As a Functional Nutritional Therapist, one of the most common digestive complaints I hear from my patients is that they suffer from chronic constipation. They aren’t alone. In the U.S, we spend billions of dollars on over-the-counter and pharmaceutical digestive aids. Nowhere is this epidemic as noticeable as inside any “big chain” drugstore. At my local pharmacy, for example, the laxative department is one of the largest single-condition sections in the entire store.
Constipation affects your quality of life, causes stress, and diminishes your overall sense of well-being. But instead of treating constipation with expensive pharmaceutical aids, there are lots of natural ways to treat (and avoid) constipation. Read on to learn my recommendations on how to help with constipation naturally, the best way to prevent constipation, and anti-constipation home remedies.
Let’s understand what I mean when I say constipation:
First of all, it helps to understand what I mean when I talk about being constipated. Some signs and symptoms of constipation include:
- Less than 1 bowel movement per day (you should have at a minimum, seven bowel movements per week)
- Bowel movements that are difficult to pass at least 25% of the time
- Bowel movements that are dry and/or hard at least 25% of the time
- Bowel movements that require assistance at least 25% of the time
What causes constipation?
While constipation can be caused by a lot of different factors, some of the more common causes are not eating enough of the right foods, a change in routine, or stress, which can play a huge role in your gut health. Also, not having enough digestive enzymes, stomach acid or bile (from the gallblader) can slow down the gut and cause constipation. (There is a correlation between long term acid-blocker use and chronic constipation).
What are some of the consequences of being constipated?
If you suffer from chronic constipation, you may want to consider a stool test to rule out dysbiosis (an imbalance in gut flora). You could also ask your doctor to test for yeast overgrowth, candida, parasites or pathogenic bacteria, which are all major causes of constipation.
Being chronically constipated can predispose you to a variety of major colorectal disorders, starting with enlarged hemorrhoids and even colorectal cancer. The reasons aren‘t difficult to understand—your colon was designed by nature to hold a few pounds of feces in transit. When a person gets constipated, the colon may be holding 10, 20 or more pounds! The weight itself isn‘t the problem, but the volume is—large, heavy stools can enlarge and stretch out the colon, irritate the colon mucosa, harm the anal canal, and may produce toxins related to fermentation and rotting.
Indeed, chronic constipation is one of the symptoms of dysbacteriosis, which is a condition where the normal, intestinal flora is dead and missing. When alive, this flora performs several important functions, from protecting the colon from inflammation-causing pathogens to helping produce essential B-vitamins and vitamin K, which are responsible for blood clotting.
Tips to how to help with constipation:
This is a fairly easy anti-constipation remedy. Being adequately hydrated is vital in preventing and treating constipation. The large intestine’s job is to reabsorb water. If you’re not properly hydrated, this will create a dry stool and a dry large intestine, neither of which are conducive to easy pooping. Aim to drink nine 8-ounce cups of water per day (men need 12.5). This isn’t just a great tip on how to help with constipation; staying hydrated comes with many other health benefits too!
Get enough fiber
On average, Americans eat 10-15 grams of fiber daily. That’s not enough! For optimal gut health, women should try to eat at least 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day, while men should aim for 30 to 38 grams a day. Now your first thought when you think of fiber is bran cereal. But this isn’t always your best option ( In fact, if you are already constipated or drinking enough water, adding dry fiber will only make the situation worse)!
Instead, remember that fiber comes in many forms, including most fruits and vegetables. We all know that eating lots of fruits and veggies has so many benefits, and helping you stay regular is definitely one of them! Aim to eat 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. This is one of the best ways to prevent constipation!
If you don’t think you are getting enough fruits and vegetables in your daily diet, I recommend making a smoothie and adding frozen veggies (I especially love adding pumpkin puree or avocado chunks). I also make a great “constipation slaw” that utilizes green apple, jicama, cabbage, celery, cucumber, and cilantro.
Add in healthy fats
Good, healthy fats help lubricate the GI tract and stimulate movement of the intestine. Folks on low-fat diets are often chronically constipated, despite all of the fiber and protein that they are eating. So don’t be afraid of fat, and make sure to include some healthy fats with each diet.
Good sources of healthy fats are good quality EVOO, avocado, pastured butter, ghee, lard, and tallow (a rendered form of beef or mutton fat).
Eat fermented foods
Eating fermented foods is a great tip to prevent constipation because fermented foods contain probiotics, which are loaded with certain strains of good bacteria and yeast. Eating these foods helps balance good and bad bacteria in your intestinal tract and help prevent and treat constipation. Some of my favorite fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, and kefir. I recommend at least one serving a day.
Eating slowly and chewing your food longer helps breaks food down, which helps improve digestion. In addition, slowing down when you eat puts you into parasympathetic mode, better known as “Rest and Digest” mode. So, chewing your food slowly and carefully helps balance your nervous system and improve digestion.
Exercise and moving regularly have so many benefits, including helping to keep your bowel movements regular. If you are constipated, try some gentle yoga moves, twists, and stretches. A walk around the block will also help things move along.
Try the Squatty Potty
This is my favorite recommendation on how to help with constipation! The best pooping position is a squat, and a squatty potty raises your feet, helping to get your body in the best position possible to poop. Many people call it a game changer! You can buy an official squatty potty or you can also try putting a tall basket under your feet for the same effect.
Add in these 2 Supplements:
Magnesium is my favorite supplement for chronic constipation. It’s gentle, inexpensive, and has a lot of other benefits associated with it (i.e.helps with muscle relaxation, sleep, lowers blood pressure, and blood sugar balancing). I typically recommend 300–400 mg before bedtime.
Buffered Vitamin C
At high doses, vitamin C has a laxative effect. This is because the vitamin increases gastric motility, which is to say that it speeds up the digestive process. Taking both magnesium and vitamin C together can do wonders in helping to stimulate a bowel movement. I recommend working with a health practitioner like myself to learn the best dosing.
Feel free to check out my website, Redeeming Wellness, for more tips on how to improve your health and wellbeing. You can also get my free E-book for additional lifestyle and nutritional advice at www.agelessbeauty.life.
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