Constipation Awareness Month – 6 tips to help you find relief
Constipation: 6 tips to help you find relief
Did you know that up to 20% of the adult population experience constipation, with many suffering with chronic symptoms?
But since this is usually defined as bowel movements fewer than every three days, I believe that in Naturopathic terms many more people experience constipation. Because bowel movements that are less than daily and/or are hard to pass or not properly formed create a build up of toxicity in the bowel that is just not healthy.
As a naturopath, my priority with clients is to always get bowels moving well to eliminate toxicity from the body. A sluggish bowel equals a sluggish body. When toxins can’t escape via the bowel and waste sits longer in the colon, toxins are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and they have to go somewhere. It puts additional pressure on the liver – our major organ of detoxification – that can hinder its ability to effectively perform other functions like hormone metabolism. Increased toxicity can contribute to skin problems and headaches.
As it is Constipation Awareness Month in December and with the Christmas busy-ness and often less healthy eating habits, constipation may be more prevalent, this is a GOOD time to revisit helpful tips to encourage good regular bowel movements.
Remember those holidays where you had to struggle to squat over a hole in the floor? How we laughed at the sheer madness of it all. Or is it madness?
A squatting position is the most natural way for the body’s anatomy to pass bowel movements along. Instead of standing on your toilet (!) try using a footstool to change your position and see what happens.
Massaging your lower abdomen with flat hands and circular movements can help to stimulate movement along the colon. Starting from your lower right pelvic area up and across your naval area and down towards your left pelvic area is roughly following the direction of the colon and may help encourage stagnant waste to move.
Exercise is important to encourage the muscular contractions. Yoga moves can be fantastic for gently massaging your digestive organs. Take a look into poses such as seated and supine spinal twists and cobra pose.
We all know that fibre is important for bowel regularity, but do you know there are different types?
Most people talk about roughage, but this type of fibre- known as insoluble fibre- can be too harsh and irritable to the gut lining. It’s important to include it (like tougher vegetable stems and skins) but there’s another type you must be eating.
Soluble fibre helps to keep the stools soft. It draws water to the bowel and helps increase bulk- but in a gentle way. Good sources are oats in the form of cooked porridge (not raw), apples, carrots, bananas, pulses, avocados, sweet potatoes, broccoli and pears.
Plums, prunes and kiwi fruits have been found to have a stimulating effect on the bowel, so include a serving every day.
Flaxseeds soaked overnight in water and consumed whole alongside the mucilage can work wonders for constipation- and for alternating IBS type bowel movements. Use one dessert spoon in a 200ml glass of water. The contents could be added to porridge or a protein shake to hide the strange consistency!
Constipation can be a problem with mineral imbalance – too much calcium and not enough magnesium. These minerals work together to make muscles contract and relax. But if they are out of balance in this way, the muscles in the bowel wall may be contracting without relaxing, making everything tight and stuck. Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, brown rice and dark green leafy vegetables.
Magnesium citrate is a regular supplement go to in my practice.
Whilst this is the last tip, it’s by no means less important. It’s the one that most people tend to overlook, yet it is so simple.
You should be consuming 2L of fluid every day – mostly hydrating sources. This can be pure or flavoured still water, herbal and fruit teas. Try to avoid more than three cups of tea and coffee every day (including green tea) as they can act as stimulants and diuretics in excess and hinder digestive secretion.
The body will draw water from the bowel if it senses the body is dehydrated, and this makes stools harder to pass.
Try adding each one of these suggestions to your routine each day. You may be surprised with the difference it makes.
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