Laina Shulman, DC
Nobody likes to talk about it. But most people have experienced constipation and we know it's not fun. Sluggish bowels can make us feel bloated, uncomfortable, and irritable. The good news is that natural remedies can be very effective in bringing the body back into balance.
Nobody likes to talk about it. But most people have experienced constipation and we know it’s not fun. Sluggish bowels can make us feel bloated, uncomfortable, and irritable. The good news is that natural remedies can be very effective in bringing the body back into balance.
Constipation is defined as fewer than three bowel movements a week. Its causes are numerous. Most commonly, constipation is related to an unbalanced diet, lack of exercise, too much stress, and not enough water. In rare cases, constipation may be a drug reaction or a symptom of undetected food sensitivities or digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, colon cancer, or hypothyroidism.
Stimulating your bowels to move can be as easy as implementing some healthy lifestyle choices. If you regularly suffer from constipation, the following suggestions will get things moving and provide some relief.
1. Ensure you drink enough fluids.
Most experts agree that we should all drink a minimum of six to eight glasses of water every day.
2. Eat at least 30 g of fibre every day.
The best sources of fibre are found in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Some of the richest sources include cooked dried beans, prunes, figs, raisins, oatmeal, pears, and nuts.
3. Go for a run or a walk.
Any form of exercise will help alleviate constipation by stimulating the bowel and moving the food through the digestive system more quickly.
4. Take time to relax.
Stress causes the heart to beat faster, the mouth to get dry, and the bowels to temporarily shut down. Relieve stress by engaging in activities such as reading or listening to music. They help the body to relax, allowing the bowels to move.
5. Listen to your body.
Some of us have food sensitivities that we don’t recognize. If you have chronic constipation, then your bowels may be continually irritated by the foods you eat. The most common food triggers are milk and wheat. Eliminating a food from your diet for a period of time will allow you to determine whether it is negatively affecting your bowels.
6. Timing is important.
When nature calls, pay attention, even if the timing is inconvenient. Pay attention to your body’s natural rhythm by going to the bathroom at a similar time each day. Ignoring the signals your body provides is a bad habit that can lead to bloating and constipation.
7. Try herbal laxatives such as aloe vera juice, senna, rhubarb, cascara sagrada, dandelion root, or psyllium fibre (the husks of plantain seeds). However, as with all laxatives they should only be used occasionally. Research shows that overuse can create dependence and therefore further constipation. Reduce dose or discontinue use if you experience abdominal cramps or spasms.
Implementing healthy habits effectively deals with most causes of constipation. If your constipation is chronic and not affected by healthy lifestyle choices, see your doctor. Otherwise, the next time you are dealing with a bout of constipation, go for a walk, relax with a good book, eat a healthy snack, and drink a tall glass of water. Things will be moving again in no time.