This is it, the elephant in the gay sex room. So many people, gay and straight, do their best to avoid discussing digestion and bowel movements in a serious manner. Yes, jokes are almost constantly told, but most have no real idea how all of these systems work to help us stay alive.
When you add in the act of anal sex, things get very complicated and even “icky” to some. What we would like to do with this article is take you through the basics of Digestion, explain how this affects your sex life, continue our conversation about douching, proper diets for sexual activity and add in a few tips for better bottoming.
Take a moment to watch this short video from the University of Michigan on the digestive system. It will help you understand some of the terms and actions we discuss throughout this article.
It is time, as gay men, we take our real sexual concerns out of the closet and be honest about our lives. This is how we get and stay healthy.
What goes in must come out. Here, you will have the most control over your bowel movements and your preparation for sex. Some foods can make your “pre-gaming” easier, and some you should work to avoid.
Your diet should meet the recommended daily allowances of vitamins, minerals, dairy, and proteins, as well as fruits and vegetables. The healthier your overall consumption, the better your overall health will be, making your digestion process work better and faster.
Liveabout.com has some great suggestions on the best foods for bottoming.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EAT?
One word is key: fiber.
Fibers are one of the essential ingredients in the digestive cycle. They are carbohydrates that do not provide energy and can’t be digested, but they help with the proper function of the intestine. There are two forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
The soluble fiber gives fluidity to the feces, this way avoiding constipation and hemorrhoids (it also helps to prevent flatulence). This fiber absorbs the water and swells in the stomach inhibiting the absorption of glucose (sugar) and lipids. Also, the water absorption keeps the feces from becoming too dry. Peas, dry fruit like oats and nuts, and fruits such as apples and bananas are excellent sources of soluble fibers.
Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, do not absorb water and accelerate the work of the intestine, also avoiding constipation. Vegetables, wheat bran, cereals, soybeans, and whole grains are excellent sources of these kinds of fibers.
Fiber must be ingested throughout the day to ensure a stable digestive cycle. You can balance your meals by eating some fruit in between or before, and ensure that you eat fiber in your meals: lots of vegetables, lettuce, and rocket. For example, a breakfast rich in fruit and oatmeal or some yogurt is an excellent way to balance your Digestion during the day.
Always remember that eating fruit truly means eating, not just drinking its juice; the fibers in fruit are concentrated in the body.
BEST FOODS FOR DIGESTION
As soon as food enters the body through the mouth, Digestion begins.
The body gradually moves it through the digestive system, which breaks the food down into smaller, more usable parts.
Various foods can help at different stages of this process. For example, some aid digestion in the stomach, while others support the intestines.
Fiber is essential to digestive health in general. If a person is not used to eating fiber often, it is best to increase fiber intake slowly, starting with soluble fiber such as from oatmeal, apples, and bananas.
Add around one serving of fiber to the diet every 4–5 days. Increasing fiber intake too quickly can be bad for Digestion.
Drinking plenty of water is also important, as it combines with fiber and adds bulk to stool.
Specific foods that are good for Digestion include:
FOODS CONTAINING GINGER
Ginger is a plant that can reduce bloating and other digestive problems.
Dried ginger powder is an excellent spice for flavoring meals, and a person can also use slices of ginger root to make tea.
Choose a quality ginger root powder for flavoring meals. For tea, choose fresh ginger root for the best results.
This type of fat helps the body absorb vitamins, and it also combines with fiber to help encourage bowel movements.
Plant oils such as olive oil are a good source of unsaturated fats.
Always consume fats in moderation. For an adult following a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet, fat intake should not exceed 77 grams daily.
VEGETABLES WITH SKIN
Vegetables are rich in fiber, which is an essential nutrient for Digestion, and fiber stimulates the bowels to move stool out of the body.
The skins of vegetables are often rich in fiber, and it is best to consume them whole. Some vegetables with skin rich in fiber include potatoes, beans, and legumes.
Many fruits are also rich in fiber. They also contain vitamins and minerals that are good for Digestion, such as vitamin C and potassium.
For example, apples, oranges, and bananas are nutritious fruits that could help with Digestion.
Whole-grain foods also have a high fiber content that aids Digestion. The body breaks down whole grains slowly, which helps control blood sugar levels.
