Anyone who has experienced constipation knows how uncomfortable it can be. Unfortunately, constipation is a very, very common health problem, affecting 19% to 24% of North Americans. Constipation accounts for 8 million doctor visits a year, and women are twice as likely to suffer from it than men (source, source, source).
Constipation is defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week (source). In my opinion, only 3 bowel movements a week is not near enough. If optimal health is our goal, we should aim to eliminate at least once per day.
Being able to eliminate waste from our bodies is a crucial part of being healthy. When we do not have regular bowel movements, the stool sits in our colon for extended periods of time. This causes our stools to become hard and dry because the longer the stools sit in our large intestine, the more water is absorbed out of it. Hard, dry stools are much more challenging to pass than soft stools.
The first step to healing from constipation is being able to talk about it. We need to abolish the taboo nature of talking about anything related to our bowels. Everyone has a large intestine, and everyone poops. We need to be able to talk about it professionally and comfortably. Constipation causes a lot of unnecessary discomfort for a lot of people. Here are some ways we can help relieve constipation and start pooping!
1. Eat A Real Food Diet And Ditch Processed Food
Whole foods, such as whole fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes support our digestive health by feeding our gut microbiome. The fiber from whole foods travel to the large intestine relatively undigested. Here, the fiber feeds our gut bacteria. Gut bacteria are happy when they are fed their favorite food – prebiotic fiber.
Processed foods do not support gut health because they are devoid of healthy fibers. Therefore, a diet based on processed foods will starve our gut bacteria and can result in constipation.
2. Eat More Healthy Fats
Eating fat stimulates our gallbladder to release bile into our small intestine, which has a laxative effect (source). Just be sure to eat healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee and avoid toxic fats such as industrial seed oils (canola, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils).
3. Get a Squatty Potty
Get a Squatty Potty for every bathroom in your house! I have had clients who have made this one change, and their long-term constipation vanished. Watch this video to learn how using a squatty potty makes pooping so much easier.
4. Avoid Opiate Stimulating Foods
Both gluten and dairy contain opiate-like proteins which can slow down our digestion, causing constipation (source). If you suffer from constipation and haven’t tried a 30-day gluten and dairy elimination diet, it is worth a try. Because these foods stimulate the opioid receptors in our brain, they tend to be quite addictive. This makes it challenging to quit eating these foods.
The best way to give up gluten and dairy is to just quit cold turkey. Get rid of any glutenous foods and dairy in your house and decide not to buy them any longer. The first few days to a week will be challenging, but after the initial hump, you won’t even crave these foods. And once you start pooping regularly, you will wonder why you ever ate gluten and dairy!
Magnesium is an incredibly important mineral because it is required for hundreds of metabolic functions in our bodies. Due to soil depletion and poor dietary choices, many many people are deficient in this vital nutrient. Luckily, we can supplement with magnesium to prevent deficiency.
Magnesium comes in a few different forms. Many people use Magnesium Citrate for constipation, but I prefer Magnesium Glycinate when taken as a daily supplement. Magnesium Glycinate is easily absorbed, so not only will it relieve constipation (source), but it will also help with insomnia, anxiety, headaches, low energy, muscle cramps and osteoporosis.
Many people who suffer from constipation have fewer healthy gut bacteria and more pathogenic bacteria in their large intestine (source). Taking a probiotic like this one from Ora Organic, which contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species may help crowd out pathogenic gut bacteria, boost healthy gut bacteria, and relieve constipation.
Another great source of probiotics are fermented foods such as sauerkraut.
Taking prebiotics, which are indigestible starches that selectively feed our healthy gut bacteria, can help relieve constipation (source, source). If you want to learn more about the health benefits prebiotics, read this article.
8. Eat Kiwis
Here is a delicious way to beat constipation! Eating two kiwifruits a day can improve bowel function and help relieve constipation (source).
9. Eat Prunes
Eating prunes and drinking prune juice can also be an effective way to provoke a bowel movement. Prunes, which are dried plums, contain sorbitol, a natural laxative (source, source). The recommended dose is 6 to 8 prunes twice a day or 4 to 8 oz of prune juice in the morning.
A lack of exercise can induce constipation, while physical activity can help relieve it (source). Movement as simple as going for a walk or a hike can help relieve constipation. My favorite type of exercise is Yoga. It improves strength, flexibility, aids in stress management, and sure helps to get the bowels moving! I personally love these online Yoga classes because I am a busy mom, and I can fit a class in while my son naps.
11. Drink More Water
Dehydration is a very common cause of constipation (source). Most of us just don’t drink enough hydrating fluids throughout the day. Compound our poor water intake with excessive coffee consumption, the result is chronic dehydration.
Our body needs water to function. When we are dehydrated, our large intestine absorbs more water from our stools, making them hard, dry and difficult to pass. Keeping ourselves well hydrated can really help relieve constipation. If plain ol’ water doesn’t appeal to you, try coconut water or adding an electrolyte hydrator to your water.
12. Don’t Ignore the Urge to Go
When nature calls, if we ignore the urge to go for longer than 10 to 15 minutes, the urge may subside for several hours. During this time, the stool in our large intestine will begin to dry out, become hard, and be more difficult to pass. Therefore, when you feel the urge to go, find a washroom and use it.
13. Self Abdominal Massage
Self abdominal massage in the evening can help encourage a bowel movement in the morning. When doing an abdominal massage, always massage from right to left in a clockwise manner. Here is a video that shows how to give yourself a self abdominal massage.
14. Get Acupuncture
Getting acupuncture is an excellent way to get the bowels moving (source). I have heard from several clients over the years that acupuncture treatment gets their bowels moving.
15. Get Your Thyroid Checked
If you have chronic constipation, along with symptoms such as fatigue, dry skin, dry hair, low energy, and cold intolerance, you might want to get your thyroid hormones checked (source). Hypothyroidism can cause a whole host of symptoms, including constipation.
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
What tricks do you have up your sleeve to use when you get constipated?
Lindsay Rusk Health is a dedicated resource for people who are interested in health and improving their health. Therefore, this post may contain affiliate links. These links add no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and brands that I personally use for myself or my family. For more information, see my Terms + Disclosure.