So, what’s the scoop with painful poops? While it is an uncomfortable topic and may make you start squirming around in your chair, many people experience pain when pooping. It’s important to recognize that you are what you eat, and more specifically what you digest. So, if you have painful poops more than several times per month, there’s work to be done to fix what’s causing your digestive tract pain.
A number of conditions may lead to painful poops:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which may cause either diarrhea or constipation.
- Celiac Disease, Colitis, Crohn’s Disease
- Bloating or gas from food sources like FODMAPs (beans, cabbage, onions, garlic, wheat, and legumes). FODMAPS are fermentable oligosaccharides (short-chain carbs) which are difficult to digest and can ferment in the large intestine, causing tremendous constipation and pain for some people.
- Food sensitivities which you may not be aware of including gluten, dairy, soy, alcohol, and others or food Intolerances such as dairy, corn, and others. To learn more about the difference see my blog here.
- Digestive Enzymes due to pancreatic insufficiency, or gall bladder removal.
- Mineral imbalances such as lack of sufficient magnesium or calcium.
- Immobility due to lack of adequate movement, hospitalization.
- Accumulated toxins can result from lack of bowel movements. Bad breath, gas, foul-smelling bowel movements and body odor may be signs.
- Gut pathogens such as c.difficile, parasites, or imbalances of normal gut bacteria (dysbiosis).
- Hormonal imbalances such as thyroid or other endocrine or stress hormones can cause constipation or diarrhea.
- Medications such as calcium channel blockers for blood pressure management, opioids for pain, over-the-counter pain medications, some antacid medications, diuretics, some chemotherapy medications, antidepressants, anticholinergic medications, and others.
It’s normal to have a bowel movement (that is not painful) 1-3 times per day. Anything less than that may indicate chronic constipation, while greater than that may indicate diarrhea, high fiber intake, or absorption issues.
What’s not normal?
Well, it’s not normal to have chronic painful poops or those with the consistency of diarrhea or constipation. These are signs that your digestive tract is not functioning like it’s supposed to.
How do I fix chronic painful poops?
It’s important to correct a condition where you are chronically experiencing pain when moving your bowels. However, correcting this can be complicated because you don’t want to overly rely on medications or stool softeners, or anti-diarrheal medications to fix the symptom. What you want to do, is to find out the root cause(s) of pain while pooping. A good overview video of “How to Poop” is provided by Dr. Peter Osborne of the Gluten Free Society.
Here are some tips:
- Keep a diet journal for the next 5-7 days to record all your meals, the foods eaten, and approximate portions. Cut out the foods that you think are irritating your bowels.
- Note how you are feeling 2 hours after each meal. If you are chronically hungry and not satiated, your energy level drops, or you are not feeling well may be signs that you need help with your diet.
- Track your bowel movements noting the frequency, consistency, and color. Using the Bristol Stool Chart is a good way to identify if your stool is relatively normal, or trending to diarrhea or constipation. The ideal type is a 3 or 4, meaning that the stool is easy, not painful to pass, and not too watery. The color of your stool can provide information on whether you may have a blocked bile duct if it’s gray or clay colored, or if it contains blood (bright red blood or black tarry stool). If your stool floats, this can be a sign that you are not digesting fats adequately.
- Drink water, about half your body weight in ounces. Staying hydrated is key to lubricating the stool as it passes through your intestinal tract.
- Get plenty of fiber as tolerated. Start to add fiber slowly. Souble fiber such as psyllium husk is better tolerated than insoluble.
- For constipation try a castor oil pack. These can get messy, but there are some products that are less messy and provide more organic and clean sources of castor oil. Other options are to use natural minerals/electrolytes such as magnesium or calcium. Vitamin C imay be use at moderate to higher doses to manage constipation.
- Eat a healthy diet. The Institute for Functional Medicine provides a Core Food Plan that you can reference. However, you may consider additional testing to see if you have food sensitivities or other
- Exercise regularly and incorporate daily movement to help promote both digestion and elimination. Movement, in of itself, can be very helpful functionally to move things through your system. Speaking of movement, rocking back and forth while on the toilet, squatting, or getting a Squatty Potty can help to move the bowels.
- Retrain your bowels. Sometimes you just need to take the time to do some bowel retraining, allowing regular times after eating to go to the bathroom, while not straining, and allowing about 10-15 minutes to make things happen. It’s important to try to relax when trying to move your bowels. Bowel retraining is particularly important if you’ve become reliant on over-the-counter laxatives.
- Manage your stress. Believe it or not, stress can cause diarrhea or constipation. Incorporating stress management techniques, such as 4-7-8 breathing or meditation can help.
- Do a detox program. While many people try to do a detox on their own, this could backfire. Look to a qualified health professional who can guide you.
- Seek a health professional–While traditional providers can help identify chronic conditions such as IBS or Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD), diverticulitis, Crohn’s Disease, or other conditions, a health coach trained as a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P) can help address chronically painful poops with functional lab testing to identify hidden imbalances and provide a personalized plan to address diet, rest, exercise, stress management, and supplementation to help rebalance the gut.
FDN-P’s use Metabolic Typing® to help you find the right diet for your metabolism and functional lab testing to uncover hidden causes of metabolic imbalances. FDN-P’s are trained in functional lab testing to help uncover food sensitivities, gut pathogens, toxins, or hormonal imbalances that may be contributing to pain while pooping.
The scoop with chronically painful poops is that they are not normal and are important to address. Correcting diet, digestion, and elimination in addition to other hidden causes of digestive pain makes for a healthier you, eliminates pain while pooping and makes your bowel movements regular and pain-free.