8 Tips for Constipation
Photo by Julian Hanslmaieron Unsplash
Did you poop today?
If the answer is no, read below to find out what you can do to feel better.
Constipation is defined as 3 or fewer bowel movements weekly, though truly we should be emptying our bowels AT LEAST once every day.
Many people don’t realize that you can poop and still be constipated if the bowels are not emptying completely.
Although constipation is one of the most common digestive problems affecting 1 out of every 6 people, it should NOT be taken lightly.
Our bowels are designed to eliminate toxins and waste. When things get backed up, toxins are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and waste putrefies in the colon, feeding pathogenic bacteria and fueling inflammation.
That means, being constipated is not only uncomfortable and disruptive, it can also lead to major health problems, like:
- Leaky Gut
- Joint Pain & Arthritis
- Hormonal Imbalances
- Mood Disorders
- Premature Aging
- Autoimmune Conditions
- Hormonally-Related Cancers
- Colon and Pancreas Cancer
Clearly, this is not something to be taken lightly!
So let’s look at the top eight things you can do starting today:
1. Regular Exercise
One of the top causes of constipation is inactivity.
A moderate amount of regular exercise, such as walking or gentle yoga, is sufficient to promote healthy bowel movements. Exercise speeds up the time it takes for waste to move through the large intestine and encourages contractions of the intestinal muscles that keep things moving through the body.
It’s best to exercise on an empty stomach, as exercise encourages our blood to flow to our limbs rather than our digestive organs. Relax a bit after you eat to ensure that your nutrients are well-absorbed and to avoid digestive problems.
When you are dehydrated, the body pulls water from the colons, making stools hard and difficult to pass.
Pay attention to how much water you drink and listen to your body to determine how much you need. 8 glasses daily is a general guideline, though some people need more or less.
You can also enjoy herbal teas, fruit and vegetable juices, and clear broths. Steer clear of alcoholic beverages and avoid caffeinated drinks in excess, as these can contribute to dehydration.
A glass of hot water soothes the intestines, softens stools, and encourages contractions, providing relief for constipation.
Fiber is found in all fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. It is the part of plants that we are not able to digest.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both are found in most plant foods, though in varying proportions, and both are important for digestive health.
Soluble fiber is defined as that which dissolves in water. It improves the digestion and absorption of nutrients, nourishes the beneficial bacteria in the gut, and improves the microbiome. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, avocado, broccoli, sweet potatoes, apricot, apples, and pears.
Insoluble fiber (which does not dissolve in water) helps with bowel regularity. It adds bulk to stool and draws water into the colon, making stool easier to pass. You can get insoluble fiber from almonds, walnuts, spinach, okra, oat bran, berries, and flaxseeds.
Many people (up to 75%, by some estimates) don’t get enough magnesium. If you suffer from muscle twitches, cramps, weakness, fatigue, or poor memory, you may be low in magnesium. Constipation can also be an indicator of a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium draws water into the colon and encourages the intestinal muscles to relax, which improves contractions of the bowel.
Magnesium citrate is a good choice for the occasional relief of acute constipation, while magnesium glycinate is the preferred form for long-term use, as it is both gentle and well-absorbed.
You can also get magnesium from nuts, tofu, legumes, avocado, and leafy greens, especially collards, kale, spinach, and mustard greens.
Ginger has a stimulating effect on the digestive tract which can prevent or relieve constipation. Ginger also soothes inflammation in the gut and improves digestion.
Fresh ginger can be added to savory dishes and ginger can be boiled with water to make a warming tea.
Ginger essential oil can also be used. To do so, mix 3-5 drops of ginger oil with an ounce of carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oil. Massage the oils into the abdomen, making gentle circles in a clockwise direction.
Bitters are infusions of a variety of bitter-tasting botanicals. Common ingredients include milk thistle, dandelion, cassia, gentian, and cinchona bark.
Bitters stimulate the production of digestive enzymes and bile to support healthy digestion. By improving digestion, regular consumption of bitters prevents constipation and regulates bowel movements.
Bitters also relieve nausea, gas, and bloating and improve satiety signaling in the body so we know to stop eating when we’ve had enough.
Probiotics improve digestion by fortifying the microbiome.
Probiotic supplementation has been shown to improve bowel regularity and stool consistency, along with reducing symptoms that often co-occur with IBS, like pain and bloating.
Additionally, a study review that included over 1,100 participants found that probiotics reduce bowel transit time (the time it takes fecal matter to pass through the bowels) by 12 ½ hours and increased frequency of bowel movements by 30%.
It seems that Bifidobacteria are the most effective for relieving constipation, though more research is needed to state so conclusively.
8. Stress Relief
Stress can be a prime cause of constipation. Stress triggers changes in the body that diverts energy away from digestion. Additionally, when we’re stressed we’re more likely to eat poorly and neglect exercise, further adding to the troubles.
Healthy stress management practices are vital for relieving constipation and restoring healthy digestion.
You can protect yourself from the impacts of stress and relieve constipation by practicing mind-body exercises like yoga, meditation, and nature study.
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