Author: Taylor Bathel
In the words of Tarō Gomi, “everyone poops.” But, what if you can’t?
Stop blushing, #NoomNerds. Functional constipation (meaning your back-up is not caused by an underlying medical condition or disease) is common and usually harmless. Still, the symptoms can seriously impact your day: bloating, fullness, cramping, nausea, fatigue, yuck. So, we’re goin’ there! Check out these evidence-based tips for better, more regular digestion.
Constipation can be caused by a lack of water in your stools. Why? Water softens things and soft things move easier. Your stool could lack water because your intestines absorb too much water in digestion, or you’re not drinking enough in the first place. Check out the recommendations, monitor your water intake, and consider increasing! Like carbonated water? Studies show that carbonated water can be even more effective in preventing constipation.
The bulk in fiber helps move food through your digestive system and prevent constipation. Consider increasing your fiber and/or working your way up to the recommended amount. Beware: increasing fiber too much and too soon can cause constipation. So, be sure to increase fiber slowly, and simultaneously increase you water to balance all that bulk!
Grandma was right: prunes can keep you regular. The mighty prune’s defining features are high levels of fiber and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol. Sorbitol isn’t always absorbed (this is normal and safe) and therefore can have a light laxative effect. Prune juice can work in the same way due to sorbitol, though the fiber isn’t present. Try a serving a day of either!
Your gut thrives when the good and bad bacteria are balanced, and a happy gut prevents and treats constipation. Probiotics are live microorganisms that help create a happy, balanced gut. Probiotics can be found naturally in fermented foods (i.e. yogurt, miso, sauerkraut), or you can experiment with an over-the-counter daily supplement.
For a quick fix, many people successfully turn to caffeinated coffee. The caffeine in coffee stimulates your colon, making most people go. The stimulation from coffee is similar to that of a meal and 60% stronger than plain water. While you shouldn’t have to rely on coffee as a daily stimulant, every now and then it just may help.
Magnesium can increase the amount of water in the intestines, creating a gentle laxative effect. Increasing magnesium-rich foods (like almonds, spinach, and dark chocolate), or seeking your doctor’s approval to supplement daily with magnesium could help. Since magnesium does draw water from your body, be sure to stay hydrated when supplementing!
7. Stress Management
Your gut and brain talk to each other on a biological level. When you feel stressed, a series of chemical and hormonal changes can result in intestinal spasms. Depending on where those spasms are, you can experience diarrhea or constipation. Chronic stress intensifies this. Try creating a self-care or stress management routine to reap the bathroom benefit and more!
The colon responds to activity by contracting, so exercise is thought to help keep your digestive system moving. If you’ve been rather sedentary, consider adding some walks or gentle aerobics to your day. Although, if you’re already an active person (go you!), then unfortunately, increasing your exercise may not have much benefit for your bowels.
Supplements are the more abrupt approach. Two main classes of laxative supplements are stimulant and osmotics. Stimulants (i.e. Dulcolax) cause muscle contractions in your colon, while osmotics (i.e. Miralax, also known as stool softeners, increase the water in your stool. These should only be used occasionally – overuse can cause dependency, which will overall worsen your condition.
10. Keep track
As with anything, #NoomNerds, get curious about your body. Keep a diary for a week to see if any patterns appear. Perhaps a certain food triggers constipation, or maybe it’s related to your sleep patterns. The more you know, the better you can heal.
Tried all of these and more with no success? A visit to your doctor gastroenterologist could provide the unique analysis you need to start feeling your best again!