Has Using The Toilet Become A Chore? 5 Reasons Why You Can’t Poop!

Diet & Weight Loss

It’s a taboo subject yes, and I’m sure most of the British public do not wish to talk about their daily throne action…but here we are….and I want to talk… and you’ve stopped by to listen!



Photo by: newsusacontent Flickr

Constipation is a common condition that disrupts our usual and ‘normal’ bowel movements, causing the inability to pass poo regularly, or an inability to completely empty our bowels.

It’s estimated that one in seven UK adults and one in three UK children have had constipation at any one time (myself included) (¹), with the reality that it affects more women than men, particularly those that are pregnant or elderly.

For some of us it’s a chronic condition, for others it’s the result of dietary or maybe environmental factors. Either way, it can be painful, annoying and affect our quality of life.

‘Toilet’ topics have been discussed in great detail over the last ten years or so, via numerous documentaries and ‘voyeurism’ television should we say? Sorry Embarrassing Bodies, as educational as you are, people lifting their shirts and dropping their trousers is voyeurism at its best!

I think that as reassuring as it might be to know many others have walked in your ‘constipated shoes’, it still doesn’t help the fact that of the most natural experiences in the world has become a bloody chore!



bristol stool chart_john C bullas BSc MSc PhD MCIHT MIAT

Photo by: john C bullas BSc MSc PhD MCIHT MIAT Flickr

The medical community has shown us the ‘Bristol stool chart’, which encourages us to ‘get to know’ our poo and re-evaluate our health based on what we see in the toilet bowl… as unappetising as that idea is!

For the super keen, you can also monitor colours and smells…any takers?!

However, if you are a regular constipation sufferer, it is likely you are a ‘type 1’ and ‘type 2’, finding it quite difficult to pass. So looking into the bowl on this occasion is not going to accomplish very much; the pain and is discomfort is enough of a red flag to seek advice and/or treatment.




I can appreciate why most of us probably suffer in silence, with distant memories of what it’s like to have a ‘normal healthy poo’….but that isn’t going to fix anything. Whether you have to seek further medical intervention or are able to take matters into your own hands, let’s talk about some pretty realistic explanations that keep you from getting on with one of your normal life processes.



5 Reasons Why You Can’t Poop


Photo by: Thomas Szynkiewicz Flickr

Photo by: Thomas Szynkiewicz Flickr

1. Dehydration
The human body needs water for it to function properly, which can be obtained in many forms. Ideally we should all be drinking between 1600-2000ml of fluids a day and only 2-3 cups of tea/coffee can be included, as more is counterproductive, as is drinking alcohol (which cannot be counted as one of your 8-10 glasses of fluid I’m afraid!).

Additionally, if we play sports, are ill, or happen to be in a hot/humid environment, then we should be consuming more to prevent dehydration.


Dehydration prevents your gut from working at its maximum. If water is pulled out of the bowel, then your existing poo will become a dried and hard mass as a result, making it uncomfortable and potentially difficult to pass later on. Staying hydrated also enables the body to ensure that enough of  the nutrients in food are digested and absorbed.




exercise_dial doctors_flickr

Photo by: Dial Doctors Flickr

2. Lack Of Exercise
I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, that we should be ‘exercising for good health’ (you can refer to my previous article on diet and exercise for further information on this), but I bet you haven’t heard the motto ‘I exercise today so I can poop tomorrow’!

Regular exercise promotes ‘active’ bowel muscles, which creates better digestion and transit time. Lack of exercise or even mobility doesn’t allow you to have a regular ‘bowel routine’. This is one contributor as to why it can affect so many elderly people.

Exercise is also found to be vital in alleviating stress, which is something we all have to deal with.



Photo by: Alexander Ekman Flickr

Photo by: Alexander Ekman Flickr

3. Stress
Stress is an element that no one can avoid and it can affect our digestive system, e.g. feeling anxiety, high stress levels, can cause us to eat our lunch too quickly, on the go, leading to upset digestion and constipation.

Our stressful lives need to be counteracted. We need to find time to reflect and mediate, or do hobbies we enjoy on a regular basis, allowing our body’s normal processes (like going to the toilet) to take shape and work without glitches.


Being so busy that we have to constantly ignore the call of nature by, e.g. travelling for work (with unsettled eating, sleeping and pooping routines), or even dismissing the call of nature because we don’t want to use the shared office facilities where someone ‘might hear us,’ ultimately can contribute to our toilet woes.

Unfortunately for us women, PMS and pregnancy can create it’s own form of stress, leading to reduce transits times from a mental and physiological point of view; another good reason to keep up the exercise.


Creating time for yourself to use the toilet ‘properly’ (and I’m not talking about creating wall charts and using iPhone apps!), instead of ‘doing what you can’ in the time space you have will allow your body to develop a routine. I know this is complicated when the call of nature arrives, sometimes it’s impossible to stop what you’re doing to have some quality alone time with a book, but your gut will thank you in the long run if you can find time to schedule it in!

