Most of us experience occasional irregularity, and while it’s not normal to be constipated, it’s nothing to worry about—unless it’s prolonged or it happens regularly. Take a look at our seven tips for keeping things moving along nicely.
Know how often you should be going, and don’t ignore the urge.
Some doctors will tell you that a few bowel movements a week are OK. That’s not true. Ideally, you should be having a bowel movement after every meal, but few people are that fortunate. We shoot for at least one a day with our patients.
Women tend to ignore the urge more than men do, and sometimes going to the bathroom isn’t convenient or possible. However, the more you ignore the urge, the more feces build up in your system. When nature calls, answer! Everyone goes, so everyone should understand when you need to. You also risk your bowel becoming lazy and not signaling you to go as often as it should.
If you can’t go to the bathroom during certain times of day, you may be able to train yourself to go at other times, such as when you know you’ll be home. To train your colon, pick a time you can be consistent with, and sit on the toilet for several minutes. After a meal is a good time, as your body naturally wants to go then. After a while, your body will associate those times with defecation and do its thing.
Drink plenty of water.
Water keeps your system lubricated and things moving as they should. Dehydration makes constipation worse. Drink at least eight glasses a day, more if you’re overweight. The ideal amount is ½ oz. for every pound you weigh, so take your weight and divide by 2.
Get more fiber.
Most fruits and vegetables work, but especially bananas, rhubarb, pears, broccoli, raisins, and prunes. Any food with fiber fits the bill, and beans are another good food. If you don’t eat many fruits and veggies, now is a good time to start! Or you can use the stool softeners and colon stimulants below.
Watch refined foods.
Foods from a box typically have the fiber processed out, so reduce or eliminate those. Cookies, candy, and chips don’t have any fiber, so those won’t help you eliminate, and they might slow the process.
Try some natural stimulants and stool softeners.
Psyllium husk, senna, coconut oil, and milk of magnesia are good for stimulating the bowels and softening the stools. And they’re much easier on your system than regular laxatives.
Move, move, move.
When you exercise, every part of your body feels the stimulation, even your digestive tract. Walk the dog, go swimming, or try a new activity. You may be surprised at the urge you have afterward.
Visit a massage therapist for some abdominal massage. Beware—it can work very quickly! Even a couple sessions a month can help you retrain your bowel if it has gotten lazy.
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