Mucous in the Stool

Why is there mucous in your poop?

Have you ever looked (we all look, it’s normal) at your poop and thought – what IS that? If there’s a jellylike substance (it looks like snot in the toilet bowl) in the stool, it could be an indication that there’s an infection in the bowel.

There are levels of intensity when we’re addressing mucous in the stool:

Mild: Small amount, occasional mucous. This indicates a mild overgrowth of non-pathogenic (meaning not disease-causing), non-commensal (meaning not the good bacteria) bacteria or yeast in the bowel. This is typically seen in patients with bloating, irregular bowel movements and other IBS symptoms. I address this using antimicrobial herbs and supplements for a short time frame, plus a well-balanced probiotic.

Moderate: Moderate amount, frequent mucous. This indicates a more aggressive overgrowth of non-pathogenic, non-commensal bacteria or yeast in the small or large bowel. This is seen in patients with more severe IBS and sometimes in SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and may require lab testing prior to deciding on the appropriate treatment approach.

Severe: Large amounts with severe diarrhea. This indicates a pathogenic (disease-causing) infection. This is seen in patients with a harmful infection, often traveller’s diarrhea or a parasitic infection. If you are experiencing this type of symptoms, please see your MD, ask for a stool sample, and you may need antibiotics (yes, I do support antibiotics when necessary). Follow up with your Naturopathic Doctor to replenish the gut flora with good bacteria, help with gut healing, and determine the best nutrition protocol during and after treatment.

Red flag: If there is bloody mucous in the stool, we’ll send you for fecal calprotectin testing and/or a colonoscopy, as blood is a risk factor for more serious conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Other causes: If infection isn’t the cause, it could be another underlying condition such as Celiac disease or a liver or gall bladder issue causing a malabsorption of fats (often mistaken for mucous). A full assessment of the rest of your bowel habits helps us to narrow this down so that we can send you for appropriate lab testing.

We can learn a lot from asking about bowel habits! Asking about mucous in the stool is only one of my 10 questions that I ask every patient about their bowel health.

Here’s the full list:

  • Is there mucous in your stool?
  • Is there blood in your stool?
  • Is there undigested food (other than corn) in your stool?
  • How many bowel movements to you have per day?
  • Do you feel fully evacuated?
  • Shape: Is the stool well formed / pelleted / liquid etc. ? *Bristol stool chart helps!
  • Do you experience urgency?
  • Do you have abdominal pain, or pain on passing a bowel movement?
  • Do you feel gassy?
  • Do you experience bloating?

Book your appointment to address your digestive symptoms, because a happy gut is the foundation of a healthy body.

Stress & Digestion

Why does stress affect digestion?

We all know the feeling of having butterflies in our stomach or feeling nauseous when we’re worried, but why does that happen?

When we’re feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed or upset, our bodies are in a sympathetic nervous system state. This is more commonly known as “fight or flight”.

During stressful situations, we release a cocktail of hormones that instructs the body to reroute blood flow from “unnecessary” to “critical to survival” areas of the body. This includes taking blood flow away from digestive organs and sending it to the heart, lungs, and large muscles. From a survival perspective, this makes sense: let’s focus on running from a lion now and we can deal with digestion later.

The problem is that if we’re feeling stressed for a prolonged period of time, our digestion suffers long term consequences:

  • Stomach: Lack of production of digestive enzymes and stomach acid leads to nausea, heartburn or indigestion.
  • Small intestine: If we don’t break down foods well in the stomach AND we have a lack of blood flow to the intestinal tract, we poorly absorb nutrients. This leads to fatigue and other symptoms of nutrient deficiency like brittle hair and nails, headaches, and muscle tension.
  • Large intestine: Poorly broken-down foods become hyper fermented by our gut flora. This leads to bloating and leaky gut.
  • Motility: The normal action of moving food through the digestive tract in a healthy time frame with proper bowel movements is affected. This can cause diarrhea in some people and constipation in others.

Long term stress has other impacts on how our digestion moves, too. It can slow our metabolic rate (causing constipation) through slowing thyroid function. Stress also alters our gut microbiome, impacting our immune system, mood, and appetite. Suffice it to say that stress has a huge impact on our digestion as the foundation of overall health!

So, what do we do?

