One of the first things you should do is to consume more fiber. Dietary fibers are good for digestion and can relieve constipation. High-fiber foods such as raspberries, almonds and bananas are good, quick choices.
Dehydration can be a cause of constipation. Therefore, adequate water intake can counteract it. Functional medicine doctor Wendie Trubow, M.D. says that one easy way to determine how many ounces worth of water a day you need is to convert your weight into kilograms. The number that comes up will be the baseline you need. If you're a very active person, consider drinking even more than that for extra security against dehydration and constipation.
Yoga, guided meditation, deep breathing exercises and any other way to help the body relax can work wonders for the gut. Many stressors found in modern life can negatively affect not just the digestive system, but many other parts of the body as well. Trubow states that when you're stressed, your body's sympathetic fight-or-flight response gets activated and it usually inhibits defecation. Put on those headphones and listen to some calming music while doing a deep breathing exercise, and you may be visiting the bathroom for some wonderful relief soon after.
Whether it's jogging, cycling or going for a weekend hike, cardiovascular exercise can increase metabolism. An increased metabolism also increases intestinal motility or the intestinal contractions that allow you to poop. Dr. Marvin Singh, an integrative gastroenterologist, says that exercise can help cultivate a strong and diverse gut microbiome and so regular physical activity can aid in both digestion and overall health.
Psyllium husk is a soluble fiber derived from the seed husks of the Plantago ovata plant. A study conducted by the journal Gut was able to show that consumption of psyllium husk helped regularize bowel movements. Your local natural health store should have some psyllium husk, either in natural or powdered form. Take it between meals to promote bowel movement. (Related: Psyllium husk - Promote weight loss and cleanse your colon.)
Oils have long been used as a natural laxative. MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil is particularly effective because it contains isolated fatty acids that are more easily digested by the body. Trubow recommends one-half to one teaspoon of MCT oil to aid constipation.
Grab a few books or a low stool and use it for your feet the next time you're sitting on the toilet. The squatting position creates a more anatomically sound alignment for your body, allowing for easier bowel movements. "Remember, before we had toilets, we used to squat down to defecate," says Trubow.
Health practitioners consider magnesium an osmotic, meaning it helps pull liquid into the colon, which can relieve constipation. Having a meal with some high-magnesium foods like spinach, kale, salmon, tuna or chlorella can regulate bowel movements.
Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal remedy. The name literally translates to "three fruits" and consists of an herbal blend of amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki. Unfortunately, those three fruits are native to the Indian subcontinent. A local Indian food or herbal store might have what you need. A natural health store may also sell triphala in capsule form, which can be taken two times daily before eating, according to Singh.
While researchers are currently unsure how it works, a survey conducted by researchers from the Royal Hallamshire Hospital showed that coffee often induces bowel movement. More research needs to be done on what makes coffee a laxative, but in the meantime, if your stomach isn't cooperating with you, grab a steaming cup of coffee.
A study conducted by the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics found that flaxseeds, or linseeds, have a positive effect on irritable bowel syndrome and may be able to provide relief from constipation. Flaxseed tea may make a difference as, according to Singh, "a nice, mild stool softener."
Trubow states that massaging the lower abdomen area may stimulate digestion and improve constipation symptoms. If you're desperate for relief, a study conducted by the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that massaging the perineal area can improve bowel function.
One of these 12 steps or a combination of several of them may be able to relieve constipation. However, if symptoms persist, visiting a nearby natural health practitioner is key, as they can provide more alternatives to regularize bowel movements. Whatever the case, once you find relief, remember to lessen your stress and eat a more balanced, fiber-rich diet in order to keep constipation at bay.