Make no mistake about it, this world is backed up, as most people feel that a bowel movement every few days is deemed normal. This is directly due to a lack of hydration, probiotics, enzymes, fiber, EFAs, along with vitamins and minerals that allow proper bowel movements to happen smoothlyand you should go at least one time per day. So if you are stuck and need some extra help, get it without an over-the-counter laxative that will slowly destroy your ability to eliminate naturally.
What is Constipation?
Constipation for many people simply means infrequent bowl movements, but for others it means hard stools, difficulty or straining passing stools, or a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. Constipation can also alternate with diarrhea, a pattern that commonly occurs as part of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The extreme end of the constipation scale is fecal impaction, which is a condition where the stool hardens in the rectum and prevents bowl movements. It is possible however, to occasionally have diarrhea even with the obstruction, due to colonic fluid leaking around the impaction. The causes of each of these symptoms of constipation vary, so the approach to each should be tailored to each specific person.
Medically, constipation is usually is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week. Severe constipation is defined as less than one bowel movement per week. Going without a bowel movement for two or three days does not necessarily cause physical discomfort, typically only mental distress for some people.
Our total number of bowel movements can decrease with age, but it's normal for most adults to "go" between three and 21 times per week, with the most common pattern being one bowel movement a day. Unfortunately, this pattern is only observed in less than half the population, as most people are irregular and do not have bowel movements every day or the same number of bowel movements each day.
It is important to distinguish acute (the start of) constipation from chronic (long duration) constipation. Constipation may require an assessment if it is accompanied by worrisome symptoms such as rectal bleeding, abdominal pain and cramps, nausea and vomiting, and involuntary loss of weight. A serious medical illness may be the underlying cause, such as tumors of the colon.
Causes of Constipation
Lifestyle & Diet
Poor diet and an inactive lifestyle are the most common causes of constipation. Lack of exercise and eating too much junk food can also wreak havoc on your digestive health. Below are some diet-related factors that can leave you feeling constipated:
- Dairy Products
- Foods high in trans fat and sugar
- Refined Foods
- Lack of high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains)
- Lack of water (dehydration)
Also, when you feel like you need to "go," it's important to use the bathroom ASAP, because putting it off for a more convenient time (like when you get home) can lead to constipation.
Constipation can also be a side effect or symptom of many health conditions, as they can cause stool to pass more slowly through the colon. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), also known as spastic colon, is one of the most common causes of constipation. Medical researchers believe that IBS patients have highly sensitive colons and must monitor what they eat. Other health conditions that can cause constipation include:
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Parkinson's disease
- Spinal cord injury
Aging can also trigger constipation, so preventive steps to keep your bowel movements regular should be taken.
Medications That Cause Constipation
A frequently over-looked cause of constipation is medications. Constipation can also be caused by the very medications taken to treat it like laxatives. Americans spend more than $700 million on these constipation treatments annually, but just like some other over-the-counter and prescribed medications, laxatives can become habit-forming. Taking them too often may cause your digestive system to become too dependent on them.
The most common offending medications include:
- Narcotic pain medications like codeine (Tylenol 3), oxycodone (Percocet), and hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep) and imipramine (Tofranil)
- Anticonvulsants like phenytoin (Dilantin) and carbamazepine (Tegretol)
- Iron supplements
- Calcium channel blocking drugs (CCBs) such as diltiazem (Cardizem) and nifedipine(Procardia)
- Aluminum-containing antacids such as aluminum hydroxide suspension (Amphojel) and aluminum carbonate (Basaljel)
In addition to the medications listed above, there are many others that can cause constipation. Simple measures for treating the constipation (for example, increasing dietary fiber which I will go into below) caused by medications often are effective, and discontinuing the medication may not be not necessary.
Best Tips To End Constipation
Drink More Water
The intestinal system needs to be well lubricated in order to function properly, and promote a healthy time between bowel movements. The more dehydrated you become, the more difficult it becomes to have a proper and regular bowel movement.
Unfortunately, much of the water we drink is not super beneficial, as tap water contains toxins that contribute to improper bowel movements, distilled and reverse osmosis water lacks the minerals for proper hydration, and bottled water is "dead" and contains xenoestrogens from BPA that complicates proper digestion.
For the best results in ending constipation, use an approved spring for water so you have access to naturally mineralized and highly oxygenated water with the least amount of toxins as possible. A good secondary option is a good filtration system that puts minerals back in the water you filter, or you can simply add them back in through a good sea salt.
Eat More Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is a powerful fermented food with a wide variety of benefits, including the promotion of healthy and regular bowel movements. Due to its massive array of probiotics, enzymes, and nutrients, it tends to break down and soften impacted fecal matter, which improves transit time through your intestinal system. These nutrients will also lower inflammation and hydrate the intestinal system effectively, another barrier in swifter bowel movements.
For best results, choose sauerkraut that is unpasteurized which will deliver more enzymes and probiotics.
Sip Some Coffee
Many people love their morning coffee, but it does more than just help you perk up. Caffeine is a natural stimulant for the digestive system, so indulging in a cup will help get you up and running in more ways than one. Just 1 to 2 cups is enough, but make sure you don’t overdo it, as too much can actually have the opposite effect. Coffee is also a diuretic and makes you urinate more frequently, that is why if you drink it an excess, it can cause constipation by dehydrating your body and drawing out water that would normally soften your stool. If you need more coffee to stay awake, you should also drink more water along with it. Coconut water is another option as well.
