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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Giving ‘Blue Monday’ the finger

 

batman

It’s that time of year again. December’s festive bickering over the last Quality Street and Auntie Marge’s gin-fuelled racist rants at Christmas lunch have passed through the January-depression-memory-adjuster, leaving only fuzzy memories of family bliss and jolly games of Scrabble around the log fire. You’re reminded that it’s January, you haven’t kept any of your New Year’s resolutions, you’re broke and the mince-pie thighs are still expanding. You now resemble a walrus.

Or so the media, detox-diet advertisers and the creators of today’s ‘Blue Monday’ love to tell us every bloody year. No, I’m not talking about New Order’s awesome 80’s anthem. PUT THE GLOW STICKS DOWN. Alas the infuriating phenomenon I refer to uses some sort of nonsensical equation incorporating variables such as ‘weather’, ‘motivation’ and the ‘post Christmas slump’ to pinpoint the most depressing day of the year as the third Monday in January.

Get ready to crawl under the nearest duvet/sofa/fridge, dear readers, for that apex of doom is in fact today. It’s allegedly the most popular day of the year for divorce proceedings to begin, a time to start worrying about Valentine’s Day and supposedly a day we can expect an avalanche of woeful and grumpy tweets to fill the internet.

I say ‘supposedly’ because, what’s that, Buzz…?

buzz

 

Yep.

Fine, it’s January. Yes, it’s a tad chilly. Christmas is over. I still haven’t saved up enough money to buy a second hand Volvo, nor have I written my first novel, married a Persian Prince or come up with a cure for Alien Hand Syndrome. I’m feeling quite chipper though. Not having mulled wine foisted upon me at every opportunity is actually quite nice, in fact I was more than happy to see the back end of Christmas and purge my house of tinsel. I never bother with New Year’s resolutions. Spring is coming. As far as Mondays go, this one feels anything but blue – in fact as the afternoon sun laughs through my window it’s positively glowing orange.

I wonder if instead of telling us when we should be feeling grim, the media might stop talking about fictional depression days conjured up by useless equations, and spend their time actually highlighting the real issues surrounding mental illness? Just a thought.

To conclude, if you’re still in any doubt as to whether today really is the most depressing day of the year, I leave you with Grumpy Cat. What do you think, GC?

no

 

Well alright then.