8 Natural Remedies to Relieve Constipation
When was your last bowel movement? This morning? Last night? A couple of days?
Although it’s normal to have a bowel movement 2-3 times a day, constipation is determined by the characteristic and consistency of the stool rather than when you last had a bowel movement.
Naturopaths are known for talking about poop, but it’s only because your stool can tell a lot about your health status!
A normal stool should look like a long, smooth or slightly cracked, and a well-formed cylinder. There should be no blood, no mucous, and no undigested food. Presence of undigested food can be the result of poor gastrointestinal digestion or improperly chewed food. This would also mean you may not be absorbing enough nutrients to support your body’s metabolism. Presence of dark or black blood may indicate a bleed in the upper gastrointestinal tract, whereas brighter blood may indicate fissures or hemorrhoids. Mucous generally indicates inflammation.
If your stool looks like that of a goat, you are most likely constipated. Separate hard lumps or lumps that are somewhat stuck together is more indicative of constipation. On the other end of the spectrum, you have diarrhea if your stool has a liquid consistency with no solid pieces. Chronic diarrhea is something you want to seek professional help for because there is a higher risk of becoming severely dehydrated.
Some causes of chronic constipation include:
Poor diet- A diet low in fiber and high in processed food, or not eating enough, can lead to constipation.
Dehydration- If your body is dehydrated, it is less likely to sacrifice precious water into your colon.
Stress- Even good stress can lead to tensing of the muscles, including those around the GI tract. This prevents feces from moving through properly.
Lazy bowels- Peristalsis is a series of muscle contractions in the digestive tract that help things move through. If this system is “lazy”, feces moves through at a much slower pace and tends to accumulate
Poor thyroid function- Constipation is one of the clinical pictures of hypothyroidism
Habit- If you are in the habit of “holding it in” until you get home, you are actually “teaching” your digestive system to always “hold it in”.
Some medications or overusing laxatives- Specific medications will have constipation as a side effect. Your bowels can also become dependent on laxatives and tend to need higher doses each time.
Here are 8 ways to de-constipate yourself:
1. Drink plenty of water
- As aforementioned, being well hydrated can significantly improve the consistency of your stool sot that it is well lubricated.
2. Eat plenty of vegetables
- In addition to all the nutrients, vegetables also provide you with lots of fiber. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, and it acts as the “glue” that holds the stool together so that you don’t end up with goat-like pellets. Adding a tablespoon of ground up flax seeds every day can make the world of a difference.
3. Pumpkin seeds
- Pumpkin seeds are some of the highest foods in magnesium. Magnesium acts to relax muscles all over the body, including those around the GI tract. This helps especially with constipation due to stress.
4. Olive oil
- Olive oil can help make the inside of the digestive tract smoother, helping to lubricate the way for the stool to pass through. One tablespoon in the morning on an empty stomach can relieve constipation for many people.
5. Develop a routine
- Just like some people “teach” their body to “hold it in”, you can teach your body to always have a bowel movement in the morning, or at night. Simply start using the toilet at the specific times you want to start having a bowel movement. It is important to be consistent and patient. Don’t strain or force. As a good friend of mine once told me—"Just relax and let it go”.
6. Squatty Potty
- The squatty potty is one of the best things that can happen to a chronic strainer. It is based on the concept that our bodies were not designed to sit on toilets while we defecate. Our bodies were designed to squat. The idea is to add a stool or something under your feet to elevate them so that its as if you are “squatting” on the toilet. By doing this, you facilitate the mechanics and the movement of the feces through and out of your body.
- There are specific supplements that can be very useful for constipation. However, I would advise to be cautious when taking medications or supplements prior to strengthening the foundation of health. There are many supplements that can be harmful if misused.
- Clinical trials have demonstrated that acupuncture may relieve chronic constipation and produce greater long-term benefits compared to some drugs. If it’s something you’ve never tried before, maybe booking a visit with your acupuncturist or naturopathic doctor is something to look into.
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