On movement of a different kind

Hint: it involves your bowels

My university days were not the greatest years of my life.  I struggled academically and socially as I adapted to being a small fish in a very big pond.  I grew up in a small town, was athletic and academic and felt important.  In university, I quickly became a nobody, a nameless face in the crowd.   I desperately missed home and called my parents a few times a week and share how awful I felt. 


My parents while supportive are also firm believers in “working through your pain” whether it is mental emotional or physical.  During these calls home I would get a few minutes of compassion followed by a logical and practical pep talk about how to keep going.   One question that my Dad asked me every single one of these calls, was did you have a BM today?  At the time I was like why the heck does that matter? I am a 19-year-old woman, not a toddler, how does having a poop impact my terrible life at school? Have you seen the dorm bathrooms here? Put Mom back on the phone!  

Now I get it, it was difficult for my Dad to see me in pain and he wanted to help me in whatever way he could. My Dad knew that he could not help me with my emotional struggles but ensuring his youngest daughter was eliminating daily was an area he felt he could influence.  With a discussion about fibre and water and keeping up with my exercise, my Dad knew that I would feel better if I had a BM.  So much of my life was in transition, everything was new and I was having a hard time adapting, so this basic bodily function was very important to my overall health and spoke to the choices I was making at school. 


I later learned (what my Dad knew all along) through my Naturopathic training just how important healthy bowel function is towards overall health.  I can’t tell you the number of people I see in practice who think multiple loose messy stools per day or going to the bathroom once per week is absolutely normal.   Healthy elimination looks like brown, soft to firm, easy to pass poops that happen 1 to 2 times per day.  Anything other than that is abnormal and although not necessarily a disease certainly an indicator that something is out of balance in the body. The cause being anything from food sensitivities, imbalanced gut bacteria, parasites or suboptimal digestive enzyme function just to name a few.

In my office, I always spend a fair amount of time focusing on elimination and looking for clues to a person’s health through their poops.  Treatments range from shifting away from trigger foods, killing off and repopulating commensal bacteria, increasing digestive enzymes etc…  There is so much here and after 13 years of practice, I am still in awe of the individuality of patients’ symptoms and subsequent treatment plans to bring health back in this area.   

Something that I have seen as a consistent pattern for patients is the deeper meaning of a compromised digestive system.  We often think of our bowel movements as being a purely physical act of elimination but I now realize that there truly is a mental/emotional factor to staying regular.  We have to let go!  When the body is stressed, tense and overwhelmed from mental/emotional triggers are BM can not be healthy.   When we are holding on to stories or situations of the past we are unable to move forward and the body is along for that ride, mimicking our emotional challenges in physical ways. 

So back to my Dad’s question: did you have a BM today? He was not only being practical to my physical needs but also very wise to my emotional state?  It was time for me to let go of the good old high school days to create space for new experiences at University. 

Now that I am a Mom myself, I truly get it.  It is a good morning in our house when my daughter, dog and I have a bowel movement.  I am able to say goodbye to them for the day knowing that they are off to a good start.   And Dad, you will be very happy to know that when your granddaughter is in the midst of a meltdown or is struggling to process something, I will ask her: did you have a poop today?