Let’s talk about constipation. We’ve all experienced it—the bloating, the inability to go “Number Two” no matter how hard we strain, the unsatisfactory bowel movements. The causes are numerous: IBS, pregnancy, certain medications, mental health issues, minor and serious medical conditions alike. However (a silver lining), copious cases of constipation have led researchers to acquire a solid list of natural remedies. Here are our top seven:
1. Dietary Fiber: A 2012 study featured in World Journal of Gastroenterology confirmed that “dietary fiber can obviously increase stool frequency in patients with constipation.” Are you getting enough fiber? The Institute of Medicine recommends (per day) 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women age 50 or younger and 30 grams for men and 21 grams for women age 51 or older. Increase your fiber intake by eating more whole-grain bread or pasta, whole fruits and vegetables, beans, and nuts.
2. Exercise: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey linked low physical activity to increased constipation. Get your blood pumping to those organs that need it most! Try aerobic exercises like jogging, swimming, biking, or kick-boxing.
3. Fluid Intake: When you add water to the dirt, you get…Sorry for that visual, but you get the picture. The dry food you eat can only pass through your digestive tract successfully with plenty of water.
4. Probiotics: Probiotics are (oxymoronically known as) “good bacteria” that help move food through the intestines. They are already living in your digestive system but can also be found in everyday foods such as yogurt.
5. Breathing: In the literal sense, breathe while you eat, slowly and deeply. For proper digestion, chew food thoroughly and avoid gulping down meals. In the figurative sense, manage your stress, which can cause or worsen constipation.
6. Bowel Training: Believe it or not, you need to teach your body to poop. Try using the bathroom upon waking or eating, when the digestive tract is the most active. Also, don’t delay! Do the deed as soon as you feel the urge.
7. Squatty Potty: Our Neanderthal ancestors may have known a thing or two about the anorectal angle, or the bend between the rectum and the anus which is more pronounced when sitting on a modern-day toilet. Squatting straightens out this passageway, resulting in a smoother delivery. Invest in a “Squatty Potty” or some phone books, or just plain get your feet up on that seat.
Try one or all seven! You never know what may work for you and your body. Just remember, if your constipation problem persists, call your doctor.