You’ve been there. It starts as an uncomfortable feeling, moves into general bloating, maybe some cramping… then it happens. You gather your phone or magazine and head to the bathroom for an epic battle.
No fun, but luckily there are simple fixes for your worst bowel woes. Constipation happens. Stress, lack of exercise, certain medications, artificial sweeteners, or a lack of fiber are all to blame. Medically speaking, you’re constipated when you have less than 3 bowel movements in a week. But you know your norm – you maybe a once a day-er or an every-three days dude. When you deviate from that and have some of the symptoms listed above… you might be constipated.
So you find yourself in this – ahem – uncomfortable position, what are you to do? While there are over-the-counter laxatives, before you hit the store try some of these natural remedies for constipation:
• Feel the burn. Twenty minutes of gentle exercise may help stimulate peristalsis, meaning the muscles lining your intestines push food along.
• Push the fluids. Lack of water, too much caffeine or overdoing the alcohol, leaves you dehydrated making your stool dry and hard to pass. Drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages daily will help alleviate and prevent a bad backup. The general recommendation is to drink at least 64 to 80 ounces daily. While there is actually no scientific evidence to back up this amount it is a good place to start.
• Peruse the Pantry. There are things in your kitchen that act as natural laxatives such as apples, apple cider, bananas, raisins, and rhubarb. Stay away from refined, sugary foods at this time since they can actually make the problem worse!
• Squat. That’s right, place your feet on a small step stool when you sit on the toilet so it’s like you are squatting. This places your pelvis at a better position to get things moving. You will feel ridiculous, but after a bit it won’t matter because you’ll feel relief.
• Fill in with fiber. Beans, beans the magical fruit… the more you eat the more you…. boost your fiber intake! Fiber acts as the body’s broom cleaning out toxins and moving the mass. Fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains pack fiber into the diet to help keep you regular. This step is important for both treatments and prevention. It is really important to drink more water as you increase your fiber intake otherwise you are simply compounding the issue.
• Oil up. Safflower, soybean, and other vegetable oils have a lubricating action in the intestines. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons daily until the problem goes away.
If none of these things work, the next step is turning to a laxative. Keep in mind, if you feel this is a regular occurrence and you’re doing what you should to prevent it – lots of fiber, lots of water, lots of exercise – you may have a more serious condition and will want to take that up with your doctor.