Many whole grain foods are available, including brown rice and quinoa.
Many yogurt products contain probiotics, which are live bacteria and yeasts that may benefit the digestive system.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is filling and contains probiotics. As mentioned above, these may promote better Digestion and gut health.
LEAFY GREEN VEGETABLES
Leafy green vegetables are packed with nutrients that are helpful for Digestion.
According to an article in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, these vegetables also contain sulfoquinovose. This is a sugar that may feed healthful bacteria in the stomach, thereby promoting Digestion.
WORST FOODS FOR DIGESTION
For some guys, creating a diet that is most beneficial for Digestion, and thus bottoming, won’t be too difficult. Many of the foods are already gay male staples. But the rubber hits the road when we discuss what you should cut out because these are the things we love most to eat.
Western diets are filled with processed foods, artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. And we do love our butter, fat, and salt. Cutting down on these foods is best, but remember to enjoy your life and not deprive yourself of guilty pleasures.
Although most foods are OK to consume in moderation, some are not as helpful for Digestion.
Some foods and drinks increase the risk of bloating, heartburn, and diarrhea. Examples of these include:
- artificial sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols
- carbonated beverages or sugar-sweetened drinks
- refined carbohydrates, such as white bread
- milk or white chocolate
- foods high in saturated fats, such as cheese and cream
- coffee and other beverages containing caffeine
- spicy foods, such as some types of curry
- greasy foods, such as pizza
“Overeating fruit, drinking too much alcohol, or eating spicy foods might irritate the stomach before sex,” says London-based registered nutritionist Rob Hobson. “On the other hand, dehydrating whole grains without too much water will slow things down.” But Hobson doesn’t recommend changing your diet drastically. “It’s difficult to gauge, but I believe keeping a balance and eating everything in moderation is the best way to feel relaxed and in tune with your body before and during sex.”
“Altering your relationship with food doesn’t always translate to healthy choices,” agrees US-based gay men’s sexual health expert Dr. Evan Goldstein, “Lots of eating disorders are clearly linked to body dysmorphia, and a lack of sexual confidence usually goes hand-in-hand with that.”
Ultimately the perfect bottoming diet, much like the ideal shag, depends entirely on the person. Though in sex and life, it’s important to remember that sometimes shit happens – and that’s OK.
Drugs and Alcohol
Most guys won’t immediately think about drugs and alcohol affecting their Digestion, but remember, everything that goes in must come out. Our community has some significant issues when it comes to usage and abuse, and this will indeed alter our sex lives at some point.
Drugs that can affect the gastrointestinal system:
- mescaline (peyote)
- prescription opioids
- synthetic cannabinoids
- synthetic cathinones
Dr. Carolyn Ross, a nationally known author, speaker, expert, and pioneer in the use of Integrative Medicine for the treatment of Eating Disorders, Obesity, and Addictions, tackled the issues of drug abuse and Digestion in her article for Psychology Today.
If you’re like many people, your spiral of increasing drug or alcohol use may have started as an attempt to manage symptoms of depression or anxiety. Of course, heavy use of alcohol or drugs doesn’t solve these problems;, over time, it only makes them worse.
You may be surprised to learn that mood problems have as much to do with the gut as they do with the brain. The gastrointestinal tract has over 100 million neurons (nerve cells), making it the second most extensive collection of neural or nerve tissue in the body (after the brain). Problems with the so-called gut-brain may be involved in both mental health issues and addiction.
One of the jobs of your digestive tract is to identify substances that may be toxic to the body. The gut wall provides a barrier to keep harmful substances out of the bloodstream. Cortisol, the hormone our bodies produce under stress – including the difficult life circumstances that arise from addiction – can make the walls of the intestine overly permeable, allowing toxins and pathogens into the bloodstream. These toxins can lead to inflammation in the gut and brain and affect mood and sensitivity to stress, both of which can increase your risk for relapse.
Aside from problems with gut permeability and nutrient absorption, alcohol and drugs strain your digestive system. Gastrointestinal troubles like poor Digestion and constipation are typical in people with substance use disorders.
