Passion, meaning and vision - anyone who actually manages to live, feel and implement these things in their professional activities can consider themselves truly lucky. Often, these feelings and ideas spring from a deep desire to do something good, to make the world a little better and to help other people. To find out what it feels like to combine all of this in one's profession and how to get there, I talk to passionate entrepreneur Birgit Behnke. She is someone who has realized all of this - more or less - for herself and definitely lives it to 100 percent. She shows people in companies and in individual coaching sessions the connections between nutrition, intestinal health and exercise and wants to enable them to unleash their full power through very elementary insights into these topics.
Daniel Kövary (Founder stuul): Dear Birgit, I am very pleased to interview you and to learn more about two things that have also interested me as a "toilet stool entrepreneur" for a long time: On the one hand, the combination of profession and passion, which - if you manage to reconcile both - often results in wonderful successes, and on the other hand, the topic of intestinal health and its great importance for our well-being.
But first things first. Why don't you briefly introduce yourself to our readers and tell us how you came to the topic of intestinal health?
Birgit Behnke: Hey Daniel, thank you so much for letting us use this platform here. We speak the same language and that's fun....
I was born in 1965 as the 4th child. Family misfortunes did not let us go. I compensated a lot by developing eating disorders with weight fluctuations of up to 60 kg up and down. At that time I was about 20 years old. I still feel the consequences today!
I learned tailoring, fashion design and biological-technical assistant, where I was allowed to take a closer look at the intestine for the first time and thought, what a great organ this is! At the age of 32, I turned my life around and finally saw food, which used to be my enemy, as a friend. Trainings such as: Fitness and Nutrition Coach, Health Coach, NLP, Naturopathic Psychotherapist and Gut Health Consultant manifested it all.
So, and now I've been in corporate health management, working at Paracelsus clinics and as an author for almost 25 years, bringing the topic of bowels, food, bowel movements, etc., which is full of shame, to the people.
I'd better stop, otherwise this will go beyond the scope here! :-)
Daniel: There's a very funny booklet of yours in my bathroom with the wonderful title "Ach Du Kacke - Klugschisse to go". I read it every now and then when I'm there. By the way, it's next to the other book that's just as ideal for when I'm on the loo: "64 Basic EATING Rules" by Michael Pollan. Somehow they are similar. According to the motto "In at the top, out at the bottom", the short chapters of both books help me in these quiet moments to become aware of the topics of nutrition and digestion and their importance again and again.
Tell us briefly how you came to write this book and what exactly it's about.
Birgit: The book by Michael Pollan is also superb...really super summarized. What made me decide to venture onto the thin ice of authors? Well, the decisive factor was actually that many people asked me: "Birgit, tell me quickly what I can do!" Unfortunately, you can't do that just like that and then also individually, but you can always give a few little "hack's". So I came up with the idea of putting it all down in writing.
For this I have grabbed three super competent women who have lovingly filled this little booklet with me. Our goal was: It should look beautiful and appealing, make you want to read it and actually be the little intestinal and nutritional help for in between! In fact, many people have it in the guest toilet... That's the nicest place I can imagine for this explosive literary topic.... :-)! I have chosen the contents according to the most common questions I hear in my practice.
Daniel: What I sorely missed in your booklet, of course, was the one on "the correct sitting posture on the toilet". What do you think about our western sitting toilets and what effects do you think they have on our intestinal health?
Birgit: Hahahah... that's true. But I'll definitely write a few more little books and the stuul will be among the first things I will mention.
I love it and think it should be in front of every toilet. In my practice, I have many people who suffer from constipation or also have very slimy stools that require a lot of wiping. The feeling of not being able to empty properly is also often mentioned. This leads to cold sweat on the upper lip for some.
The stuul is also always present during my consultations for Parkinson's patients at the Paracelsus Clinic. Here we really celebrate "successes," if I may call it that! Constipation is the first symptom in Parkinson's - decades in advance - and is often also acutely present in most of my patients. In some cases it is also due to medication. They are grateful for any support that is not medication. We can't provide support more simply than with proper sitting posture through the use of a toilet stool.
Our sitting posture or in general our bowel behavior is anything but healthy, relaxed and facilitating for the bowel. The toilets are too high or too low, we don't take our time, use wet wipes to wipe and we often have our cell phone with us on the toilet.
I do not want to work so much with the raised forefinger. Why the squatting posture during daily bowel movements is so important, you describe wonderfully on your page, I am more concerned with the beginning of digestion. In fact, we are in control of our digestion twice: the first time when we eat, that is, how often we chew. and the second time when we defecate. In both cases we don't take our time and have the wrong posture. It's not surprising that things sometimes don't run smoothly in the belly!
The fatal consequences can be hemorrhoids, constipation of course and resulting diseases such as anal fissures, depression, Parkinson's disease, skin diseases, obesity and much more. We should just take a little more time for these things, without any pressure. It's so easy to chew a little more thoroughly and adopt the right posture on the loo.
Daniel: Thank you very much! I am very pleased that you like our design toilet stool so much.
What you said about your work with Parkinson's patients at the Paracelsus Clinic is really interesting. I didn't even know that constipation could be a symptom of Parkinson's and wonder what came first for the patients. Basically, though, it again shows very clearly how closely the gut and brain are connected. Are there any other conditions or complaints that affect both organs equally? You mentioned depression, for example.
Birgit: Yes, many patients are astonished by this and most of them then say: "If I had known that earlier!"
In the meantime, research has come a long way. It is reported that almost all diseases that are not contagious have their origin in the intestine, i.e. are metabolic disorders. I do not claim this, but many researchers and experts, who unfortunately are still often ridiculed.
