Don’t have time to watch? Read here the full transcript of nutritionist Melissa Ramos’ TEDx Talk on The Answer to Your Health is in Your Poop at TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: The answer to your health is in your poop by Melissa Ramos at TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen
Many of you may feel that what you’re about to hear may be taboo and even a little dirty.
My name is Melissa Ramos, nutritionist and acupuncturist, and I love talking about shit, from rabbit poop to pencil thin poop and logs that look like a baby’s arm, I think it’s crucial to realize the importance of opening up your brown star and having a healthy bowel movement.
Why? Because what’s in your toilet bowl will give you great insight on what’s going on with your health.
But here is the thing: people are so scared to talk about it. I mean, ladies, we don’t drop the mother load in our man’s toilet bowl; do we? No. And farts? Hell no; we whisper in our panties.
You see, the problem is that by not talking about it, many digestive issues continue to go unaddressed. You see, it’s made people public poop folks, prairie-dogging it and holding in their poop until they’re able to go home — you know you might be one of them — able to go home until you realize, uh, I’ve missed my poop window.
But realize this: every single time that you hold in your poop, you have blood capillaries that are attached to your large intestine, and that sucks up a bunch of the toxins and it gets reabsorbed. So in other words, your body is essentially drinking your poop, right? Makes you kind of second-guess that right?
So I’ve seen patients that have had sinus infections, weight issues, acne, depression, hormonal issues like polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and more. And you know what I realized was that there was this one common denominator: digestive issues.
In fact, you would be surprised at how many people would never consider themselves constipated despite going a couple of times a week or every other day. In fact, you may be one of them. I know I once was.
I was in my late 20s and I had just purchased a home about eight months prior. And I was engaged to be married. The thing was the one secret I didn’t tell anybody that I was holding in I wasn’t in love. So sure I was exercising and eating well but I was lucky if I went to the bathroom even a couple times a week. So after having several Eat Pray Love moments of quietly sobbing on the bathroom floor, I decided that I needed to let go. And so I did.
I left my fiancée, I sold the house and I moved back to the city. I let go. And you know what happened? My bowel movements regulated. In fact, I was making up for lost time if you know what I’m saying.
So what happened here right? Well, let me explain this to you from a Chinese medical viewpoint. The lungs in Chinese medicine house the emotion grief, and we’ve all heard of the saying: have yourself a good cry because you know what, when you do it can be very cleansing. But the thing is when we suppress emotions, like grief, for example, it’s a stuck energy that lodges in the lung. And according to Chinese medicine, it will end up filtering that stuck energy filtering on down to its partner organ, the large intestine, and it gets stuck there.
You see, from an emotional standpoint, the large intestine is responsible for releasing toxic emotions. So when we don’t express emotions, we become constipated.
A 2008 study in the Neuroendocrinology Letters revealed that people who were anxious and depressed had higher rates of constipation. In fact, there is nowhere other than your brain that has more neurons on it than your large intestine, and researchers have known this for decades about the mind and the gut connection. And it’s the reason why that our digestive system has also been touted as the second brain.
Now let’s face it: how many of us here have ever experienced some sort of emotional bout in your digestive system start to take slack, right? I mean whether it’s a heartbreak, or I don’t know, maybe you lost your job or something work-related that had you running to the bathroom with loose bowel movements, or maybe your tummy grumbled and gurgled right before you were out to do a TED talk, right? So there’s this lovely thing called stress and many of us are very familiar with this.
You see, most people would consider themselves reasonably stressed, whether it’s, you know, financial stress or burning the candle at both ends, because, you know, North America, everything was due yesterday, right? The problem is, is that when we’re stressed, our cortisol which is our stress hormone increases. When that cortisol level increases, then our digestive fire decreases. And when I say digestive fire, I also — essentially that means hydrochloric acid according to Western medicine. And this is kind of an important fact, because we require hydrochloric acid to be able to break down food, particularly proteins and turn on energizing vitamins like Vitamin B12. And there’s a ton of people who are deficient in Vitamin B12 today, OK.
And also, if you’re somebody who eats and then all of a sudden feels bloated after you eat, you have to consider, maybe I actually have low hydrochloric acid, or my stomach fire is a bit weak.
You see, stress really impacts how we assimilate food, how it creates deficiencies and it really impacts how we poop. Now this isn’t to say that only emotions affect our poop because, of course, diet does as well, because as a nutritionist I’d be out of a job, let’s face it, right.
Now if you’re somebody who is used to having a processed food diet, or maybe and/or you are used to like a long past antibiotic use, chances are that you actually might be deficient in good friendly bacteria. And if this isn’t making sense to you, the word probiotic might. OK, because right now in the media we hear a lot about probiotic in yogurt and so forth. And you’re like, ‘but I eat my yogurt Melissa’, fine but you know what, it’s not a therapeutic dose for the digestive system. Not to mention, over 70% of us can’t really digest dairy past infancy.
So what would you do? You would take a probiotic supplement, would be a great start. See, probiotics are essential for the digestive system. Not to mention, people who were deficient in good friendly bacteria in their digestive system also had higher rates of anxiety and depression. In fact, a 2011 study from McMaster University revealed that people who have a lack of good friendly flora had increased rates or increased levels, I should say, of cortisol, our stress hormone that we were talking about. And as I just mentioned to you stress is a huge factor behind how we poop.
So pencil-thin poop figure eh, I mean let’s face it; this is pretty damn common, right? I mean, most people have had a little pencil-thin poop. And what this means is that your body is so stressed. See, when we’re stressed, don’t we generally sort of hold our shoulders up as earrings. We tend to get that really annoying like heartbeat by our eye and we’re winking at that dude at the coffee shop and you’re like I really don’t like you it’s my eyes, my thing. You know but it’s true, right? Or you’re grinding your teeth and you wake up and you look oh my god this hurts so bad.