Many of these problems will improve after abstaining for a while, but you can feel better sooner by taking charge of your digestive health right now. Here’s how:
Take a probiotic supplement. These can help reduce digestive symptoms such as constipation, gas, and bloating. Probiotics have also been shown to put back the good bacteria in the gut and improve damage to the liver caused by alcohol. Eating probiotic foods (such as yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut) can improve brain function. Probiotic bacteria also produce anti-inflammatory cytokines that fight inflammation, and that can have a positive impact on mood.
Manage constipation with magnesium. Constipation is common among people who use opiates such as prescription pain pills. To keep your bowels regular, take 400 to 800 mg of magnesium oxide every night at bedtime. I recommend using this every day, not only when constipation occurs.
Take anti-inflammatory supplements. To reduce inflammation in the gut, take vitamins C and E. You may find adding N-acetyl cysteine, green or black tea, and spice curcumin helpful.
Try a plant-based digestive enzyme. Digestive enzymes help break down carbohydrates, fat, and protein. A digestive enzyme supplement can help relieve symptoms of poor Digestion.
Many things are out of your control when you struggle with addiction. Caring for your body by improving your digestive health is a simple way to be compassionate with yourself and support your healing as a whole person.
Alcohol molecules are tiny, so, when they hit your small intestine, they can easily pass through your gut wall and into your bloodstream, quickly creating that relaxed effect enjoyed after a glass of wine – the alcohol does indeed go straight to your head! Drinks containing carbonated bubbles are metabolized much quicker, and on an empty stomach, the alcohol meets even less resistance from the gut. So it’s true: drinking after a meal can slow down the absorption rate.
While your stomach can break down some alcohol molecules, a small amount of alcohol is excreted directly through your urine, breath, and sweat. But the ADH in your liver is responsible for neutralizing most alcohol you consume. On average, it takes 1 hour for your body to break down one alcoholic drink. But this is not a hard and fast rule – often, it can take hours for your liver to metabolize one drink. The size of one standard glass corresponds to:
- 12-ounce bottle of 5% beer
- 5-ounce of 12% wine
- 1.5-ounce of 80% liquor
Alcohol can cause heartburn by provoking your stomach into attacking its lining and surrounding muscles. Drinking large quantities can also cause nausea, vomiting, and ulcers and go on to trigger further damage to your gut. Let’s dive into the details, so you can make an educated decision about your alcohol consumption, even if you’re not currently experiencing any gastrointestinal effects.
Drinking alcohol harms your gut microbiome – this stands to reason because alcohol or ethanol is used as a disinfectant, and your microbiome is made up of important bacteria! The only alcoholic drink that can improve your gut microbiome is red wine (consumed in moderation) because it contains polyphenols, which increase your ‘good’ bacteria.
Just as heartburn is an inflammatory reaction to alcoholic drinks in the stomach, alcohol can also worsen symptoms of IBS. Binge drinking can create a similar response in non-IBS patients, causing symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloated feeling
You may be surprised to learn that alcohol inhibits your gut’s ability to absorb crucial nutrients and proteins. Drinking large quantities of alcohol regularly reduces the digestive enzymes your pancreas can release into your digestive tract. These enzymes are needed to oxidize the alcohol and break it down into energy and components that eventually pass from your body. But the enzymes are also crucial to the proper Digestion of food. Without them, you cannot take up the vitamins and minerals needed for different bodily functions.
Because alcohol causes an inflammatory response in your gut, it can lead to intestinal inflammation. And, in alcoholics, it can affect intestinal permeability, potentially letting toxins and other debris through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. These conditions can create severe discomfort and pain for the sufferer.
By now, we all know that those living with HIV have other issues that can affect daily life, this includes the side effects of treatment medications.
Many medications, including antiretroviral drugs and other medications used in treating HIV, list diarrhea, gas, and bloating among their possible side effects. Often these will be short-term side effects that will disappear after a few days or weeks of treatment. In some cases, however, these side effects continue long-term.
The number of medications often taken by people with HIV can make it difficult to tease out the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms. If the onset or sudden worsening of diarrhea, gas, or bloating is tied to starting or switching to a medication, it’s a likely suspect. It is usually worth waiting for a few weeks to see if the problem clears up, especially if you are on otherwise effective antiretroviral therapy. However, if these side effects continue, you must discuss this with your doctor.
