We're not friends until we've talked about poop.
Can we talk about our poop? Are we there yet? This is the ultimate friendship litmus test for me: I know we’ve gone from casual acquaintances to BFFs when we can shoot the shit about shit. The thing is poop matters. It's one of the most important updates our bodies give us about our health. When I transitioned to a plant-based diet, my digestive system was suddenly happier and more cooperative than it had ever been. It was magic. We are largely the masters of our digestive destinies, we just don't always have all the information we need.
So interviewing integrative gastroenterologist and author Dr. Robynne Chutkan and writing this piece together for Allure was pretty much my dream assignment. Dr. Chutkan has the answers to all the poop questions you didn't know you wanted to ask:
1. Constipation isn't gender-blind.
Obviously, men can be constipated too, but women are much more likely to be constipated than men. In fact, research suggests that up to twice as many women as men report suffering from constipation. According to Chutkan, that's due at least in part to our colons, which are 10 centimeters longer on average than men's — meaning it can take longer for our poop to make its way through. If you’re looking for a constipation antidote, upping your fruit, vegetable, and water intake is a good place to start. This shift in your diet will lead to softer, bulkier stools that evacuate more easily.
2. Your gut is connected to your mood.
The medical community is just starting to understand the connections between gut health and mental health. We do know that roughly 90 percent of the body’s serotonin, what Chutkan calls the “feel-good hormone,” is made in the intestine with the help of bacteria there. Research indicates that the mix of microorganisms in our guts (referred to as our "gut microbiomes") also influences the production of other neurochemicals, such as GABA and dopamine.