Did you know that there isn’t an exact number of bowel movements to have in a day? While two BMs per day maybe normal for one person, one BM maybe normal for you.
But if you’re finding yourself going to the bathroom less and less all of a sudden, often backed up for days, that’s when you should listen up and take action.
Constipation can be due to a number of factors, from stress to poor ability to digest food (causing it to sit stagnant in the intestines) to infections and even heavy metal toxicity.
It’s important to get regular stool testing done to understand what may be causing your constipation, but in the meantime, there are many at home remedies you can implement to help support digestion and help move things along.
1. Give yourself an abdominal massage
Giving yourself a gentle abdominal massage can help move things along and relieve any blockages.
With your forefinger and middle finger, massage your abdominal area in a clockwise motion to stimulate muscle contractions and break up matter that may be stuck in the intestines.
You can also do this when you feel a stomachache or bloating; you should feel relief pretty quickly.
It also helps to take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth during this process. Implement this routine regularly for the greatest benefits.
2. Consume more high-fiber foods
Do you know if you’re getting enough fiber in your diet? Just like fat, it used to be that fiber was looked down on as something we should minimize, but especially for those suffering from constipation, fiber can be incredibly helpful!
Not only does it act to sweep out stagnant matter, it can also regulate bacteria and detox the colon.
An easy way to address it is to simply add in more fiber. Foods like leafy greens, almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, chia and flax seeds are all high in fiber.
Try adding ground flax or chia seeds to your smoothies or salads and use flaxseed oil as a salad dressing. These are all great and easy ways to up your fiber intake.
As you get started, increase your fiber intake slowly to get your system accustomed to this food group, especially if it’s not a regular part of your diet right now.
If you’re looking for some more high fiber foods, here’re some ideas:
3. Consume probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods
Probiotics are the good bacteria that support your body’s ability to absorb nutrients and fight disease by lining and protecting your digestive tract. The benefits of probiotics are many. Humans are actually made up of 10 times more probiotic cells than human cells!
And prebiotics are like the fertilizer to your probiotics, giving them the food and energy they need to grow and thrive.
We need both in certain amounts in order to have regular bowel movements and keep things moving along in the intestines.
They go hand in hand and can be found in many common foods. Probiotic-rich foods include sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, and other cultured vegetables. Prebiotic-rich foods include jerusalem artichokes, raw asparagus, onions, raw garlic, bananas, and raw jicama.
Take a look at this list of natural probiotics you can try:
If you can make these foods a part of your regular diet, you’ll not only help normalize bowel movement frequency, you’ll also help ward off bad bacteria and increase nutrient absorption.
4. Make magnesium your friend
Supplementing with magnesium citrate can be a good way to stimulate bowel movements naturally too.
If you don’t find that abdominal massages are working or you don’t do well with fiber, try magnesium citrate. This supplement is what’s called an an osmotic laxative, which means it relaxes your bowels and pulls water into your intestines. Water helps soften and bulk up your stool, which makes it easier to pass.
Since everyone reacts differently to different levels of magnesium, I recommend starting off low and slow. Start with a small dose and if you don’t feel any movement after several hours, try upping it the next day until you find an amount you feel good with.
5. Take digestive enzymes to break up stagnant food
We all require enzymes to break down the food in our digestive tract. If our natural production of enzymes is impaired, it can be helpful to supplement with them short-term to stimulate the body to produce more.
Sometimes this alone can be a big improvement for patients with poor digestion capacity, as it not only improves the breakdown of new food, but helps breakdown stagnant food in the intestines too. Especially if you feel food sitting in your body long after a meal, digestive enzymes just might do the trick.
6. Do a gentle yogic twist
Moving the body can be an incredibly easy way to release the intestines and move food along.
Performing a yogic twist is as simple as laying on the floor, pulling your knees towards your chest, twisting the knees to the right side and turning your head to the left. Sit in that position for as long as feels good and then reverse:
This helps to unblock areas of your digestive tract that may be stagnant, stimulating muscle contractions and loosening up the bowel walls.
While in this position, focus on your breath by taking several deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to further promote relaxation. The more you relax your mind and body, the more your digestive tract will relax and release too.
7. Use a squatty potty
Another favorite tool of mine to help with constipation is what’s called a “Squatty Potty”. You can either buy one online or at a store, or simply stack some books or yoga blocks under your feet by the toilet.
Either way, what this does is it helps you mimic a natural squat to properly align your colon for release. Sitting on the toilet the way we do in the modern world actually causes kinks and pressure in the colon, blocking waste from releasing.