To name a "big one" from their ranks: Prof. Dr. Gregor Hasler with his book: The Gut-Brain-Connection - Revolutionary Knowledge for our Mental and Physical Health (ISBN9783608983845). This book is really terrific. He says the gut and brain are actually one organ. Healthy intestinal flora also keeps the brain healthy. Everything from concentration problems to allergies to severe neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression and dementia have their roots in the gut. In all cases, the vagus nerve plays an important role. Its supply must be guaranteed by an intact microbiome, and this is not the case with symptoms such as constipation, flatulence, abdominal pain, etc. All these signs tell us that we need to do something! We don't need more signs to know we need to do something!
You asked about other sequelae of constipation. Here are just a few: Acne, headaches, bad breath (not a disease, but unpleasant), fatigue, hemorrhoids, type 2 diabetes, and many more. Blood pressure, migraines, and back pain can also accompany constipation. In these cases, it is not always necessary to intervene with medication. The cause can also lie in the intestines. An underactive thyroid gland, for example, always puts a strain on the intestines, always! And just as a side note: constipation also promotes the formation of wrinkles - that too! 🙂
Daniel: That is really incredible! What is even more incredible is that we are only now realizing how important the bowel is for our well-being, and that we are actually doing everything we can to make life as difficult as possible for it through poor diet, little exercise, constant stress, lack of sleep and - of course I have to mention this - incorrect sitting posture while emptying the bowel. To summarize:
A disturbed intestine is the cause of many chronic physical complaints. It is the cornerstone of our immune system and its bidirectional connection with our central nervous system and brain plays a critical role in our mental health. It is often referred to as our second brain when we talk about gut decisions, for example.
So if you have physical, mental, or even emotional ailments, it's always worth doing something for your gut health. But where exactly should you start? Can you perhaps give us some sort of guide or checklist on where to start? What are the "quick wins" and which points should definitely be clarified with a specialist?
Birgit: I am really so glad that the intestine with all its extensive and as yet hardly researched effects and tasks is coming more and more into focus in orthodox medicine as well. It has been placed into alternative medicine for many years. I am sure that the microbiome will revolutionize the world. Our grandchildren will possibly already profit from it! But that is now another topic.
The first thing to do is to take a closer look at your stool. There is a stool shape scale according to Bristol. Here it is described exactly how a good stool looks and also smells! The "normal" stool is slightly brown, smells little or not at all, you do not have to push during defecation, you feel completely emptied and do not need toilet paper, the defecation is clean. This is normal stool!
Now, if you are more prone to Bristol 1-2 (constipation), you should definitely do something about it. And that's where we are coming together again: Your toilet stool stuul indeed offers everything you need to empty properly, because the bowel is already at the right angle. But you can read all about that on your homepage.
In terms of nutrition, I urgently recommend to CHEW long and thoroughly, that is really very important. In addition daily oat flakes and acacia fibers. Three meals a day and a glass of water BEFORE eating! Coffee only one hour after getting up. Exercise and get the right bacteria in your diet. This works well with fermented foods. It may be advisable to reduce dairy products and also eat vegetables cooked rather than raw. I could fill many more pages here, but these little "hacks" are enough to get you started!
Please be sure to see a doctor if constipation has been going on for a long time. I even advise to consult a doctor after four to six weeks of "agony". Also pain during bowel movement, blood up to fever, generally pain in the lower abdomen that does not go away, should be clarified. The secondary diseases caused by constipation should not be underestimated.
Diarrhea is another matter. Here, it is usually more of an irritation and just as with constipation, diarrhea symptoms should also be clarified with a doctor immediately if it lasts longer. Acacia fibers can generally have a very good regulating effect on the intestines. When emptying, it is important to take your time, to keep the right angle on the toilet. The bowel is very grateful and can be "reprogrammed" quickly. Keep at it is the order of the day.
Daniel: It is very encouraging that the intestine can be "reprogrammed" relatively quickly. With other organs, healing is often not so easy, if I only think of the heart or the lungs. Again, this is probably related to the microbiome, which in its composition - and thus in its interaction with the body - responds relatively quickly to a change in diet.
From this perspective, the key to "reprogramming" lies in our habits of what, how, and even how often we eat during the day. Once we succeed in changing these eating habits for the better in the long term, we can have a tremendous effect on our overall well-being by strengthening our gut.
How do you deal with your eating habits? Do you have any experience on how to change them in the easiest and most sustainable way?
Birgit: You're right... the gut is very grateful, you just have to feed it well! In my practice, the biggest hurdle is actually the change. Most of the time, my clients need a lot of suffering beforehand to really change anything and their minds are often just haunted by the word "ban" or "loss".
The microbiome can easily reorganize and rearrange itself within 3 days. During this time, there can be a bit of discomfort because the bacteria want to have their "old" foods and habits, please.
The key here is then simply: start, stick with it, and enjoy! The most important and simplest thing is this little guideline: There are foods and habits that are ALWAYS there, and there are others that are SOMETIMES there.
The diet should ALWAYS be based on the following ingredients: Fiber (acacia fiber, flaxseed, etc.), Bacteria (kefir, old cheese, kimchi, etc.), Bitters (green vegetables), Colorful Plates (at least 3 colors of vegetables on your plate), and Exercise (take a 10 minute walk after eating!).
This is simple and easy to incorporate, and when the pillars become a habit, bowel movements work out too!
Daniel: If you then also chew well, as you strongly recommended earlier, you should notice a change for the better relatively quickly.
Birgit, thank you very much for the very informative and entertaining interview. I enjoyed it very much and I think our readers were able to take away some really good tips.