Since diarrhea, gas, and bloating have many causes, genuinely effective treatment requires a thorough diagnosis. In addition to medications, these conditions can be the result of:
- Infections and parasites that require treatment
- fat intolerance and malabsorption; can be improved by cutting back on dietary fat and taking lipase, the fat-digesting enzyme, with meals
- lactose intolerance; can be resolved by eliminating or decreasing the consumption of dairy products and by taking enzymes to break down lactose or casein when dairy products are eaten
- excessive sugar or caffeine, legumes (dried peas and beans), and raw broccoli or cauliflower
- recently taking antibiotics
How long does Digestion take?
This is probably one of the most critical questions regarding diet, Digestion, and sex. We hear many guys saying that they fast before sex or even avoid some of their favorite foods if they believe they will be having sex. But knowing your body and how long it takes to process food can help you make better decisions about what you eat and when and how long it should take before you are comfortable having anal sex.
Digestion time varies among individuals and between men and women. After you eat, it takes about six to eight hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine. Food then enters your large intestine (colon) for further Digestion, absorption of water, and, finally, elimination of undigested food. It takes about 36 hours for food to move through the entire colon. All in all, the whole process — from when you swallow food to when it leaves your body as feces — takes about two to five days, depending on the individual.
If we simplify the term, digestion time is a procedure when food that you eat breaks down into tiny particles that get transferred through your intestinal system into the bloodstream. This isn’t the amount of time it takes for food to exit the body via the anus, but the time it takes for the food to begin the process of Digestion. This is important for the sake of sexual comfort. Having sex on a full stomach can be painful and make the experience less pleasant.
We can break this down further by looking at specific foods and groups.
Enters the intestines immediately.
2. FRUIT OR VEGETABLE JUICE
3. RAW VEGETABLES
4. COOKED VEGETABLES
6. SALAD WITH OIL
7. STARCH VEGETABLES
8. GRAINS (RICE, BUCKWHEAT, QUINOA)
It is impossible to stop the digestive process. Even if you have not eaten food recently, your body is still working through what you ingested from days in the past and other waste products the body produces.
But, experienced bottoms already know how to slow it down. We highly discourage this tactic because we prefer natural techniques, but you are an adult, and our job is to provide you with the facts to make the best decisions for your life. Our friend Alexander Chavez addresses this for Advocate magazine.
There is a trick I learned at the Folsom Street Fair a couple of years ago. Taking Imodium or some anti-diarrhea treatment (and you do not, in fact, have diarrhea) will stop everything. After cleaning once or twice, the treatment will prevent your body’s poop-making processes, especially if you take the maximum dosage, and keep you clean for a long, wild evening.
Different gay men have argued the health benefits of doing this. It is probably not the best thing to do, but neither is excessive cleaning or rough sex, which can cause hemorrhoids and fissures, and other ailments. Gay men do not always make the healthiest choices; my experience shows that we tend to make a lot of unhealthy ones — but we have perfected the art of fucking.
There is a caveat to this trick: it might not work perfectly. While I have generally had success with Imodium, over-dosage has messed up my stomach and caused me to have a bowel movement. It can make you feel cramped and give you a stomachache, especially if you eat food after taking it. My backup plan is always to carry a douche in a drawstring bag, but this is not always doable. I have cleaned in strange places — in the bathrooms of clubs and bathhouses, in the showers at truck stops, and once in the bar owner’s apartment over the club (the music was pounding through the floor below).
Is this safe?
Imodium is considered to be a relatively safe, well-tolerated option for dealing with diarrhea. As the medication only acts on the digestive tract, there appears to be little risk associated with long-term or frequent use. Remember that Imodium will be at its highest level of effectiveness approximately 16 to 24 hours after you take it.
The caution for using Imodium for other than intended purposes is that it can give you the reverse issue of constipation!
Do I still need to douche before sex?
The point of this article was to introduce you to the concept of diet as a natural way to address anal sex issues, but we know that douching is a part of our culture and way of life. A proper diet will never remove some guys’ psychological need for deep cleansing or the stigma around not having a pristine bottom. But hopefully, you will find that you spend less time in the bathroom preparing for sex, and you are more comfortable when having it.
Tags: alcohol, anal sex, diet, digestion, douching, drugs, HIV meds