The bowel is a hollow muscular tube from the stomach to the back passage (anus).
It is part of our digestive system.
The bowel works to process the food we eat into nutrients in our blood stream, absorbs the goodness, then expels the waste that the body cannot use.
How do your bowels work?
- Are you fascinated about how your bowels work?
- Want to move and improve your bowels?
- Want to learn more about your bowels?
- Do you want to understand how your digestion works?
- Are you experiencing any problems with your bowels?
If you are, read our thirteen tips!
Keywords we use when talking “bowel-talk” – Constipation, emptying bowels completely, hard stools, irregular, straining, bloating, gas, loose bowels …
Thirteen tips to improve and move your bowels?
- Increase your water intake – vegetables and fruit do contain water and beverages, but this requires your intestines to still work to breakdown the nutrients. Water immediately hydrates your body and juices up your intestines from start to finish.
- Eat fibre – that means vegetables and fruit as whole foods with roughage in them. Beans and pulses, grains are good examples of healthy fibre and slow-acting carbohydrates that give you energy to support digestion and elimination
- Move your body – exercise and intermittent exercise as in shopping, walking the dog etc. Sitting for long stretches at your desk is deadening to your bowels. Move every 2 hours.
- Enjoy a cafe or tea as both have caffeine and stimulate bowels. Also, equally dehydrating as they pull water from your intestines to break down the caffeine. So have a water chaser!
- Try a fibre-bulking product like Metamucil or similar to soften stools to go!
- Suppositories are more hardcore!
- Eat slowly, not 100 chews per mouthful, but simply eat slowly.
- Resist looking at your phone or watching TV while eating, although we all do it. Do it less!
- Sip fluids during eating as large swallows can dilute gastric enzymes
- Have a plate of colourful food – not all brown or white!
- Drink more water – try 2 glasses of water first thing on getting up in morning. Drink throughout the day.
- Enjoy a lymphatic drainage treatment to get your bowels stimulated and moving.
- Discover how to self-drain your own belly and feel the difference immediately
Book Here – Lymphatic Drainage 1 hour
What are the bowel, colon and intestines exactly?
If like me, you have always had a fascination with knowing what your bowels do and when (and why not) read on to learn more about what part is which, or which part is what, so you can discover how to both learn more and how to care for your remarkable, internal digestive organs and why.
If you have heard terms like bowels, stool, colon, guts, intestines, small bowel, large bowel, small intestines, large intestine, sigmoid, rectum, faeces, anus – some words used interchangeably to mean the same thing, it’s time for those terms to be clarified, so you are no longer unsure which part means what!
What is the bowel?
More correctly, the word bowel is meant to be bowels, as it comprises the small and large intestine.
This is an origin of the word bowels:
c. 1300, usually plural, bowels, “human organs of the abdominal cavity,” from late 14c. specifically as “human intestines,” from Old French boele “intestines, bowels, innards” (12c., Modern French boyau), from Medieval Latin botellus “small intestine,” originally “sausage,” diminutive of botulus “sausage,” a word borrowed from Oscan-Umbrian.
In 1844 the term ‘Bowel movement’ was affirmed as a correct and authentic term.
When used in everyday speech, as in how are your bowels’? – it’s meant to refer to your overall intestines, both small and large.
Although most people will think it means a bowel movement (defecation).
Therefore the person asking, is likely wanting a picture of your bowels regarding the regularity of and quantity, ease of defecating, loose versus dry and other nitty-gritty details of how your elimination is going!
Or not, as the case may be. You are likely to be having this conversation with your doctor or other health professional or friends and family.
If you do perceive a problem, it’s highly likely you are hoping not to go to the doctor and when you do, it’s probably more of a problem as you have ignored it, hoping it would fix itself!
So, this article is designed to give you some useful information so you know what’s happening in those bowels of yours.
Note: It’s probably best to think of small intestine and large intestine as more correct so I will use those terms.
Other names for the poop journey for the scatalogical-minded (in which I count myself):
poo, poop, excrement, shit, shite, turd, dump, defecation, excretion, bowel movement, faeces, no 2, crap! Done and dusted!
What is the small intestine?
The small intestine starts its long journey at the bottom of the stomach.
It is a narrow-looped tube of over 6 metres (20 feet) and consists of 3 parts: the duodenum, the jejunum, and the ileum.
It’s primary function is to breakdown, extract and absorb nutrients from the digested food in the stomach.
How does your body absorb nutrients?
The small intestine is the processing part of the body that breaks down food, absorbs and send nutrients to other parts of the body for their daily functioning.
Read on to see how the duodenum, jejunum and ileum do that job 24 hours a day, every day!
What are bile salts?
Bile salts are made in the liver and gallbladder, and are a primary component of bile. They help break down fats, aid digestion, absorb important vitamins and eliminate toxins.
