As a Gastroenterologist, Dr. John Cluley focuses on the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, anus, and rectum. Or, as GI John himself calls it, the butts and guts.
In addition to being a board-certified medical doctor and self-professed poop joke scholar, Cluley also manages an Instagram account where he posts assthetically pleasing photos of gut pleasing foods: FitGutMD.
We had the posterior privilege of speaking with Dr. John Cluley for our brand spankin' new podcast, The Unload. Click here to subscribe to The Unload on iTunes!
The following conversation has been edited for clarity while preserving original meaning of statements from both participants.
You’re a gastroenterologist. Can you just tell me a little bit about what that means and what you do?
I am a medical doctor, obviously, and did training in internal medicine with a subspecialty in gastroentrology which is a specialty focusing on the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and the colon. I also take care of anal and rectal health, which is pertinent to Tushy. But in short, I’m a doctor of butts and guts.
What are the things that patients most come to you for? What are the typical reasons someone would come to see you?
We get a lot of abdominal pain, a lot of people with acid reflux, chronic nausea, vomiting, gallbladder issues. And then we get a lot of people with IBS, a lot of people with constipation. And then we see a lot of hemorrhoids , literally and also patients with hemorrhoids we see. We cover a lot of territory.
Does how you clean your booty ever come up in conversations with those patients? Is that a big part of this?
If they’re having issues, like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, there’s a condition called Pruritus Ani which basically means itchy butt and we can’t find a great reason for that. We absolutely talk about anal hygiene and the use of a bidet comes up a lot and I like to focus on that a lot with my patients.
In terms of a bidet or Tushy, is there a reason that it is more healthy for us?
I think toilet paper, to me, doesn’t make any sense. Unless you’ve got a clean bowel movement… when you wipe and you have white toilet paper still. If you’re getting enough fiber in your diet, that’s rare. So, rather than smear it all around, why not wash it gently with some water and then just dab it dry? I think it’s great for folks with hemorrhoids, people with hemorrhoids are more susceptible to anal fissures, they’re more susceptible to anal leakage, and I think the use of a bidet helps with both of those things. And quite honestly it just helps you feel better, and I think when you feel better after having a bowel movement… when your butt feels better, you feel better.
What can you do to your diet to have healthier bowel movements?
Fiber is the key, and fiber comes from plants in the form of fruits and vegetables, legumes, beans, lentils, things like that… I truly believe that we were meant to be vegetarian or vegan, to have a plant based diet. And I think any time you introduce a lot of animal protein, even it’s grass-fed, organic, free-range, whatever you want to call it, that’s still animal protein that is not going to be good in terms of the transit time, the amount of time it takes to get through your system. It’s not realistic for everyone to be plant-based and vegan, and I’m not… I think for the focus to be on the fruits and vegetables, plant fiber, make those the center piece of your diet whereas the meat, the animal protein, needs to be the supporting cast. Maybe eat meat two or three times a week, but try to focus on those good whole plant foods.. Fresh plant foods… nothing in a can or a package but sort of whole foods plant based diet I think is the best way to go in terms of having good bowel movements.
How does what you drink, like coffee and alcohol, affect your bowel movements and digestion?
Caffeine is going to be a stimulant, so it stimulates the colon in a number of different ways. Caffeine itself stimulates the colon to contract, but also whenever you have an empty stomach in the morning -- and for most people coffee is kind of the first thing they put in their stomach -- so no matter what it is you put in your stomach, it is going to stimulate you to have a bowel movement. But, in general, and I think most people know that caffeine is going to lead to you going to the bathroom.
Alcohol has sugar in it, and sugars tend to go through the bowel a little bit quicker and they get fermented as well. So, all of that creates a lot of activity… and it creates a lot of gas and bloating, but anyone who has had the “beer shits” the day after a big night out, that’s what is going on. That high sugar, carbohydrate load from alcohol is making its way through your system faster than something like water or other drinks.
There is a stigma when talking about our butts and poop, how do you see that as a gastroenterologist?
These are barriers that we have to overcome with patients because the sooner we get them to sort of open up and talk about their issues, the sooner we can help them. I think you guys are doing a great job of starting a dialogue and making it more comfortable to talk about your poops. I have found that since I have been in practice and since I have become active on social media… what I’ve found is that when we get together as a family we are talking more about our bowel movements.
Why did you start the FitGutMD Instagram account?
So many more people outside of my doctor’s office ask me questions, and these are health people… and so a lot of questions about diet, food as medecine, and things that we can all do to maintain a healthy gut. So, you know, I started FitGutMD as an outlet for me to reach those people and it has been beneficial to them but also beneficial to me to work with a demographic of people who truly care about their health, their fitness, and their nutritious. Because, I will tell you that the people that tend to make their way to my office are not as focused on nutrition. Unfortunately, a lot of times people are looking for… some sort of quick fix for their issues, and so I am a believer that we are what we eat, not to be cliche. But, I think FitGutMD has been a good outlet for me to kind of get that message out to people who are truly motivated to eat well and treat their bodies well.
Is there a right way to poop?
If you sit on the pot and you haven’t gone within three to four minutes, then you stop and try again later. The longer you sit there and push and try to get it out, the more likely you are to develop hemorrhoids and complications from hemorrhoids.
Kind of like princess Elsa, you just have to let it go. Don’t push and if it’s gonna come, it’s gonna come.