Most of us know the discomfort of occasional constipation, defined as difficulty or straining while having a bowel movement, or going more than three days without any bowel movements. According to Dr. Mercola (an osteopathic physician and advocate for holistic health), you should be going to the bathroom at least once per day, ideally two to three times. He notes that the biggest barrier to preventing constipation may be not realizing that you are constipated in the first place.
Symptoms to watch out for are: infrequent bowel movements, abdominal pain and cramping, a swollen abdomen and loss of appetite. Or, you may just feel generally unwell. In order to avoid all that discomfort and pain, take a look at some of these ways to support healthy bowels.
The healthy bacteria needed for your digestive tract, known as probiotics, may significantly reduce constipation and accompanying symptoms. The role of these microorganisms is to balance the micro flora in the digestive system and allow your body to form healthy stool to more easily pass through the colon. You can purchase probiotics at a health food store with a dosage of approximately 7-12 billion (amount of bacteria strains in the capsule) with multiple strains (meaning that the capsule contains several different types of bacteria, each with their own role).
2. Fiber from foods
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Generally, insoluble fiber is the most helpful for constipation as it passes virtually undigested
through the digestive tract, adding bulk to stool and moving waste out of the body. Food sources are less harsh than herbal laxatives, such as cascara or psyllium husks, so you may want to try eating more nuts and seeds, brown rice, flax seeds and sweet potatoes first. Both types of fiber are beneficial as soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol and keep your blood sugar balanced.
3. Eat smaller meals
If you eat large meals, especially late at night, you’re straining the digestive tract unnecessarily and throwing off the natural balance of the elimination process. Eat smaller meals more frequently to make sure that your body can easily digest and absorb nutrients. Chronic indigestion, bloating, gas and heartburn can all be signals that your meals are too heavy and too large in quantity. If you slow down when you eat, your body will tell you when it’s full; you can avoid overeating if you eat with more awareness. Chew and savor each bite!
4. Stress reduction
Try something like yoga for constipation. There are specific poses to help move things along. Deep breathing and going for walks can also help relax and balance you, including your digestion.
5. Food intolerance
If you experience symptoms, such as bloating, gas, headaches or tiredness after eating, you may have food intolerances or food allergies. Food intolerances are more subtle and can be the culprit for frequent constipation; your body is not able to properly break down the foods, and the result is an imbalanced colon or slow transit time. Check with a holistic practitioner for a variety of tests or special elimination diets to find problem foods.
Image: Lindsey Turner