The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine and it is joined to the stomach at the pyloric sphincter. This is where the bulk of nutrients are broken down and absorbed with the help of bile from the liver and gallbladder, and digestive enzymes from the pancreas.
The jejunum is about 2.5 metres (8 feet) and is the middle portion of the small intestine. More nutrient absorption happens here before joining the ileum.
- This final part of the small intestine measure 3.5 metres (12 feet) in length and is situated in the lower abdomen below the umbilicus and framed by the large intestine on three sides. Think of an archway shape.
- The ileum does a final extraction of key elements required for the body, such as Vitamin B12 and bile salts.
- Any remaining nutrients are absorbed through the lining of the ileum wall as food passes through the ileum.
- What is now left before it is about to leave the ileum altogether is water, bile salts, and waste products such as plant fibre and dead cells shed from the digestive tract such as the oesophagus and duodenum.
From here, the digested material is pulsed along to the cecum, the first part adjoining the ascending colon, which is the first section of the large intestine.
The ilium of the small intestine joins the ascending colon at the ileocecal valve opening to the cecum.
What is a sphincter?
A ring of muscle surrounding and serving to guard or close an opening or tube, such as the anus (anal sphincter) or the openings of the stomach (pylorus sphincter).
What is a valve?
A flap of muscle surrounding and serving to guard or close an opening or tube, such as the esophagus valve (the joining of the esophagus to the stomach), or the ileocecal valve (the joining of the ileum (small intestine) to the cecum (first section of the ascending colon).
Both the ring-shaped sphincter or flap-shaped valve (also interchangeably called the same) function to allow one-way movement from one part to another. This one-way traffic stops material from returning, and causing backup (as in small intestine) or backflow as in gastric-esophageal reflux.(GERD)
Why are these structures important?
These valves and sphincters are meant to close off and control the movement of material from one part of the body to another part.
As in the ileocecal valve stopping contents of cecum (first part of ascending colon) going backwards to the ileum (small intestine).
When problems occur, these structures can become tight /closed or loose /open and material may flow poorly or not flow into areas where they shouldn’t and cause bacterial overgrowth and toxicity into the body. Think reflux, constipation, diarrhoea.
Why is the ileocecal valve so important?
This valve can be affected by various things over time and common symptoms for an under functioning ileocecal valve are bloating, digestive problems and discomfort after eating or even on getting up.
These signs and symptoms can also be indicative of other problems so further exploration and a professional medical opinion should be sought.
Signs and symptoms of an under functioning ileocecal valve
- shoulder pain and typically right which can indicate liver
- lower back pain
- sudden thirst
- indigestion, gas and bloating
- bowel disturbances as in constipation, diarrhoea
- bad breath
- tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- abdominal pain usually on the lower right (where ileocecal valve is situated)
- dark circles under eyes (often related to kidney issues)
- flu-like symptoms
- weakened immune system
- pseudo bursitis / swelling in joints
Causes of Ileocecal Valve Syndrome
The main causes of this condition are typically related to how and what you eat. It is fair to say that if you are eating under stress, eating quickly, over eat and snack a lot, are dehydrated, emotionally reactive and generally strung out, you are more likely to have digestive problems.
What is the large intestine?
The large intestine includes the colon and its parts (cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon and finally, the rectum).
It’s primary function is to reabsorb the remaining water and bile salts from the digested material and to move that waste material to the rectum as faeces, and finally, out of the anus.
This is where the ileum, the last section of the small intestine joins the first section of the colon (large intestine).
It is situated on the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, just inside of your hip. If you were to press your fingers in this area and pressure it toward your midline, you are likely to feel a ‘bowel’ pressure.
The appendix attaches itself like a small tail to the bottom of the cecum, designed as an ‘overflow’ but often has to be removed when it threatens to rupture.
The transverse colon and descending colon
The transverse colon is situated at the top of the ascending colon and travels from the right side of the abdomen to the left at the height of the umbilicus like a big loop. It joins the descending colon at the left and it becomes the sigmoid colon lower down inside the right hip area (internal iliac nodes). More extraction of remaining bile salts and water happens in the transverse and descending colon, until any material left is effectively waste shunted along to the sigmoid colon, getting ready for final extraction in the rectum.
This is where faeces are stored until the person expels it into the anal canal and finally out the anus opening.
This is the end of your poop journey!
If you would like to learn more and improve your overall intestinal health, consider lymphatic drainage and abdominal massage and also, learn how to self-drain yourself.
The perfect way to sooth your abdomen before sleep and improve your immunity and lymphatic system… Book here
Book Here – Lymphatic Drainage 1 hour
How does your body know when to go to the toilet?
The nerves in the rectum sense when it is full, then passes the message to the brain whether it is gas or a stool.
Once the message is received, your response for a stool movement is to go to the toilet. Your anal sphincter relaxes, your anus opens and the rectum empties. Job well done!
Why do we poop in the morning?
