The Scoop of Your Poop

By Mpho Tshukudu

When registered dietitian Mpho Tshukudu’s clients ask how to know whether their guts are healthy, she has a detailed bowel movement checklist at hand… 

  1. What does your poop look like? It should not float, or be the texture of pellets. Rather, it should be soft – ‘like raw sausage’.
  2. How often are you going to the loo? It’s important to note that everyone’s body is different, and that defecating from three times a day to three times a week can be considered ‘normal’.
  3. There should not be a bad smell. Even our farts shouldn’t smell bad. 
  4. Most importantly – how do you feel? Are you uncomfortable? Do you experience bloating, incomplete evacuation or a significant amount of flatulence? If you’re struggling with constipation, diarrhea, bloating or general tummy discomfort, these could all indicate that your gut is unhappy, or not working optimally. 

Tshukudu’s refreshing take on achieving good gut health is simple, and encourages South Africans to include ‘heritage foods’ in daily meals. 

“After suffering from numerous food allergies, I started taking a closer look at my Anglo-Euro-centric diet. I noticed that as we acculturated to Western foods and an urban lifestyle, we moved further away from our traditional foods,” she shares.

This is what dietitians term the ‘Nutrition Transition’. “Many of my clients were also being diagnosed with lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and abdominal fat,” says Tshukudu, who has made it her life’s work to remedy South Africans’ gut health.

While she encounters clients who use laxatives or other herbal preparations to ease discomfort, Tshukudu advocates for a food-first approach instead, sharing the tips below (which also happen to help support immunity!)…

-     Include prebiotics in your diet. These include onion, ginger and garlic, as well as spices like black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and turmeric. 

-     Sprouting, soaking and fermenting grains, lentils, beans and vegetables will improve digestion and decrease flatulence and discomfort. The body builds up a tolerance to digesting legumes, and it’s important to eat them regularly (at least three to four times a week). 

-     Eat more fruit with a high polyphenol content, like pomegranates, figs, blackberries and baobab. 

-     Eat more vegetables, and don’t shy away from traditional leaves like morogo, which is rich in nutrients and fibre. You can use morogo in homemade pesto, or add it to salads, soups and smoothies. 

-     Reduce meat consumption, replacing some meat proteins with plant alternatives like nuts and legumes. 

-     Many South Africans are lactose intolerant, but tolerate fermented dairy foods like maas and yoghurt more easily. Try a probiotic-rich yoghurt with billions of live bifidus cultures topped with healthy homemade granola made from local grains (like popped sorghum) and nuts (like marula), and add a grating of grapefruit zest when in season. You can also enjoy this with a dollop of homemade stewed applesauce made from lemon, cardamom, cinnamon and aniseed.  Simple, enjoyable, and good for your gut! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mpho Tshukudu is a registered dietitian, pilates instructor and breathwork practitioner.  In her practice, she draws on the healing properties of food and its nutritional compounds; stress management; sleep and exercise to promote optimal health. She is particularly interested in food and its relationship to health, emotions, culture, heritage, spirituality and sustainability. She is co-author of the recipe and nutritional guidance book Eat TingLose Weight, Gain Health, Find Yourself, published by Quivertree and available at leading bookstores and online. For more information or to get in touch, visit www.mphotshukudu.co.za.