Oh, gut woes. Been there, done that. It’s not fun, nor is it comfortable! It seems that there are a lot of things that can go wrong in the gut and that so many people aren’t experiencing the joy of regular bowel movements. If you’re not going every day, then you might consider following some of the recommendations below to help move things along.
What should your bowel movements look like?
In order to know if you’re constipated, you must first know what your poop is supposed to look like (because I’m sure you often ponder poop!). Ideal poop should be soft, smooth, and easy to pass. So if you don’t know what your poop looks like, start checking it out! Don’t be shy! It can offer a lot of insight into your gut health. If you want to analyze and address what your poop is telling you, let’s chat!
How do you know if you’re constipated?
In my opinion, you should be having a bowel movement every day. And if you’re a poop pro, they might even occur at the same time of day! Constipation is defined as infrequent stools that are hard to pass, hard in texture, and might be accompanied by the feeling of not being able to empty your body of the stool. You may also experience bloating and abdominal pain.
If you’re experiencing chronic constipation (lasting a few weeks or more), please contact a healthcare practitioner to address this. Don’t fret, with proper attention and guidance, this too shall pass!
What causes constipation?
There are certain conditions that can lead to constipation, such as pelvic disorders, irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C), diabetes, hypothyroidism, and conditions that affect the brain and spine. Additionally, certain medications can lead to bowel backup (such as antacids, iron supplements, antidepressants).
Constipation can also be caused by certain lifestyle factors like a diet low in fiber, inadequate hydration, lack of physical movement, stress, ignoring urges to have a bowel movement, and travel. Pregnancy can also cause constipation.
6 Natural Remedies for Constipation
Remedy 1: Add Fiber
Fiber is like a scrub brush that travels through your intestines and helps move things along while adding bulk to the stool and making it easier to pass. You can take a fiber supplements, but I prefer adding fiber in the form of whole foods first, such as vegetables, whole fruits (i.e. apple with the peel), nuts and seeds, and legumes. Try adding a side salad to your lunches and dinners. Blend some flaxseed meal or chia seeds into your smoothie.
Remedy 2: Hydrate. A lot.
Try this: drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning, then go for a walk. It can help get things moving through (you move, your poop moves!). Many times constipation is occurring because you’re not hydrated enough. Poop needs water to form! How much should you be drinking? Check out my post on water for more information.
Remedy 3: Get Probiotics On Board
Probiotics are necessary for a healthy gut and optimal digestion. My favorite source of probiotics is from fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup. 1-2 forkfuls a day is a good dose. If you opt for supplementation (I get it, kimchi is kinda funky), try the refrigerated ones – your good bacteria should be alive and kicking!
Remedy 4: Move
Physical activity helps food move through your system. Try to move around frequently throughout the day. If you sit at a desk for work, set an alarm to go off at least every hour to remind you to stand up, stretch, walk around, do some squats, whatever it takes to move your body. Get your coworkers involved! Have an office dance party!
Remedy 5: Add Warmth
Use a hot water bottle, a heating pad, drink herbal tea, massage your stomach, or take a warm bath. This can help encourage peristalsis, or movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Plus, these techniques are great for stress!
Remedy 6: Address Stress
It seems like stress is linked to everything. If you are under a lot of stress, the organs stop functioning properly and oftentimes, digestive wackiness is one of the first signs. Learn more about how stress can affect our health here. Find something that works for you, such as yoga, meditation, going for walks, coloring, or drinking herbal tea (catnip is one of my favorites!).
A Note on Supplementation
There are a few supplements that can address constipation, but I prefer to tailor supplementation recommendations rather than give a blanket recommendation. Supplements, similar to medications, should be taken with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner. They can interact with medications and could potentially result in less-than-favorable outcomes. If you are considering taking supplementation, feel free to set up an appointment with me to chat.
There’s a Tea for That
Dandelion tea has been known to be a gentle bowel mover. My favorite is the Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Root Tea. Check out my post on dandelion tea for more information about how dandelion can support liver health and get my dandelion tea latte recipe!
I’d love to hear from you! Are you having gut issues? Let me know in the comments below what has or has not worked for you.