You know the feeling. Everything in you wants to have a good bowel movement but it just won’t come. It can make you feel sluggish and bogged down. For some people, debilitating abdominal cramping can accompany it.
Here are some ways to easily and naturally help you stay regular.
Drink plenty of water.
Your body needs water to perform many essential functions from the cellular to the organ level. When your food reaches your stomach and small intestine, it is a liquid mush, which allows your body to extract energy and nutrients from it. But when that reaches the colon, the colon reabsorbs any extra water back into your body, leaving solid waste which we then pass as stool. If you aren’t drinking enough water, the colon will leave a harder stool in its quest to use the water in your body efficiently. We experience this as constipation.
Sometimes, drinking more water is all that’s needed for a minor case of constipation. This will leave a softer, easier to pass stool. It should be noted that water is the needed liquid. Other beverages, such as coffee and tea, often include caffeine, which dehydrates you. Drinking soda gives you less water and lots of sugar, as well as empty calories which can lead to weight gain. Even sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade have added sugars in them. While beverages other than water may be consumed in moderation depending on your dietary needs, water is the best thing for your body.
Eat your fruits and veggies.
Fruits and vegetables are low calorie foods packed with nutrients, fiber, and other healthy elements. Eating the recommended daily intake of these (1 ½ to 2 cups daily of fruit, 2-3 cups daily of vegetables) helps keep you regular. According to a release from the CDC in November 2017, only 10% of American adults eat the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Men, younger adults, and people living in poverty were particularly vulnerable (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html).
Want to know whether you fall into that 10%? All it takes are some measuring cups and keeping a food journal. This will also highlight where you need to improve (for example, getting more fruit into your daily diet).
Choose whole grain breads and pastas.
Whole grain breads and pastas have more fiber in them, which, as we mentioned above, helps keep you regular. However, make sure you read the nutrition information on these and compare different products at your supermarket to find the healthiest option available. Bonus: higher fiber products make you feel full faster and longer, which makes them a great way to work toward weight loss as well!
Try a fiber supplement.
If you’re eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, eating whole grain bread products, and still struggling with constipation, try an over the counter fiber supplement. You can find these by browsing the aisles of your local supermarket or grocery store. There are several different formulations available, such as powders that can be mixed into drinks, wafers, or pills. Find the one that seems easiest for you to take and follow the instructions on the package.
A word of warning: suddenly increasing your intake of fiber can make for some uncomfortable intestinal gas. It’s best to start off at a low daily dose and increase it to the dosing on the package instructions. This allows your body to get used to the higher fiber intake. Also, remember how we talked about drinking enough water above? This is especially important with fiber supplements, because it allows them to work properly.
Give exercise a try.
Many runners say that running gives them a bowel movement (ever heard of runner’s diarrhea?). This is true with many types of vigorous exercise. Changing up your exercise routine to include more vigorous exercise or deciding to start exercising may do the same for you. Of course, you should check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise routine.
It’s time to see your doctor. You should also see your doctor if you have a sudden change in your bowel patterns (for instance, you normally have one bowel movement daily and now only have one bowel movement weekly), as this could be a sign of a more serious condition.
Here’s to regular bowel movements and overall good health!