Well, the same thing is happening in your large intestine. Your body is constricting, so you get this little pencil-thin poop that comes out, right, because your body is trying to keep it together.
So what’s the resolution? Well, for starters a great one is magnesium, a muscle relaxant. 70% of the North American population is deficient in magnesium, and this stat actually doesn’t really surprise me at all. And the reason why is because when we’re stressed out, we use up our magnesium stored. And when we’re stressed out, what food do we generally turn to? Sugar, right? It’s true.
So, you know, having sugar is a huge massive culprit and magnesium is essential, because when we’re stressed we turn to sugar. And then when we have the sugar, then we end up constricting and we get stressed and then we have the pencil-thin poop. And it becomes this massive vicious cycle.
Next, rabbit or pellet poop. This is probably one of the most disappointing poops you could potentially have, because no matter how hard you squeeze and whittle it, you get left with this pellet poop. And you’ve all had it. And the reason why that you’re actually having this pellet poop is for two major factors that I’ve seen in practice.
Number one is dehydration. The majority of people today are not drinking enough water. You need to be drinking about 2 liters of water per day. And the second factor is a lack of fat.
So the first one dehydration, OK. Did you know that your poop is actually made up of 75% water? So when you don’t have water, what do you think is pushing this puppy out, right?
And then there’s this thing called fat. Now I was a past advertising executive. I was in the field for almost ten years. And the number one consumer purchase was low fat. Everyone was looking for low fat products. If you are consuming low fat products, or you have this crap in your fridge, chuck it because you need fat, you require fat to manufacture hormones. Your brain is primarily made up of fat, and not to mention your cells are lined with fat. Fat does not make you fat; sugar makes you fat.
Next one, loose poop. This is kind of hard because sometimes when you have this it makes these really silly sounds, and that’s probably why some people are public poop folks, I would imagine.
Now while of course nerves certainly do have a factor to play with loose bowel movements, because I know a lot of people when they get nervous or like… bathroom.
But here’s another factor. Now many of us here would say that we’ve gotten that skin prick test. Understand this when you get that skin prick test from your doctor, that measures for an antibody that’s revealing an immediate reaction. The thing that’s really difficult when it comes to food is that many intolerances and allergies don’t promote an immediate reaction, it promotes a reaction on a different antibody that shows up with symptoms with you three to four days later which is why it’s so difficult for many people to understand what the heck is causing me to have these really funky poops, whether it’s loose poop or constipation or alternation between the two.
All right. So before you probably all go in with what a healthy poop look like, but before we get there let me show you how to poop. Hey, I’m dirty but I’m not that dirty. So let me just give you a bit of an example.
So a long time ago and actually in some societies, they still have like a hole in the ground where they poop. So bear with me, I know there’s some people in the back that might not be able to see this. But when they poop, they squatted, right? It’s ergonomically correct for your bowels, which means you’ll have proper elimination, OK. And this is super, super important.
So squatting is actually quite good to be able to eliminate everything, because if you think about it when it comes to colon cancer, studies have shown that 25% of colon cancer originates in the sigmoid colon, and that’s that area that bends. But if you were squatting when you took a poop you would actually help to alleviate some of that strain.
Then what happened? The modern toilet. Now look at how I’m sitting. This puts strain on your bowels. So what’s the resolve? Elevate your feet. Now what I would say to you is that you would probably need a step stool that’s a little bit higher than the one I have today. A wastebasket is fine, you can put your feet on either side of it. I’m only using this because I have heels on and I would assume that you’re probably not using your heels when you’re going to poo, right, unless you’re really fancy.
All right. So a healthy poop, let’s break it down. So a healthy poop should look chestnut brown, and I literally could do an entire talk on various colors, but obviously I only have a certain allotted window here. It’s also easy to go without strain; you shouldn’t be feeling like you still have to go after you’re done. If that’s the case, then there is still some digestive issues going on there. It should look like a dog’s tail is the way I say, looks like a dog’s tail rather than a baby’s arm, and people go, what the heck are you talking about? A dog’s tail meaning it should be smooth, not the pointed tip; I don’t mean that, I just mean it should look smooth. A baby’s arm like it’s kind of chubby right, and that would signify to you that you need some water. And it’s essentially form-fitting your colon; that’s why it’s got those bumps on it. So smooth like a dog’s tail.
Also, you should be wiping no more than three times and I am surprised at how many practitioners don’t ask this question. But it’s really important. And the reason why is because if you’re wiping more than three times, and don’t tell me you’re just doing it for good measure because really by the third wipe it should be clean. It’s because that you have too much mucus in your colon, OK. And if there’s too much mucus in your colon it might be from processed foods; maybe you had too much to drink the night before, fried foods or whatever the case is. But really that’s for me the rule of thumb.
It should also sink, not float. And people go really, yeah, because there’s two reasons why that it floats. Number one, either because there’s gas trapped in your poop, and that could be because of the fact that you haven’t had a good digestive process from the beginning. So it hasn’t come out properly.
Or number two is that you are not assimilating your fats properly, OK. And in that regard it would probably require for you to do a little bit of liver work as well, which also plays a role in digestion.
So back to my little happy poop face. Where does this leave us? I would love to think that I’ve inspired you to take even better care of your health and to realize that you really can reinvent your health by having a healthy digestive system, because this truly, people, is at the core of everything else, mentally how you feel, how you look, everything.
So the next time that you lay a brick before flushing the graphic evidence, please, please, please, take a good look at your poop, because your health is closer — the answers to your health are closer than you think.