No one really likes to talk about it…and we often ignore the signs until we start to feel really uncomfortable. It happens while traveling all the time! But, it’s not normal. And now you can relieve constipation naturally (without letting on what’s going on)!
We all know what constipation is, right? If not, it’s when stool gets ‘stuck’ in your colon for a long period of time. The longer it stays stuck, the more likely it is to turn lumpy, hard and dry. And you could have a heck of a time getting it out!
Why You Need to Relieve Constipation
You’d be surprised how many women are constipated and don’t even know it! There are more obvious signs of constipation, like abdominal pain, bloating and even nausea. People with IBS may experience constipation often, too.
The problem is, the longer that stool stays inside, the more likely your chances of disease, like colon cancer. Because the stool is waste and, as it just sits there, toxins are reabsorbed into your body.
So that’s the main reason you need to relieve constipation!
Who Gets It?
About 14-24% of women experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months. As hormones fluctuate each month, so too can your ability to pass a normal stool.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Dehydration is a factor, and women who exercise daily may experience constipation more often than others. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do to relieve constipation.
Eat more Fiber
Ever heard that you should eat more prunes, dates or figs if you want to relieve constipation? That’s because of the fiber these little guys have.
Dietary fiber is a plant-based carbohydrate that humans can’t digest or absorb. We simply don’t have the enzymes in our gut to break down fiber. Instead, it moves its way through you, picking up toxins and waste and ultimately creates the bulk of stool.
Another benefit to this dietary fiber is that it helps feed the good bacteria in your gut.
We can get two kinds of plant-based fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and makes a gel-like consistency. It helps to soften and bulk the stool and is the one that’s very important to relieve constipation.
The other type of fiber – insoluble – holds onto water and helps move things through your gut.
Find soluble fiber in foods like legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Insoluble fiber is in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini and apples.
Psyllium fiber is a soluble non-fermenting fiber from corn husks. It helps soften stools and make them easier to pass.
You should aim for 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Always gradually increase your fiber intake though; otherwise, you could make constipation worse!
Always keep track of how your body feels when you increase your fiber. You know your body best so listen to it…it’ll tell you when enough is enough.
This tip to relieve constipation goes hand in hand with eating more fiber. Fluids help you’re your stool soft and moist. Avoid dehydration to proactively keep your gut health in check, too.
Any hydrating liquid works – soup, watermelon, water, herbal teas, sugar-free juices…
Avoid too much caffeine, though, because over time this can cause dehydration in some women.
If you’re suffering from adrenal dysfunction, it can help improve your body’s absorption of water by adding trace minerals or a pinch of Himalayan rock salt to your water every day.
Don’t Skip Your Probiotics
Probiotics are a lifesaver if you want to relieve constipation!
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They help build up the gut microbiome and ensure a normal transit time of food through the gut. They increase the number of bowel movements you have each week (this is a GOOD thing) and make stool softer.
Sources of probiotic foods are sauerkraut, sugar-free pickles, kimchi, miso, full-fat Greek or coconut milk yogurt, kefir and kombucha.
Always choose a high-quality probiotic from the refrigerated section of the store. More CFU isn’t always better – too much can make you sick. Aim for 10-25 billion CFU and a variety of probiotic strains. A great time to take your probiotic is right before bed so they can do their job!
Exercise and Stress
I admit that, the more I move, the more regular I am. Exercise is a great way to help relieve constipation. In fact, any type of movement you enjoy is helpful. And all you need is 30 minutes a day.
Remember that stress affects your digestive system too. There’s this pretty cool connection called the “gut-brain” axis. Ever felt butterflies or like you need to find a bathroom quickly when you’re nervous? That’s this amazing little connection working.
Stress impacts this connection and can cause constipation. Help relieve constipation by practicing your daily stress management activities (exercise is one type – bonus – just remember too much can cause dehydration), meditate, stretch or do deep breathing.
Okay, I know this isn’t everyone’s favorite topic but, honestly, I now find this all fascinating! Your stool can tell you SO MUCH about what’s going on in your body so it’s something you should pay attention to.
Always make sure you go to the bathroom when your body tells you to. Holding it in can lead to constipation, too. It’s like a little self-conscious trigger for your bowels. They stop telling you when you need to go.
Be careful with certain medications – many, like NSAIDS, can cause horrible constipation. Always drink tons of water on those drugs.
It’s also possible for you to be constipated and still have a daily bowel movement. This is transit time issue and can cause the same health risks over time if not fixed.
Do this simple test to find out your transit time: Eat 1 cup of cooked or raw beets at a single meal. Wait until your stool comes out bright red (don’t be alarmed). See how long that took. If it’s 18-24 hours, that’s pretty normal. If it’s longer, you should use the tips above to help improve that time.