Another way to take the stress out of straining is to consider ‘squatting’. Once you stop laughing and looking bewildered, it’s worth looking at this link to see how gravity can ease the passage of your poo.



blueberries in a heart_heartdr2011_flickr

Photo by: heartdr2011 Flickr

4. Lack Of Fibre
A few months ago The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition released a fact sheet in the UK on Fibre (based on their Carbohydrates and Health Report), where they gave recommendations to increase the population’s fibre intake to an average of 30g/day for adults. (²) However, they used a different method of dietary fibre analysis, which would mean that the previous government’s recommendations for adults to consume a minimum of 18g of dietary fibre/day would equate to 23-24g/day using their new analysis.

The average person is currently eating 14g of dietary fibre/day; this is made up of both soluble and insoluble fibre sources. As constipation goes, you need to consume a mixture of both, but this could mean that you could be increasing your current fibre intake by at least 50% per day.

Fibre helps keeps food moving effectively through our digestive tract, as well as contributing to a healthy heart and weight maintenance (through satiety, controlled blood sugar levels and removing fat).


We can all increase our current fibre intake to help meet the new recommendations by:

  • Eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.
  • Kicking off our day with a high-fibre breakfast cereal! Ones that include bran, oats and/or wholegrains.
  • Opting for wholegrains over ‘processed grains’, e.g. wholegrain bread or pasta instead of white bread or pasta.
  • Starting a love affair with beans, lentils and chickpeas! Check out our recipes for some ideas of how to incorporate more into your diet.


It’s also good to note that that you should increase your fibre intake slowly, to avoid experiencing excess, gas, cramps and/or bloating.

The recommended intake may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t if you are already following a well-balanced diet…which brings me to my next point.



Photo by: Fransmart Photos

Photo by: Fransmart Photos Flickr

5. A ‘Bad’ Diet
An ideal diet should consist of plenty of fresh, homemade foods that incorporate healthy living guidance for overall health, including your gut.

For some, creating ‘flexitarian’ days have improved their digestive function. From a personal point of view, switching to a plant-based diet has improved my digestion by at least 70%- which is amazing!




This list is not exhaustive, but they are some of the major contenders to constipation. For some, particular food allergies or intolerances, an imbalance of gut bacteria (due to antibiotics, stress or bad eating habits), existing haemorrhoids, medications, painkillers, or even particular mineral supplements, or other medical conditions could be an underlying cause of constipation.

So before you start forming a laxative or any other type of unhealthy ritual to rid your constipation, consider talking to a health professional.


Let’s go for a walk, eat, drink, be merry and let’s nature take its course!



Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: OVENPOP 360 Social Flickr
1.NHS Choices
2.SACN 2015 Fibre Factsheet
British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG)

Is Sugar Souring Our Lives?

Diet & Weight Loss

Are you currently reading this article and eating a sneaky bit of chocolate at your desk? It must be that inescapable afternoon slump or perhaps it’s your annoying ‘sweet tooth’ wreaking havoc again? Let’s not dismiss the obvious- you might have an underlying ‘sugar addiction’.


This is not sugar discrimination, with me suggesting you empty the entire contents of your kitchen to rid yourself of sugar, nor am I not getting paid to promote fruit and vegetables (Farmers don’t have the budget!)

The biological fact is we all need sugar, just not the stuff in the little sachets. Every time you eat carbohydrates they’re broken down by your body into glucose molecules. Our body takes glucose from our bloodstream and moves it into our body’s cells for energy via the hormone insulin. Glucose is the number one fuel used to power our brain and our bodies. Unlike our liver, our brain neurons cannot store an energy source and requires a regular and healthy source of it from our diet. …But let’s be honest, cake and chocolate have never been healthy (although they might be regular). We have all probably consumed too much sugar at one point in time, causing our blood sugar levels to spike and then crash; leaving us tired and looking for our next ‘sugar fix’.


It can be hard to undo habitual behaviours though, especially ones learnt from a very young age; allowing your brain to see sugar as a reward stimulates this on-going ‘sugar wars’. You might say that you’re not addicted to sugar… but let’s look at and consider some possible signs.

Sugar Addiction: Signs & Symptoms:
  • Constantly craving sugary things, even when you’re not hungry?
  • A cycle of feeling low in mood/ tired and then perked up by a sugary snack?
  • Regular ‘binges’ on sweet things? Or do have a constant supply in your cupboards?
  • Do you regularly eat white breads, crackers, pasta, long grain rice, sugary cereals or cereal bars?
  • Maybe you have a specific health problem related to eating sugar, but you keep eating it anyways?
  • How many days can you go without sugar? Only a day? Be honest…
Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this could be wake-up call to the way you view or select your next meal, at least in regards to sugar.  If not, maybe the media can persuade you about the pitfalls of sugar.


Some current articles from this year that you might find worth reading include:


Additionally a U.S. programme ‘FED UP’ which started out as a film is gaining increased interest; it tackles the problems of the food industry and proactively gets people think about reducing their sugar intakes, highlighting the ‘56 names of sugar’ that lurk in our foods and drinks!

