Man defecating in private toilet.

This is it, the elephant in the gay sex room. So many people, gay and straight do their best to avoid talking about 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 actually 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 effects your sex life as well as 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 will 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.

Diet

What goes in, must come out. It is here that you will have the most control over your bowel movements but also your preparation for sex. There are foods that can make your “pre-gaming” easier and some you should definitely work to avoid.

Your diet should meet the recommended daily allowances of vitamins, minerals, diary, proteins as well as fruits and vegetables. The healthier your overall consumption, the better your overall health will be, which makes your digestion process work better as well as 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 to the digestive cycle. They are carbohydrates that do not provide energy and can’t be digested, but they help on 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 avoid 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 a great source of soluble fibers.

Insoluble fibers, on the other hand, do not absorb water and they accelerate the work of the intestine also avoiding constipation. Vegetables, wheat bran, cereals, soybeans and whole grains are an excellent source 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 on your meals: lots of vegetables, lettuce, and rocket. A breakfast rich in fruit and oatmeal or some yogurt, for example, is a good way to balance your digestion during the day.

Always remember that by eating the fruit truly means eating, not just drinking its juice; the fibers in fruit are basically concentrated in their body.

BEST FOODS FOR DIGESTION

As soon as food enters the body through the mouth, the process of digestion begins.

The body gradually moves it through the digestive system, which breaks the food down into smaller, more useable 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.

UNSATURATED FATS

This type of fat helps the body absorb vitamins. 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, for example, fat intake should not exceed 77 grams daily.

VEGETABLES WITH SKIN

Vegetables are rich in fiber, which is an important nutrient for digestion. 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.

FRUITS

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, applesoranges, and bananas are nutritious fruits that could help with digestion.

WHOLE-GRAIN FOODS

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.

YOGURT

Many yogurt products contain probiotics. These are live bacteria and yeasts that may have benefits for the digestive system.

KEFIR

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 truly 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 flavours and colours as well as tons of preservatives. And we do love our butter, fat and salt. Cutting down on these foods is best but always remember to enjoy your life and not deprive yourself of guilty pleasures.

Although most foods are fine 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
  • alcohol
  • milk or white chocolate
  • foods high in saturated fats, such as cheese and cream
  • coffee and other drinks containing caffeine
  • spicy foods, such as some types of curry
  • greasy foods, such as pizza

Moderation

“Eating too much 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 with them, 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 perfect shag, depends entirely on the person. Though in sex and in 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 effecting their digestion, but remember, everything that goes in, must come out. Our community has some major issues when it comes to usage and abuse and this will surely alter our sex lives at some point.

DRUGS

Drugs that can affect the gastrointestinal system:

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; in fact, 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 largest 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 blood stream.  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 not just in the gut but also in the brain and can affect mood, sensitivity to stress – both of which can increase your risk for relapse.

Aside from problems with gut permeability and nutrient absorption, alcohol and drugs simply put a strain on your digestive system. Gastrointestinal troubles like poor digestion and constipation are common in people with substance use disorders.

Many of these problems will improve after you’ve been abstinent 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 it helpful to add N-acetyl cysteine, green or black tea, and the spice curcumin.

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.

When you struggle with addiction, so many things are out of your control. 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

Alcohol molecules are very small, 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. 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 rate of absorption.

While your stomach can breakdown 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 the majority of the 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 drink 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 own lining and surrounding muscles. Drinking large quantities can also cause nausea, vomiting, and ulcers, and go on to trigger further damage in 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. In fact, binge drinking can create a similar reaction in non-IBS patients causing symptoms such as:

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 number of digestive enzymes your pancreas can release into your digestive tract. These enzymes are needed to oxidize the alcohol, to break it down into energy and components that eventually passes from your body. But the enzymes are also crucial to the proper digestion of food. Without them, you lack the ability to take up the vitamins and minerals needed for different functions in your body.

Because alcohol causes an inflammatory response in your gut, it can lead to intestinal inflammation. And, in alcoholics, it can affect the intestinal permeability, potentially letting toxins and other debris through the gut wall and into the bloodstream. These conditions can create serious discomfort and pain for the sufferer.

HIV medications

By now, we all know that those living with HIV have other issues that can effect daily life, this includes the side effects from treatment medications.

Many medications, including antiretroviral medications and other medications used in the treatment of 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. If these side effects continue, however, it is important to discuss this with your doctor.

Since diarrhea, gas and bloating have many causes, truly effective treatment requires 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
  • stress.

How long does Digestion take?

This is probably one of the most important questions when it comes to diet, digestion and sex. We hear lots of guys saying that they fast before sex or even avoid some of their favourite 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 not only what you eat and when, but how long it should take before you are comfortable to have 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 the time you swallow food to the time 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 not only be painful but make the experience less pleasant.

We can break this down a bit further by looking at some specific foods and groups.

1. WATER

Enters into the intestines immediately.

2. FRUIT OR VEGETABLE JUICE

15-20 minutes

3. RAW VEGETABLES

30-40 minutes

4.COOKED VEGETABLES

40 minutes

5. FISH

45-60 minutes

6. SALAD WITH OIL

1 hour

7. STARCH VEGETABLES

1.5-2 hours

8. GRAINS (RICE, BUCKWHEAT, QUINOA)

2 hours

9. DAIRY

2 hours

10. NUTS

3 hours

11. CHICKEN

1.5-2 hours

12. BEEF

3 hours

13. LAMB

4 hours

14. PORK

5 hours

Slowing/Stopping digestion

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, as well as 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 years ago. If you take Imodium or some anti-diarrhea treatment (and you do not, in fact, have diarrhea) it will stop everything. After cleaning once or twice, the treatment will stop 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 really rough sex, which can cause hemorrhoids and fissures and other ailments. Gay men do not always make the healthiest choices — in fact, 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 good success with Imodium, over-dosage has messed up my stomach and actually 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 to always 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. Keep in mind 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 take away 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.

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