Have you ever experienced a bowel movement (BM) either first thing in the morning, or perhaps after that morning cup of joe? Or maybe this is your typical morning. Thanks to the science of bowel motility, this is a normal effect of a functioning digestive system. In this article, we’ll dig into why you might have a daily morning bowel movement and what it means to have healthy poop.
Research shows that sleep quality affects digestive function. The impact of sleep on the gut is largely influenced by circadian rhythms, which are like the body’s internal clock. These 24-hour cycles of sleep and wake cycles help regulate the body, including digestive functioning.
During sleep, your body actually reduces certain digestive functions, including salivation, swallowing rate, and upper esophageal sphincter pressure (how easily stomach contents flow back into the esophagus). Also, gastric emptying (a.k.a. emptying of food in the stomach further into the small intestine) is slow during most of sleep.
This last point, as well as reduced upper esophageal pressure, may be why eating right before bed may lead to more issues with acid reflux. According to a 2005 control study of 350 people, those who ate their last meal closer to bedtime, especially within three hours of bedtime, had a higher rate of reporting indigestion.
Overall, gut motility appropriately slows down while sleeping. And thank goodness, because we may otherwise have to use the bathroom overnight! However, waking up in the morning often results in the urge to poop, which we’ll discuss further below.
Having regular bowel movements is a foundation of good health. To stay regular, supporting the digestive system with healthy habits, like healthy diet and exercise, is key. Here’s how to keep good digestive habits:
Fruits and vegetables are some of the best sources of fiber in the diet. Additional food sources of fiber include legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Common dietary guidelines recommend on average about 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories. For women eating on average 2000 calories per day, that comes out to be about 28 grams of fiber. For men eating on average 2600 calories per day, the recommended fiber intake would be about 36 grams per day.
To ensure you are meeting your fiber needs each day, aim to get multiple sources of fibrous plant foods with your meals.
Fiber supplements that simply contain foods high in fiber, such as chia, flax, and psyllium, can also help you meet your fiber needs.
Care/of’s Chia Flax powder supplement contains 4 grams of fiber per scoop from organic chia seeds, flaxseeds, and organic pea fiber. These are natural sources of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which are vital for a healthy digestive system, because they increase fecal bulk and stool frequency, while decreasing intestinal transit time.
The digestive tract needs sufficient amounts of both water and fiber together to promote healthy regular bowel movements. Adequate water intake provides moisture needed to have soft stools that are comfortable to pass.
Water is also needed to create digestive secretions that help our bodies break down food. Proper digestion is essential for healthy poop.
Numerous studies suggest that exercise may be a helpful way to support people experiencing constipation. While more research is needed to fully understand how this works, research suggests that exercise increases colonic motility.
Exercise also speeds up transit time, or the time it takes for food to fully move through the digestive system and produce a bowel movement.
Some probiotics have been shown to support healthy intestinal motility. Food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and natto.
Probiotic supplements like Care/of’s Probiotic Blend can also support healthy digestion.
Having a bowel movement at least once per day is best. How many times a day you poop will depend on your diet and lifestyle habits, as described above.
Daily bowel movements are thanks in part to the gastrocolic reflex. This sensation controls the motility of the lower gastrointestinal tract following a meal. The stomach stretches with the ingestion of food. In response to this stretching, the colon contracts and can stimulate a bowel movement.
The gastrocolic reflex is most active in the morning and immediately after meals. It’s like an internal alarm clock that goes off in the morning that gives you the healthy urge to poop.
Healthy poop should be brown in color and well formed. The Bristol Stool Chart is used in healthcare to classify stool health and track its progress. A Type 4 stool on the chart is considered normal.
Many people experience a morning movement. This healthy occurrence is largely due to the gastrocolic reflex, which is most active in the morning. Sleep is essential for supporting regular bowel movements. Additional healthy habits like balanced diet, regular exercise, and even probiotics intake can all help you have healthy poop.