  1. The opposite of “fight or flight” is “rest and digest”. The key is that you can’t be in both nervous system states at the same time. When you’re feeling stressed, worried, or if you notice that your digestion has been off lately, try taking a few moments before you eat to take five slow, controlled, deep breaths. This pulls you out of fight or flight and moves you into rest and digest.
  2. Focus on your meals. Avoid screens, phones, and other distractions while eating. Sit down and enjoy your food! Eating with others is helpful for the digestive process because keep us relaxed and focused on the meal.
  3. Engage in restorative and restful activities throughout the day. Remember that digestion isn’t just happening while we’re eating, it’s a continual process.
  4. Don’t work out too much. Intense workouts put our bodies back into fight or flight. Make sure your workouts are challenging but not exhausting. A good rule is that if you’re sore two days after a workout, you’ve pushed too far.
  5. Get a good sleep. Sleep inhibits our stress hormones. When we’re more tired, we feel more anxious and irritable, and this is because our stress hormones weren’t sufficiently lowered during sleep. Click here for more tips on sleep.
  6. Seek out support for coping with stress and anxiety. Dr. Chambers may use herbs and/or supplements, adjust your nutrition, improve your sleep and provide stress coping tools to help reduce stress.
  7. Uncover what else may be sabotaging your digestion. Food intolerances, IBS, thyroid issues, candida overgrowth and SIBO are all conditions impact our digestion and are made worse with stress.

Book an appointment to address the underlying cause of your digestive concerns, learn to cope with stress, and get you on the path to great digestion even in the face of stressful circumstances.

Lectins: Eat or avoid?

What is a Lectin?

Lectins are molecules found in beans, peanuts, soybeans, lentils, and wheat. Lectins can bind to human tissues if we have a compromised gut barrier (I don’t love the term leaky gut but it helps us understand the concept here).

Once a lectin is bound to your body’s tissues, your immune system sees it as a “red flag” and mistakenly mounts an attack against those tissues. This attack is better known as autoimmunity, and can be part of what causes autoimmune disease. Wherever we see an attack, we see inflammation, and often pain and dysfunction in that area of the body.

Lectin-associated autoimmune symptoms are most frequently seen as joint pain / rheumatoid arthritis, and intestinal barrier disorders Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, SIBO, and IBS.

How do I know if I should avoid lectins?

There are two ways to know if lectins are contributing to symptoms:

  1. Do a Food Intolerance Test to see if there is an immune system response to lectin-containing foods. If one comes up and symptoms are severe, I typically remove all lectin-family foods.
  1. Remove lectins (along with other food triggers) and see if symptoms improve. This can take up to 3 months for full resolution, but we typically see improvement within 2-4 weeks.

Lectins are just a small part of addressing digestive concerns. Book an appointment to address the intestinal barrier, microbiome and other food triggers as part of your overall plan to get your digestive health back on track.

Acne

Our complexion is a reflection of what is happening inside the body. If we’re relying on topical acne treatments alone, we’re usually not addressing the underlying cause of breakouts, and they keep coming back.

The difficult, and often frustrating, thing about acne is that it can be caused by many different factors. Let’s dig deeper into the most common causes of acne:

Food Intolerances

Reactions to foods cause inflammation in the body. Acne caused by this inflammatory response to foods is often seen on the forehead and cheeks, and present as small bumps that can look almost rash-like. Testing for food intolerances can be done through blood work to assess which foods are causing the most inflammation. Food intolerance testing gives us a road-map of which foods to minimize or eliminate from the diet, as well as provides indicators about your overall gut-health. Read more about food intolerances.

Hormone Imbalance

Hormonal acne tends to be around the jawline and chin, and presents as deep, cystic, and painful. This type of acne is more common in women, and it is often accompanied by irregular or heavy periods. However, men with high testosterone levels may also experience hormonal acne. Blood work can help us determine if cystic acne is being caused by high testosterone (as we often see in PCOS), estrogen dominance, or high progesterone levels.

Treatment may involve managing PCOS through nutrition and supplements, supporting liver detoxification of hormones, or balancing the estrogen-progesterone relationship.

Constipation or IBS

You should be having at least one fully evacuated bowel movement per day. If not, your body is not effectively eliminating toxins and waste from the bowel, so instead, it comes out in the skin. Breakouts can be anywhere on the face, and pimples tend to be red with a whitehead.

Treatment may involve assessing the gut flora, increasing fibre and water, and using supplements (not laxatives!) to promote regularity. Learn more about constipation and IBS.

Unhealthy Gut Flora

If you have had many rounds of antibiotics, eat poorly (processed foods and sugar), are stressed, or have taken certain medications, chances are that your healthy gut bacteria have been harmed, and unhealthy strains of bacteria and yeast (aka Candida) have taken their place. An unhealthy gut microbiome causes increased inflammation in the body, which can present as acne. Other hints that may have an unhealthy gut microbiome include bloating, indigestion, mucous in the stool, fatigue, and/or vaginal yeast infections.

There are many other factors that can contribute to acne that should also always be addressed as part of an acne treatment plan, including:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Liver over-burden (alcohol, cigarettes, fatty liver disease)
  • Nutrient deficiencies (zinc, vitamin A)
  • Sugar and/or dairy intake

The bottom line is that it’s important to look at acne as a signal that there is another issue happening in the body. If our body processes are all working well, we shouldn’t be experiencing more than the occasional pimple!

Book an appointment to assess and treat the underlying cause(s) of your breakouts. Let’s take control of your acne!