Add Some Aloe
Aloe is known to soothe minor cuts and burns, but it can also soothe your tummy. It’s best to use pure aloe vera gel from the actual plant, as it is more concentrated than commercial aloe juice, and you don’t need to use more than 2 tablespoons. If you can’t find an aloe plant, drinking aloe juice can accomplish similar results.
Try Some Coconut Kefir
Coconut kefir is a fermented beverage that is very healing of the digestive system, and delivers a bounty of probiotics, enzymes and nutrients that are highly bioavailable. Much like sauerkraut, coconut kefir helps improve the health of the intestinal system, and it also provides appropriate lubrication and seeding of the intestinal system so impacted fecal matter can be broken down and removed quickly from the body.
Consistently Consume Probiotics
Probiotics are the good bacteria inside our intestines that promote digestion. Examples of probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Sacchromyces boulardi, and they are available in supplement form and some foods, such as Greek yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, dark chocolate, tempeh, kimchi, algae and Kombucha Tea. Many studies show that probiotics are a very effective "non-drug" cure for constipation. Much like fiber, probiotics are a relatively easy home cure for constipation because they are available in foods that many families already have in the refrigerator.
Use More Lemon
The citric acid in lemon juice acts as a stimulant for your digestive system, and can also help flush out toxins and undigested material that may have built up along the walls of the colon. Mixing the juice with water not only lessens the intensity of the lemon flavor, but also helps you get the fluids you need to get everything moving normally again.
Consume More Healthy Oils
This item gets more than cars running, as pure coconut and olive oil is more than just healthy and tasty fats, they can also help relieve constipation. It’s not surprising when you consider that coconut and olive oil are practically the poster children for home remedies. They stimulate the digestive system which helps get things moving through the colon, so taken regularly they can prevent constipation as well.
Fiber, Fiber, and more Fiber
An overall healthy diet just improves everything, and our bodies know how to process fruits, veggies, grains and roughage more than refined, artificial foods that don’t pass so easily. To get more specific, natural foods tend to contain boatloads of fiber that helps keep thing moving. Fiber is material that cannot be digested, so it acts like a sponge drawing in water from its surroundings. Doing this makes it swell, which softens stool and adds bulk helping it pass through. Like coffee, some kinds of fiber or too much fiber, can contribute to constipation so always drink plenty of water with it. Some good fiber-filled foods include:
- Whole Grain Bread or Pasta
- Cruciferous Vegetables like Broccoli, Cauliflower or Cabbage
- Plums, pears, and apples
- Greens like Spinach, Kale & Collards
Minerals Like Magnesium
Known as the master mineral, adequate magnesium levels are vitally important in order to have proper bowel movements. It is also responsible for proper muscle function, promoting over 800 enzymatic actions, and reducing inflammation which is very important. People who are constipated will typically be suffering from poor enzyme function, and excessive inflammation, but magnesium can help in all those areas. You can find a quality liquid magnesium without any additional sugars, artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives, or you can choose food sources rich in magnesium an you can find those items HERE!
Cha, cha, cha, Chia!
Chia seeds are made up of essential fats, anti-parasitic antioxidants, and a bunch of fiber make them a perfect item to restore a healthy gut. When you are able to nourish the intestinal system with this remarkable superfood, constipation can end rather quickly. Two tablespoons of chia gives you 7 grams of fiber (a remarkable blend of insoluble and soluble fibers at that) and helps sweep and sponge microorganisms and toxins out of the colon, which are often causing you trouble with your bowel movements. A helpful tip is to be sure to soak your chia for premium benefits, as their ability to store 10 times their weight in water helps irrigate the intestinal system as well.
Take a FLAXitive
Flaxseed and the oil is a pretty simple home remedy for constipation. The oil coats the walls of the intestine, and the seeds help move stool, while they both increases the number of bowel movements. Adding the oil to orange juice is a double whammy, since oranges have a good amount of fiber in them, and if you get orange juice with pulp, you will get more fiber.
Baking soda is at the heart of home remedies, because it is so incredibly versatile, and does its job 95% of the time. Baking soda works incredibly well for constipation and tummy aches in general because it is a bicarbonate, that encourages air to come out of you one way or another, to relieve any pain or pressure. It also re-alkalizes the stomach, neutralizing the acid a little bit and helping things pass through your gut.
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup warm water
Mix the teaspoon of baking soda with the warm water, then drink all of the mixture. The quicker you drink it, the better it works.
If you want your food to move through your body, you need to move too! Dietary inadequacies can increase constipation, but we are often sitting much more than we’re active in our daily lives. Getting the body moving helps get the smooth muscle in the colon moving as well. Keep in mind you really should wait an hour after eating big meals before exercising. There are also specific stretches and workouts that are supposed to help with getting good old number 2 out the door.
Making these solutions a core part of your daily habits, as well as cleaning up your diet and environment, reducing stress, and incorporating movement, can help end constipation for good.