Constipation is actually more common that you think. Just look around: fiber-enriched foods and supplements abound supermarket aisles, and fitness experts have added it to some of the health problems you can easily prevent with an active lifestyle. While constipation, or difficult and less frequent bowel movements, is more of a symptom than a condition, its occurrence is also caused by ineffective lifestyle choices and poor nutrition. It is a problem that can affect anyone of any age, but is more common among babies, the elderly and women.
How do you know you’re constipated? Medical experts agree that normal bowel movements range from about one to three times in a day, to approximately three or more bouts in a week. Besides frequency, there’s that unpleasant sensation in your gut – most people characterize it as fullness, bloating, gassiness, and a dull pain.
Here’s an analogy to help you understand why constipation should be addressed: Think of your body as the house you live in, and your large intestines are your waste bins. Throughout the day, stuff in your home gets thrown into the waste bin because 1) it is not needed nor is it useful and 2) it could pollute or harm your home. So, you take out the trash regularly (daily, in fact) to keep your home waste and harm-free. But the garbage collector doesn’t come to collect and the trash piles up higher and higher until your home is left with a big heap of mess that you can’t live in. In short, your body functions poorly when you can’t eliminate wastes effectively. Waste build-up also leads to heightened amounts of toxins which can cause infections and diseases in the body.
Feel lighter, be healthier, and cut waste build-up out of the equation with these simple lifestyle and nutrition choices:
Hydrate and rehydrate.
Water is probably the only thing that you can have too much of and still benefit from. If you drink too much water, your body simply eliminates it as pee. Your body requires 1 and a half up to about 2 liters of water (among other fluids) everyday. It aids in digestion, keeps cells functioning in tip top shape, and flushes out toxins and makes stool soft enough to travel down the intestines. Not all fluids help rehydrate you. In fact, a lot of fluids cause bloating and dehydration. Alcohol, tea and coffee are some of this, but also be wary of overly salty soups.
Make “fiberlicious” meals.
Start with whole wheat, high-fiber cereals or bread in the morning. Oats and bran works fantastically, too. Befriend vegetables and fruits and make them part of your meals, especially the ones that are high-fiber. Carrots, cucumbers, celery, brown rice, and green leafy vegetables are great. Whole grain products are richer in fiber than refined grains.
Chew your food slowly.
This makes the digestive process easier since the food softer and mushier as it travels down within the body, but taking your time while eating also prevents a sudden pile-up in your stomach. Remember, if it piles up too quickly, the digestive system becomes overworked, and this can cause constipation.
Cook your own meals.
You know exactly what’s in your meal, and you save a lot of time and money. But more importantly, you steer clear of fast food and packaged foods which are typically high in animal fat, low in fiber and have heaps of artificial additives (that contribute to toxin build-up).
Don’t miss meals, or going.
Missing meals turns your intestines into turmoil, especially if they are already used to a dietary regimen. For example, if you are used to three adequately spaced meals and doing your thing in the morning, missing a meal gives your intestines less food to digest, and therefore less bulk to pass. Research shows that you can definitely train your bowels. If you find yourself wanting to go in the morning, make it a habit to sit on the toilet every morning, even on those days when you don’t feel like.
If you can’t afford to squeeze gym work or cardio into your busy lifestyle, take all the opportunities to walk. Take the stairs, walk to work. Take a stroll after lunch. Do jumping jacks in between meetings at work. The exercise helps regulate the movement of the intestines and energizes them, so waste material moves down faster and more smoothly.
Review your medication use.
A lot of over-the-counter and even prescription medications cause more water to be absorbed from the colon, resulting in dry and hard stools that are hard to pass. If you experience frequent constipation, ask your doctor about any pills and drugs you are taking and check to see if any of them are behind the constipation. Diuretics, calcium blockers, antacids, and iron supplements are just some of the medications with a red flag up.
Give in to the urge.
When you need to go, go. Don’t postpone the need to sit on the toilet and let it out. The longer stool stays in the intestines, the more water is absorbed from it. Thus, the stools turn out hard and difficult to pass.
Anxiety causes a lot of muscle tension, and the intestines are muscles, too. Uptight intestines slow down the movement of waste, and the slower it is, the harder it becomes. Do something to relax you. Ever notice how it’s harder to sit and do your thing when you’re thinking about your meeting with the big boss in a few hours?
Just as you take a bath every day, it’s highly recommended that you give your intestines a little bit of cleaning help, too. There are a lot of detoxifying diets out there, but you don’t have to follow a strict regimen. Try a cup of hot water with a little bit of honey and a squeeze of lemon in the morning.
Skinny Mom Fact: For all of you believers that if you don’t have one bowel movement a day, it’s abnormal, think again, the truth is that less than 50% of people have one bowel movement a day.