 

 

Burger Showdown: Beyond vs. Beef

There’s lots of hype about the new Beyond MeatTM products, so naturally, we should make sure we’re making informed decisions about what we’re eating! Let’s take a look:

Ingredient Comparison

Beyond BurgerTM Ingredients:

  • Water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavours, cocoa butter, mung bean protein, methylcellulose, potato starch, apple extract, salt, potassium chloride, vinegar, lemon juice concentrate, sunflower lecithin, pomegranate fruit powder, beet juice extract (for color).

Breakdown of the Beyond BurgerTM ingredients

  • These ingredients are free from the top preservatives, thickeners, and other “junk” that are often found in “alternative” products.
  • I’m impressed they used natural extracts for colouring instead of the cheaper and more common route of using red dye #4, which is found in many pre-made beef burgers and sausages.
  • I never love the words “natural flavours”, and canola oil isn’t the healthiest choice, but I understand the need to create a similar texture to beef using fats.
  • Overall, it’s better than most pre-made burgers on the market, but not as great as a home-made beef burger (*insert plug for turkey burgers here*).

Nutrition info comparison

Beyond BurgerTM, 4oz

  • Calories 250
  • Total fat 18g
    • Saturated fat 6g
    • Trans fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg
  • Sodium 390mg
  • Total Carb 3g
    • Fiber 2g
    • Sugars 0g
  • Protein 20g
  • Calcium 8%
  • Iron 25%

Comparison #1: Lean Ground Beef*, 4oz

*NOTE: Most burgers aren’t made of just 4oz of lean ground beef! If you buy pre-made burgers, please read the label and see Comparison #2 below.

  • Calories 284
  • Total fat 17.5g
    • Saturated fat 7g
    • Trans fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 102mg
  • Sodium 82mg
  • Total carb 0g
    • Fibre 0g
    • Sugar 0g
  • Protein 29g
  • Calcium 2%
  • Iron 16%

Comparison #2: PC Thick and Juicy Beef Burgers (note, this is 6oz… most burgers are bigger than the 4oz in Beyond BurgersTM!)

  • Calories 441
  • Total fat 17g
    • Saturated fat 7g
    • Trans fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 105mg
  • Sodium 547mg
  • Carbs 0g
    • Fibre 0g
    • Sugar 0g
  • Calcium 3%
  • Iron 16%

Breakdown of the nutritional information:

  • Typically, we don’t make just plain lean ground beef into burgers, and if we do, we consume more than 4oz. So total calories tend to be higher for beef than Beyond.
  • Total protein of the real stuff is higher than its plant counterpart, but both meet my minimum requirement for most people of 20g of protein per meal.
  • The biggest shock is that they’re comparable in fat profiles, so if you’re think you’re cutting down on fats, think again. However, I can’t stress enough that as long as there are no trans fats, I’m okay on the amount and type of fat in both product options. Fat doesn’t make us fat!
  • A huge win for Beyond is that it is significantly lower in cholesterol when compared with beef burgers. If you have cholesterol concerns, consider choosing Beyond more often.
  • One thing that may be misleading is the amount of iron and calcium. I love that Beyond has fortified their product so that we can eat it without missing out on some key nutrients. However, nutrition labels don’t have to list things like B vitamins (most v/veg are deficient in vitamin B12) and most minerals, all of which are most likely much higher in beef burgers than Beyond.
  • Bottom line: it’s not a perfect match to the nutrients we get from animal proteins, but they’ve done a great job of creating a comparable product to beef, and a far superior job when compared with most other v/veg “burger” patties on the market.

Other considerations in favour of the Beyond Burger TM

  • More environmentally sustainable than a beef burger
  • It’s gluten-free and soy-free, and is verified non-GMO
  • The high protein content makes it leaps and bounds better than most other v/veg “burger” replacement products.
  • A healthier decision for people with high cholesterol, heart disease risk, and gout.
  • I think it tastes pretty darn good!

Is this really helping our vegan/vegetarian friends?

  • V/veg often don’t want something that looks and has the texture of meat
  • My guess is that it has a lower B12 and mineral content compared with beef, so we need to continue to remind ourselves this is not a perfect substitute, and v/veg need to eat a wide variety of protein sources
  • Often prepared on the same grill as meat products, so many v/veg and people who don’t eat beef for religious reasons may choose to abstain

Dr. Chambers’ overall assessment:

  • I think the media attention and wide availability of Beyond Meat is spearheading a cultural shift toward healthier and more sustainable food choices becoming more accessible and accepted by the general population.
  • Although it isn’t a perfect match for animal-protein, it is the closest thing to a healthy meat-less alternative that meat-eaters can embrace without too much upset to their regular mealtime routines.
  • This product gets my stamp of approval as part of a healthy diet for meat-lovers and v/veg alike.

 

*Dr. Chambers is in no way affiliated with Beyond or any aspect of the food industry.