At some point in your life, you have or will suffer from constipation. It is energy depleting and can be painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing. Constipation is a condition of the digestive system that refers to infrequent bowel movements. For some, constipation may refer to hard feces that are extremely difficult to pass. For others, it may refer to the need to strain to have a bowel movement or a sense of incomplete evacuation.
Regardless of the case, constipation STINKS...(no pun intended!)
I've dealt with constipation on and off my entire life. I've been there and I feel your pain. I know what it's like to have doctors tell you "it's all in your head" and recommend laxatives. Then, you become dependent on Miralax, Milk of Magnesia, and Dulcolax, and if you miss one day of your dose, you are doomed! Your friends and family tell you to "eat more fruits and veggies" and to up your fiber intake, when in reality, that's all you eat! You are sick and tired of temporary band-aids that do way more harm than good for your body. You are not alone, my friends, and there are plenty of steps you can take to improve your situation.
Here are some of my top 10 steps to take to get things moving properly through your gut:
1. Drink more water! Did you know that up to 75% of Americans are dehydrated? The problem is so much more prevalent than most of us realize. Water is needed to help the food pass through our small and large intestine, along with the colon and rectum, as it can take up to 24 hours for food to pass from the mouth to the anus. In the intestine alone, one gallon of fluids is absorbed daily to help with digestion. In the colon alone, 5 to 10 pounds of fecal matter can be stored because of dehydration caused by lack of water. Keep drinking AT LEAST 8 glasses of water a day with lemon and throw in some high-quality sea salt.
2. Consume more healthy oils, such as flax oil, avocado oil, or cold-pressed coconut oil (great for the adrenals). I challenge you to eat 1 tablespoon of coconut oil right off the spoon and it can lube your system like a well-tuned motor. You will feel lighter, more energetic, and less bloated. My favorite brand of coconut oil is Nutiva.
3. Increase your fiber intake! Changing your diet to incorporate 50-75% fresh fruits and veggies will change your daily elimination habits, as they add amazing sources of fiber to your diet. When planning your meals, plan your veggies and fruits first, and then add the carbs and protein. Experiment with a new veggie or fruit frequently. Look for local farmers’ markets to buy fresh and local produce. If you already eat tons of fruit and veggies, experiment with adding more flax meal to salads and smoothies!
- Apples, bananas, strawberries, and oranges have around 4 grams of fiber. Don't forget to eat the apple peel...that's where most of the fiber is.
- Dark color vegetables. The darker the color of the veggie, the higher the fiber content. Medium sized artichokes contain a whopping 10 grams of fiber.
- Collard greens and swiss chard have 4 grams of fiber per cup.
- Half a cup of spinach contains 7 grams of fiber.
- Broccoli has 5.1 grams of fiber per cup when boiled.
- Raspberries contain 8 grams of fiber per cup.
- Mangos have 5 grams of fiber.
- Persimmons have 6 grams of fiber.
- Add chia seeds and ground flaxseeds to smoothies, puddings, oatmeal, groats, baked goods, soups, and salads. One tablespoon of chia seeds have 5.5 grams of fiber. Two tablespoons of flaxseeds contains 3.8 grams of fiber & omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Experiment with these amazing natural digestive aids.
5. Drink a green juice with extra lemon, ginger and turmeric to increase bile flow and support your liver which helps in elimination. A great constipation juice remedy is combining 3 stalks of fresh rhubarb (only the stalks, not the leaves!), 1 apple, 1 quarter or peeled lemon, and 1 teaspoon of raw honey into a blender or juicer. The rhubarb stalks contain large amounts of insoluble fiber - the kind we need to keep things flowing!
6. Consume more cultured foods, such as sauerkraut or fermented drinks. Natural fermentation of foods not only preserves nutrients in food and breaks the food down to a more digestible form, but it introduces beneficial bacteria in your digestive system which improves bowel health and aids in digestion. The best part about fermented foods is that you can make them at home very inexpensively. I'll be posting my favorite sauerkraut recipe shortly!
7. If you can pinpoint where you are constipated, place a warm water bottle on your stomach and do circular massages, clockwise.
8. Yoga - Yoga helps revitalize the body, releases stress, lowers blood pressure, increases balance and energy, and improves mood. It increases the flow of blood and oxygen in the system and since most of the postures involve pelvic movement, a yoga practice can improve your digestive system! Instead of turning to a quick-fix laxative that usually comes with painful side effects, try these two yoga positions for constipation and experience relief.
- Child's Pose - This pose relieves constipation pain by pushing on the lower abdomen with the knees. Start by sitting with your knees bent resting on top of your feet. Move from the top of your hips forward, keeping your back straight, and eventually bringing your torso forward so that your shoulders and arms lie outstretched in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds and let the weight of your knees pushing into your lower abdomen provide relief.
- Wind Relieving Pose - Start by lying down on your mat. Make sure your spine and tailbone are rooted comfortably into the ground. Bend the right knee and bring it up towards your right shoulder. Make sure to avoid your ribs and chest. Place your hands on top of one another on top of the bent shin and pull your shin towards your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side to relieve the bloating and painful gas associated with constipation.
9. Magnesium - Magnesium, also known as the relaxation mineral, relaxes the muscles in the intestines which helps to establish a smoother rhythm. It attracts water to help soften those hard stools and makes them easier to pass. Experiment with Natural Calm, a powder that helps restore healthy magnesium levels and balances your calcium intake. Can be bought at many natural foods stores, however best prices are on Amazon or Vitacost.
10. Try out my REFRESH 11 Cleanse/Elimination Diet, where you eat healing natural foods that are easy-to-digest for 11 days. I will guide you day by day and step by step as discover how to find the foods that work for your body and which may be inflaming you. By removing gluten, dairy, soy, processed foods, or added sugars, you will be able to give your gut a break and restore your digestive system. During the last four days, you will slowly re-introduce a "trouble" food (such as grains) and it will become very noticeable if your digestive symptoms reappear.