What constipation symptoms are you experiencing?
If your time on the porcelain throne is less than pleasant due to constipation, chances are you’re dealing with digestive upset that shows up as:
- Infrequent bowel movements;
- Rabbit pellet-type stool;
- Straining to pass stool;
- Stomach pain; and
- Incomplete evacuation.
Think about it: you eat daily, so you should have at least one complete bowel movement daily. A sluggish bowel, especially if the condition persists for more than a few days, could be a sign of something more serious, such as fecal impaction, hemorrhoids, a prolapsed rectum, diverticular disease, or even cancer. So, please consult your doctor if you’ve been constipated for a while now.
The Bristol Stool Chart graphically details what an ideal poop should look like, as well as constipation and diarrhea.
You should be seeing (and yes, you need to look!) type 4 or type 3 daily. They are examples of healthy stool that is well formed, indicating that you’ve effectively digested your food and assimilated its nutrients. You should be able to pass type 3 or 4 stool without problems, and it shouldn’t have a strong smell. Type 1 is hardcore constipation; type 2 isn’t too much better.
Why are you experiencing constipation?
What are you eating?
- Processed and junk food. High in salt, unhealthy fat, and calories, and low in nutrition and fiber, this mess makes it difficult for your intestinal muscles to push waste through the colon. Result: constipation.
- Gluten. Consuming white rice, white bread, and white flour can add to your constipation woes because the fiber and nutrients have been stripped from these starch-filled products.
- A lack of good oils. When coconut, avocado, and olive oils are excluded from the diet, they can’t work in synergy with the bowel to help prevent constipation.
- Incorrect levels of fiber. For some people, too much fiber can cause constipation, but in most cases, the converse is true.
Don’t discount the powerful effect of external stress on our digestive system. It’s often said that the gut is the “second brain,” and our emotions play a huge role in many gastrointestinal disorders, including constipation. The gut and brain interact closely, so the knots you feel in your stomach from tension at work or at home can often show up as constipation.
Not enough exercise
If you’re inactive, you’re paving the way to a constipated life. Exercise decreases the time it takes for your meals to traverse the large intestine. A limited amount of water is absorbed into the body from stool when you don’t exercise, so you create hard stool, which is much more difficult to eliminate.
Not going when you should
If we’re in a meeting or in traffic, we can’t go potty as soon as we want to. But if we make a practice of not going when we should, the body soon acclimatizes itself and your colon and entire intestinal tract can become lazy to the point that constipation becomes your default setting or–even worse–it sets the stage for more serious health problems.
If you’re not properly hydrated, your bowel will be less able to move waste out efficiently. So, by the time you feel dehydrated, you’ve been so for too long, and your gut is suffering. Bear in mind that stool is 75% water, so if there isn’t enough water flowing through the digestive system, constipation is inevitable.
It’s really important to talk to your doctor if you’re on medications that may increase constipation. Pain and blood pressure medications, antacids, antidepressants, iron and calcium supplements, and diuretics are all known to cause constipation.
Not eliminating completely
Our normal way to “go” has been to sit on a toilet, but our “throne pose” might be working against our bodies’ natural functioning. Our puborectalis muscle needs to be fully extended for us to make a complete bowel movement. To do that, we need to be squatting rather than sitting. Squatting allows us to fully evacuate our bowels.
How can you remedy constipation?
Proper food choices
Fiber-rich foods, especially fresh, low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, are a top choice. Fiber bulks up your stool and makes it easier to pass. Removing junk and processed foods will curb the amount of refined sugar, chemicals, and additives that the bowel has to work through. Foods to incorporate:
- Fruits: Prunes, berries, pears, green apples, mangoes, papaya, avocado, figs;
- Veggies: leafy greens, carrots, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squash;
- Nuts/seeds: almonds, pistachios, pecans, sesame seeds, flax seed, chia seeds.
Reduce or remove gluten. Eliminate grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
Include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. They will act as probiotics and improve your gut microbiome while lessening the burden on your digestive system.
Get to squatting!
My colonic therapist recommended getting a bathroom stool, often advertised as a Squatty Potty or a Step and Go. The simple shift from sitting to squatting can make a huge change regarding constipation.
I’m a big fan of rebounding! It will wake up your bowels and send you to the bathroom with the quickness. 🙂 But any activity–including walking and yoga–but especially aerobic exercise, will crank up your heart rate and make your intestinal muscles contract more efficiently. Contracting muscles = quickly moving stool.
Make water a main plank in your anti-constipation campaign. Aim to start the morning with 8-16 ounces and keep chugging throughout the day. Watch your bowel respond by moving things along quickly in the bathroom. You can boost your water total by adding water-heavy foods like veggies, berries, and soups.
Magnesium citrate supplements in divided doses of up to 400 milligrams daily are known to help most people with constipation problems. Magnesium is a relaxant and brings water to the bowel, helping to make stool softer and easier to pass. You may have to play around with the dosage to see what works best for you.
So, how’s your constipation conversation going? Have you overcome constipation, or are you still struggling with it?