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge


It’s obvious that the sugar industry isn’t making it easy for us, with ample ways of enabling our love affair with sugar. Not only is it widely and readily available, they insist on giving us ‘options’, yes options, ( i.e.) ten flavours or new and improved flavours of every product.

But let’s face it, sugar doesn’t improve our lives or give us a reason to live- it just makes us fat, tired, highly-strung and perhaps sour-faced from the spiralling reality that it can’t sustain our happiness long term!

So why do we do it? We all know the horrible cliché, ‘a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips’, but this topic resonates deeper for us than those tongue in cheek rationalisations of why we should be monitoring our sugar intake.


Sugar is sometimes compared to as a ‘drug’; it’s not surprising as a great deal of us share physical, emotional and mental dependencies on it.

Photo by: Sammy face :) Flickr

Photo by: Sammy face 🙂 Flickr


Could this be make or break? What are we going to do to make realistic changes to turn this situation around? I’ll be filling you in on’ 5 simple steps to cut sugar out of your Diet and why you’ll be happier for it’ in an upcoming article. So watch this space!

Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below if you have recently made positive dietary changes in fighting your sugar war or have any thoughts on this topic.


Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Denis Vrublevski on Flickr

Portion Sizes: Getting It Right For Our Waistlines!

Diet & Weight Loss

Food: our friend or foe? Yes, I’m sure quite a few of us would divulge that we have a love-hate relationship with food; it’s not a secret that we have seasonal, emotional or even social tendencies to over eat! Overeating, whether its biscuits, cheese, turkey, or quinoa, can all lead to increased weight gain. Rising waistlines and obesity levels can be indicative of our portion sizes and/or general diet; as studies in many western countries have highlighted (UK , America, Canada and Australia). Hands up if you have overheard or maybe even quoted yourself expressing this phrase “I can’t seem to lose weight, even while eating healthy foods- what’s going on?”  Well I think the answer to that question is ‘how well do we know our portion sizes’?


Portion sizes can be very hard to visualise and the ‘portion distortion’ effect makes it even more difficult, for example, studies have shown that the size of bowls or plates used can influence the quantity of food we consume.  Public interest has also focused on how food portion sizes have increased over the last few decades, such as an increase to packaging sizes of 30-50%; we have also become the kings and queens of ‘supersizing’ and ‘BOGOF’ deals, this is very evident within fast-food chains. These bigger portion sizes are resulting in the rise of obesity, type 2 diabetes and associated chronic diseases.

As well as companies increasing portion sizes they use widely different terms, e.g. portion size, serving size, recommended amount, snack size, fun size, sharing size etc, it’s no wonder we’re getting confused.  What is the difference?

  • A ‘portion’: is based on our daily recommended calorie intake (our DRVs).
  • A ‘serving’: until recently it could be whatever size companies wanted it to be, now thanks to pressure from health organizations and the government; it is linked to portion sizes, but can vary between companies and products and is usually hidden away on the back of the package.


Not only is this information hidden away, the way it’s presented will vary greatly and even if the portion sizes are communicated clearly, it can be unclear what they mean in real terms. For example, a 200g crisp packet states there is 85kcal in one 45g serving …so what does 45 grams look like?!

Photo by_Maryvery1 Flickr

The reality is that we’re not going to pack a kitchen scale or measuring cup into our purse and whisk them out at dinner party; social death anyone?

These tangible instruments are a great starting point and give us an increased aptitude to visualise quantities, but this can be easily forgotten; before we know it, we’re eating ‘our normal portions’ again and purchasing larger dress sizes. After all, it’s not necessarily what we eat, but the quantity (and frequency) of which we consume it.

Subjectively speaking, the quickest way to gauge portion size is from a healthy eating regime or perhaps how we feel after finishing a meal; we can quickly distinguish the difference between volumes of rice, or what a portion of cereal looks like. I think it’s fair to say that ‘dieting’ or not, we understand that devouring an entire family-sized bar of chocolate will carry long-term consequences to our health.


Support is at hand though. The BDA has The eatwell plate; a food plate that addresses the quantities of the five food groups.

Photo by: Lee Baker Flickr

Photo by: Lee Baker Flickr


The 5 A DAY scheme similarly highlights fruit and vegetable portion sizes.  Frustratingly, some companies like to extort our indolence and time constraints by pushing their expensive 5 A DAY pots of fruit & vegetables; don’t buy them, make your own!

These guidelines supplied by healthcare professionals are all great, but are difficult to apply to individual foods, e.g. eating one 80g portion of fruit cannot be applied when eating calorific chocolate, peanut butter or cheese- well we can dream!


Let’s start from scratch. Here are some strategies to correct our portion size mind-set.


Some Simple Ways To Express Portion Sizes:

Photo courtesy of: Topsy Tasty


Obviously this is not an exhaustive food list, but it will help get us started. Check out my additional information below on ways to help make portion sizes relative and manageable.


A Handy Solution!

Photo courtesy of: Topsy Tasty


Recommend Reading:

So it looks like we’re going to eat a lot less with our eyes and more with our hands- bon appétit!


Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: a james Flickr