Constipation can make you feel tired, heavy, crampy, bloated, gassy and/or cranky. And why shouldn't it? You have days' worth of waste sitting in your intestines going nowhere fast. Every day that goes by, your waste gets more compacted, making you feel worse. When it finally does decide to take the plunge, it comes out in hard, tiny balls that can feel like they're covered with thorns. Those "thorns" are the tiny tears they're creating around your bum hole. Nice, huh?
While you may have an underlying medical issue that should be discussed with your doctor, more often it is directly related to your diet. SURPRISE! Here are 7 things you can do to get things moving again:
- Drink more non-caffeinated fluids. Water is best, but if you tire of it, try adding a splash of 100% fruit juice to it. Just to keep up with your daily fluid requirements, you should take your body weight, divide it in half and that's how many ounces of fluids you should consume...just to keep up. If you're already constipated, drink more until things loosen up a bit. NO CAFFEINE! Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it pulls moisture from your body. When your constipated, you need all the moisture you can get.
- Eat your veggies and fruit! The two most important things you need when you're constipated are fluids and fiber. Veggies and fruits have both, especially when you keep the skins on. Eat them with every meal and between meals. Dried fruits (apricots, prunes, figs, dates, mangoes) are high in fiber, too, so try them for a change from the norm.
- Eat more whole grains and chew them well. Brown rice and other whole grains contain naturally-occurring bran, which is fiber. As with all food, chewing is a critical part of digestion and should be something you strive to do more often. Our saliva contains enzymes that start breaking the food down before we swallow so our digestive tract doesn't have to work so hard. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce and the smaller the food particles become. Practice chewing more than what you think feels normal.
- Lay off the dairy. Dairy is binding. It's thick and gunky. Cheese, milk, sour cream, etc. can make your constipation worse, so try eliminating it from your diet, at least until your constipation clears up.
- Limit your protein intake, particularly animal protein. Protein takes a while for your body to digest, especially of the animal type. When you're constipated, you want to give your intestines a break. When you start pooping softer poops, you can try adding small amounts of protein back into your diet.
- Limit your white flour and sugar intake. White flour is void of any bran (fiber) and like dairy, is gunky. When you get flour wet, it makes a paste. It does the same thing in your intestines. It's also digested like sugar. Sugars are inflammatory to your intestines and the last thing you want is to increase the inflammation (swelling) in your intestines.
- Get moving. A brisk walk does wonders, especially in the morning. Not only does it invigorate your muscles and brain, but the contractions in your intestines that push your waste down and out.
One note: if you're consuming lots of salads, fruits and juices already and still feel constipated, you may actually suffer from a different type of constipation that is triggered by an expanded large intestine (a contracted large intestine causes the most common form of constipation that is discussed above). Try prune juice and brown rice, and decrease your intake of raw foods and other juices.
Some of you may wonder about laxatives or enemas. While there are "natural" laxatives you can buy, I always recommend changing your diet first. You don't want to rely on laxatives every time you get blocked up. Instead of simply treating the symptom, you want to address the underlying cause of your constipation.
As far as enemas go, they too can become habit forming and actually weaken the large intestine's normal contractions. As they wash out the waste, they also wash out your beneficial flora that is basically your immune system. While probiotics can replenish your flora, it takes time to replenish. Try changing your diet first, then talk with your doctor.
Once you've tried the above recommendations, you should start seeing softer, more regular poops. If not, I advise you seek medical attention. Chronic constipation isn't something you should live with and can actually cause long-term health issues, especially with your colon.
Here's to a good poop!