Once we awake, our body is primed to move and our bowels along with it. If you are attentive to your body clock, you will recognise the sensations of defecation either on first getting up or after having water or a café (or other beverage).
Your stomach is getting ready to receive breakfast (incoming) and the gastrocolic reflex relays this message to intestines to get ready for outgoing.
Read more on HOW to make yourself “poop”
Why do I feel the urge to poop after eating?
This urge is caused by the gastrocolic reflex which gets stimulated when food enters the stomach.
This is a normal bodily reaction and is the body’s way of signaling food coming in and food going out, reflex needing to happen.
The food you eat in the morning is not likely to be the remains that you are pooping out the next day.
So before you get all grossed out, the converted food into nutrients is being sent to other parts of the body while the remains are fully extracted of any remaining nutrients before being sent to the rectum to await final evacuation.
How long does digestion take from start to finish?
- All up, about 40-44 hours but let’s break that down first, although it can take longer
- After eating, it takes about half a day (or six to eight hours) for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine.
- Food matter then enters your large intestine and that takes the longest time of about 36 hours to move through the whole colon and to wait to pass through the rectum and anus.
- Exact timing of digestion and elimination obviously depends on your metabolism, what you have eaten, your overall health, and this may vary from day to day depending on what you have eaten.
What foods pass through your body quickly?
Foods, like beetroot and other root and fibrous vegetables may take only 12 -24 hours to pass through.
High water content and fibrous fruits and vegetables also pass through quickly. However, some meats and dairy products like full milk and hard cheese take longer to be completely digested because of their higher fat content.
Why is it a good thing to drink water first thing in the morning?
Drinking at least 2 glasses of water does a few things. Here’s a short list:
- Stimulates the gastrocolic reflex
- Flushes your stomach
- Hydrates your lymphatic system which is very important as this is the primary part of your immune system that keeps you well
- Supplies vital water to your colon in softening and forming your stool
- Reduces the likelihood of a hard stool and very uncomfortable things like constipation
- Hydrates your organs and whole body function
How long does water take to digest?
- Water, juices and other beverages and sugar pass through quickly in about an hour passing through into the small intestine to be stored for other organ/body usage and function.
- Excess sugar in beverages is often converted into fatty stores which causes the body to feel hungry again sooner.
Is your body really 90 percent water?
No, it isn’t.
If you have heard that one before, read on to find out what the correct amount is and where that figure might erroneously have come from.
How much water are we made of?
The real figure is about 60 percent water.
Our bones are composed of 22 percent water, muscles are 76 percent and blood is 83 percent. Lungs are 90 percent, and our brains are actually 95 percent water. The rest of our body is made up of cells and elements, the vital building blocks of our DNA. If you like science, then google what are our bodies made of or similar? And expect to be surprised as I was!
How much water percent do women have?
- Those figures change according to gender, age, health and level of hydration.
- Men are about 60 percent water, women about 50-55 percent of water.
From 50 onwards, your body is sapped even more, with men at around 55 percent water and women at 47 percent.
Are there water differences between women and men?
Yes there are.
- Aged adults have about 45 percent of water and it’s likely that older women may have slightly less hydration percent than men, as related to their gender and any obesity or other health issue.
- Our organs, particularly liver, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs, require lots of water to improve their function and each of those parts also have a water percent composition.
There is more water in lean muscle and less in fatty tissue which is why there are the gender differences. The fitter you are, the more lean muscle tissue you have and the higher water percentage you have. The more fatty tissue you have, the less water you have in your body.
What is a baby’s water percent?
At birth, babies are born with a higher water percentage of 78 percent. This reduces to 65 percent by the age of 1 year and when they reach puberty it reduces to their gender percent.
How often do you pee?
From that first glass of water, about 1-2 hours.
How much should you drink daily?
- Women should have about 2 litres (8 cups) of fluids a day, and men about 2.6 litres (10 cups).
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more fluid each day to produce more fluid for their growing baby inutero and for breastfeeding production once their baby is born.
How much water does your digestive system need?
Not all that much as it turns out. About 400 ml.
However, when water is first absorbed into the body, it goes to the small intestine, as a temporary container.
The water sits in the cell membrane and bloodstream and from there it travels to different cells in the body to hydrate their various daily functions.
The Mayo Clinic is a very reputable source and they note:
“The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends that men consume 3.7 litres (15.5 cups) and women get 2.7 litres (11.5 cups) of fluids per day, which can come from water, beverages in general, and food (such as fruits and vegetables”
What happens to any excess water in the body?
Any excess water is urinated out or through the faeces or sweated out.
If you would like to learn more and improve your overall intestinal health, consider lymphatic drainage and abdominal massage and also, learn how to self-drain yourself. The perfect way to sooth your abdomen before sleep and improve your immunity and lymphatic system… Book here
Book Here – Lymphatic Drainage 1 hour
Contact The Healing Practice
129B Balmain Road
Leichhardt NSW 2040
M: 0438 216 351