The Poo Taboo – Forget Auld Lang Syne, We Need to Talk About Toileting

Ah Yuletide. A time for chomping your way through mountains of leftover turkey, consuming your body mass in mince pies and washing it all down with a gallon of prosecco. Delicious rich foods: huzzah! Boozey cakes and ALL the biscuits: woo! Stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea and acid reflux: yay! No, wait…

This New Year’s Eve most people’s minds are solely on fireworks, parties and who they’re smooching at midnight. Not me. I want to talk about shit.

One morning last year I had a bowel movement so perfect I wanted to frame it. The size, shape, consistency, colour…my God it was perfect. A textbook, exhibition-worthy poop. Why was I so excited? Because I had suffered from severe IBS for months and my inability to consistently and fully empty my bowels was severely lowering my quality of life. Those who fulfil the NHS-recommended one-to-three bowel evacuations each day without giving it so much as a second thought will never know how truly blessed and lucky they are. I thought about poo constantly. I literally dreamed about shit. Previous life goals had included penning an erotic novel, mastering the nose flute or adopting an ardvaark. Now I was just shooting for ‘normal digestion’.

Forty-eight hours prior to this magnificent dump I’d had my first ever colonic hydrotherapy treatment, delivered by a lovely Indian lady who, when I questioned her on how she had got into this line of work, shrugged and didn’t really have a clear answer. Because in India colonics and enemas are part and parcel of everyday life. She grew up learning that her digestive system was the centre for everything. Got a headache? Clear your bowels. Back pain? Cleanse the poop chute. Acne? You can probably see where this is going…

One of the central tenets of Ayrevuda – the ancient healing system present in India for over 5,000 years – is that a healthy gut is key for longevity, vitality and mental well-being. Western medicine is starting to recognise the significance of digestive health in the treatment of chronic illness and mood disorders, but there’s a long way to go. Happy pills and talking therapy are still very much the mainstays of modern mental health treatment, despite mounting evidence linking gut dysfunction with ailments like anxiety and depression.

Talking is great. I’m a big fan of verbal discourse. If depression, anxiety or chronic fatigue are rooted in bottled up feelings and repressed trauma then of course they’re not going anywhere until the tsunami of confusing and difficult thoughts confounding your grey matter are confronted. Therapy can be insightful and life changing. But what if the primary cause for your strife lies within your gut microbiome? Studies suggest that an imbalance in gut bacteria could be playing an active role in inducing psychiatric disorders – try chatting your way out of that problem.

In this country we don’t talk about our digestion openly. Did you know there’s actually a World Toilet Day? Me neither (November 19 if you’re interested). Pay a visit to the doctor with tummy troubles and you’re likely to simply leave with a prescription. Or well-meaning advice that it’s ‘all in your head’ which, actually, might not be wildly far from the truth as around 90% of the feel-good chemical serotonin is made in the digestive tract. There’s just no denying the brain-gut connection.

So how about this new year instead of signing up for gym memberships that won’t get used, buying vegetable juicers that will lie dormant in the back of a cupboard or writing ANY kind of list, we simply resolve to talk toileting more. Let’s bring bowel movements out into the open (not literally, y’all have a porcelain throne for a reason) and get a dump dialogue going.

The gut is often referred to as our second brain. I think it may actually be my first – sorting out my digestive health has been something of a magic bullet for improving fatigue and mood difficulties. These days I’m certain that a truly holistic approach to good health and mental wellbeing is impossible without considering gut function, and if I have just one hope for 2018 it’s for society at large to stop being prudish about poop and get on board with talking about their rear ends more.

Yep, shit’s getting real – let’s  break the poo taboo.

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Tinder Nightmares and OK Stupid

 

‘Good luck tonight,’ twinkled the text message from a well-meaning friend. ‘Fingers crossed he doesn’t kill you!’

Welcome to 21st century dating.

Although online hubs for amor like Match.com and Tinder have gifted us with potential for romance like never before, I long for the days when I didn’t feel the need for first dates to happen in a busy, public space – where people can hear you scream.

Not that I’ve ever felt remotely at risk during any of my online dating escapades. But it’s always at the back of your mind. Will the polite and friendly sounding 35-year-old called Dave actually turn out to be a sex criminal? Could what looks like a handsome young man actually be a 73-year-old bingo enthusiast named Mildred?

‘I just assume any girl I’m talking to is actually a plumber called Steve…then I’m pleasantly surprised if that’s not the case’, one of the guys I was chatting to told me. For a lot of people, online courtship seems to involve significantly lowering expectations – so does this mean everyone floating in dating cyberspace is totally desperate, and possibly horribly jaded and bitter too? Bios starting with ‘Giving Tinder one last chance’ and ‘Let’s just match up and not talk to each other, yeah?’ point in that direction. But I’m optimistic that not everyone seeking to cure their loneliness online is at their wits end – maybe they’re just on the wrong platform.

My experience of the less serious sites and apps like Tinder, OK Cupid, Bumble etc has been less than savoury.

I was invited out for a drink at a local pub with a friendly enough looking guy…and his girlfriend. I dated a man who actively pursued me, texted me everyday only to freak out over ex-girlfriend issues and disappear off the face of the earth. Then after despairing over men who use lol, rofl and lmao in a non ironic context along came someone who used proper paragraphs and words like ‘hyperbole’. At last! A kindred spirit in grammar! Turned out he only wanted to chat, meeting up in real life was just far too much…reality. Finally there was the man I excitedly messaged for almost a month while rapidly reaching the conclusion he was in fact The One, this was It, finally…love! Only to meet up and discover he had the sex appeal of a moth. I’ve been proposed to, written off after one date, greeted with opening lines like ‘how would you describe your bum?’ and borderline harassed for my phone number after just a few minutes of messaging.

Do my unfortunate experiences reflect an online pool of 100% emotionally retarded/sexually deviant/socially inept men? I doubt it. Free sites and apps can be downloaded at the click of a mouse/swipe of a smartphone – they cost nothing in terms of financial or cognitive investment and therein lies the problem. You don’t have to be serious about dating to use them – just to have a vague inclination towards some attempt at romantic human connection and desire to see what all the online fuss is about, which could stem from loneliness, curiosity, the need to get over a recent breakup or just plain old fashioned boredom. The fact that Tinder was originally developed as a game rather than specifically a dating app speaks volumes really.

So it seems I really only have myself to blame for my conveyor belt of undateables. Free dating sites are a playground for the undecided, emotionally delicate and attention-seeking brand of partner. And I can lump myself into that bracket too as coming off the back of years of chronic illness it’s taken a long time to be ready to truly welcome the idea of being with someone again. But ready is what I am, and if I’m going to embrace the online quest for love it’s time to cough up some pennies and sign up to something a bit more serious. Watch this space.