Toilet Troubles and Taboo Topics
In North American society in general today it is considered inappropriate to discuss what one sees in the toilet; what happens in the bathroom stays in the bathroom. Some people enjoy toilet humour, sure – along with fart jokes and other crude bits of comedy – but when it comes to honest, legitimate discussion about what goes on in that washroom stall, society as a whole remains tight-lipped, and any deviance from that is generally met by giggles and a chorus of “ew! gross!”
Of course I can see how this may have come about. We are generally conditioned to think of any sort of bodily functions as “gross.” Is this the legacy of some sort of ascetic, puritanical hatred of the corporeal body? The valuation of the mind (and/or soul) over the animal nature of the physical self? The sort of distance and disregard with which we tend to treat our bodily functions indicates that, consciously or not, we (as intellectual beings) are somehow divorced from our bodies and what they are doing.
The fact is, however, that what happens in the toilet is a very important part of every person’s life. We all spend a not insignificant period of time in the washroom everyday. It is a completely natural thing, and, more importantly, it is directly affected by decisions we make in the rest of our lives. Some aspects of this have begun to be more widely discussed (i.e. your hydration level can be seen in the colour of your urine), but for the most part this is still a taboo subject, especially in relation to bowel movements.
The problem, however, with this disregard or distaste for the discussion of bodily functions is when something goes wrong. Theoretically we all know we can talk to our doctor when something goes wrong, and presumably we do when it’s something like pain or there’s blood in anything. But what about when everything’s “normal” but your normal is wrong?
Maybe you’re wondering how anyone could think their BMs were fine when they actually weren’t. Well, think about it: the only time in most people’s lives when anyone other than themselves is aware of the shape/size/frequency of their bowel movements is in the first years of life, from birth to potty training. Once we can go on our own, we’re pretty much left to our own devices and our own estimations of what’s “normal.” Without being comfortable to speak about it, even among close friends and family, how would that change?
Bottom line, though there is a large and growing percentage of our society’s population with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestion-related diseases. There are many causes and many possible solutions, but two things are key to being able to access those solutions: diagnosis (either formal or informal) and discussion (having access to information about treatment options through doctors, nutritionists, reliable websites, word of mouth, etc.).
In order to do this, we need to start getting used to toilet talk. We need to break this taboo and really get to know what “ideal” in this case might mean.
I’ve linked here to the Mark’s Daily Apple article “In Search of a Good Poop” as a good guide to what ideal bowel movements should look like. I also recommend the book Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfillippo, which not only has an excellent section on what may cause certain types of non-ideal BM, but also recommendations on foods and/or supplements which may be helpful.