and enhance the immune system.

  1. Regular Exercise

Physical activity stimulates the muscles of the intestines, helping to move stools through the digestive tract more efficiently. Regular exercise can also help prevent constipation and reduce the risk of developing bowel-related disorders. The bowel loves simple walking; aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, whether it's walking, cycling, or swimming - your bowel will thank you.

  1. Routine Bowel Movements

Establishing a routine for bowel movements can help train your body to have regular bowel habits. Try to go to the bathroom at the same time each day, preferably after a meal when the gastrocolic reflex (a natural reaction that stimulates bowel movement after eating) is most active. Do not ignore the urge to go, as this can lead to constipation.

To aid in healthy bowel movements without the need to push or strain, we, of course, encourage the use of a toilet foot stool like the PROPPR to ‘unkink’ the colon and get you in the ‘PROPPR position to poop’.

Recognising and Addressing Bowel Issues

  1. Common Symptoms

Pay attention to changes in your bowel habits. Symptoms such as persistent constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, or blood in the stool should not be ignored. These can be signs of underlying conditions such as IBS, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or something more sinister.

  1. When to Seek Medical Help

If you experience significant changes in bowel habits or any alarming symptoms, consult a healthcare professional. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent more serious complications.

Lifestyle Factors and Bowel Health

  1. Stress Management

Stress can significantly impact bowel health, leading to conditions like IBS. Practise stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, a walk in nature, yoga, or regular physical activity to maintain a calm digestive system.

  1. Avoiding Harmful Substances

Limit the intake of substances that can irritate the digestive system, such as excessive caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. Smoking cessation is also crucial, as smoking can adversely affect gut health, not to mention the other health issues that smoking can cause.

Good bowel health is integral to your overall health and general wellbeing. By adopting a diet rich in fibre, staying hydrated, incorporating probiotics and prebiotics, exercising regularly, and managing stress, you can help maintain a healthy digestive system.

Always be attentive to changes in your bowel habits and seek medical advice when necessary. Prioritising your bowel health can lead to improved energy levels, a stronger immune system, and a better quality of life. And isn’t that what we all aim for?