Healthy bowel movements are key to effective gut detoxification and overall well-being. Forum Health can help you get regular and feel your best. Regular bowel movements are the primary way your body eliminate toxins, metabolized hormones, and other waste products. But when you’re constipated, waste stagnates in the digestive tract. This irritates your gut lining, allowing harmful bacteria to flourish. Eventually, your bloodstream reabsorbs waste and circulates it throughout your body. This nasty process leads to systemic problems. And those can sap your energy, cause irritability, and increase your risk for serious illnesses. Forum Health’s Dr. Shilpa P. Saxena explained this process on the TEDx stage: Constipation is embarrassing and uncomfortable. It can also be painful — even debilitating. Gas and bloating are common. You might also experience abdominal cramps, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, lack of appetite, and vomiting. How often should I poop? Bathroom issues can be difficult to talk about. As a result, most people don’t know what’s normal. Conventional understanding is that bowel movements should occur at least once every three days. But in functional medicine, we believe daily elimination is essential for effective gut detoxification and overall health. You should have at least one healthy bowel movement per day. Otherwise, you could accumulate harmful toxins. What makes a healthy bowel movement? You can have regular and frequent bowel movements but still be constipated. Truly healthy bowel movements meet these four criteria: Spontaneous (not induced by medication) Easy to pass (not requiring you to strain) Soft but solid (long, snake-like pieces) Complete (feeling satisfactorily empty) What’s causing my constipation? Constipation has many potential causes, including serious illnesses and medication use. But most cases are rooted in diet and lifestyle. Addressing these areas will often restore normal intestinal function, improve bowel movements, and relieve constipation. Poor Fiber IntakeIt’s important to eat the right amount of fiber — and the right kind. This helps keep the muscles in your gastrointestinal tract strong. Lack of HydrationIf you don’t drink enough water, you might have hard stool that’s difficult to pass. A general rule of thumb: What’s half your body weight in pounds? That number is how many ounces of water you should drink each day. Other Diet ChoicesYour body has unique nutritional needs. Constipation could be caused by an unknown allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. Or, you could be eating too much sugar or processed food. Hormone ImbalanceLow thyroid hormone can lead to constipation. A sluggish thyroid could be to blame — even if you’re not diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Constipation is also connected to insulin, as well as female hormones and adrenals. StressThe gut and brain are connected. If you experience chronic stress, the bacteria in your gut can change, potentially leading to depleted magnesium. Lack of ExerciseBeyond relieving stress, exercise can be useful to “get things moving.” If you sit too much, your digestive system might not function properly. Forum Health’s Approach Over-the-counter medication and fiber supplements can mask your symptoms. But they don’t resolve constipation. And overuse can inflict damage in the long run. With so many possible causes, constipation clearly calls for a functional and integrative medicine approach. Forum Health providers act as medical detectives. We’ll assess your whole body to identify underlying causes and develop a custom treatment plan. We’ll help you address lifestyle and diet issues for lasting results. As a Forum Health member, you have ongoing access to a personal health coach. You’ll also work toward ideal gut health through a detox program tailored to your unique needs.