By lifting your feet up a few inches, it releases these kinks, allowing waste to flow out normally. Watch this video to find out more about it:
So if you find that when you go to the bathroom that nothing comes out but it feels like it’s ready to, you just might have a kink that could be easily released by doing this.
8. Try a yogic squat
Similar to a yogic twist or Squatty Potty is doing a yogic squat. This, too, mimics a natural squat, getting the body ready for elimination.
Follow the instructions on the video below, and feel free to use the support of a chair or sit on a block if needed:
9. Consider what you’re holding onto or not releasing emotionally
The mind-gut connection is real, my friends, so if there are emotions, anger or negative thoughts that you’re holding in, chances are that’s manifesting itself physically by causing constipation.
Is there something you need to communicate to someone that you’ve held in for awhile? Is there a negative situation in life (work, a relationship) that is toxic and causing you anger or frustration that you should move on from? All of these factors, believe it or not, can impact your digestion.
Try writing out on a piece of paper all of the negative thoughts, worries and things you want to release. Then, take a deep, cleansing breath to release them from your mind. Consider even ripping up or burning that piece of paper to solidify the removal of those from your mind and life.
Picking up a daily meditation practice (even if only for 5 minutes), or learning how to breathe deeper, can help you become more in tune with your thoughts and how your body is feeling.
Find one of these activities that resonates with you and commit to it. Over the course of a few days, weeks or months, notice how releasing these thoughts or things improves your digestion.
10. Increase exercise
As mentioned earlier, movement (especially exercise) has a lot to do with how healthy our digestion is.
When you move your body, it helps to stimulate your lymphatic system, the system that helps your body to remove toxins and maintain a healthy circulation. This directly benefits the digestive tract, keeping it moving.
Exercise also helps with increasing oxygen levels, which can help boost the energy in your colon, believe it or not!
Aim to get 30 minutes of light movement in each day, whether it’s a brisk walk around the neighborhood, a vinyasa yoga class, running, or even a HIIT workout at the gym.
Don’t give yourself any more excuses on not having time to exercise, take a look at this article first:
11. Stay hydrated
A big contributor to constipation is dehydration. So many people today are dehydrated, and this not only can make your mouth feel dry, but it can cause the colon to dry up too!
Picture trying to slide down a dry water slide. You won’t get too far and it’ll be pretty painful along the way, right? The same happens in the colon.
Water not only helps hydrate the colon and speed up elimination, it’s also a key nutrient for the mucosal lining, which supports the small intestine bacteria for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Be sure to take in about 70oz of water per day (about 8 glasses) to stay fully hydrated. To remind yourself to drink enough water, try one of these free water drinking apps. They make it fun and easy to remember to drink enough water each day.
12. Eat or drink figs or prunes for relief
Both figs and prunes are rich in fiber which, as we discussed earlier, is great for digestion!
Figs and prunes, like most fruits and vegetables, have insoluble fiber, which forms a bulky stool that is able to move more quickly through the digestive tract.
You can either eat them in their dried form (10-15 of them), drink prune or fig juice, or soak them in water overnight and drink the water. It may take upwards of 8 hours for prunes or figs to produce a bowel movement, so be patient, but if they do have an effect overtime, that’s a good sign!
If, for whatever reason, you cannot tolerate the taste of prunes or figs, consider mixing the juices with orange juice to boost the flavor. Orange juice is loaded with vitamin C which is another constipation treatment that I’ll cover later.
13. Befriend aloe vera juice
Aloe is beneficial for more than just soothing a sunburn, it also plays an important role in digestion.
Just as it can calm your skin, it can calm the cells in your digestive tract, especially if they’re irritated or inflamed from a poor diet, medication or other damage.
Damage and inflammation can all contribute to constipation as it restricts the pathway for stool to pass through and reduces muscular contractions or even enzyme secretions.
Drink 1/3 cup (2-4 oz) of pure aloe juice (be sure there is no sugar added as these kinds have minimal nutritional value) daily, ideally before a meal.
Good news is, aloe juice is also great if you happen to suffer from diarrhea or general inflammation in the digestive tract.
14. Load up on vitamin C
You may most closely associate vitamin C with immune health, but it can actually help address constipation because of it’s laxative effect.
If you’ve had to take high doses of vitamin C for any other reason, you may have noticed this as a “side effect”. High doses can produce a bowel movement, often in under an hour, so if you really need to get things moving, this can be a quick remedy.
It’s important, however, to speak with your healthcare provider about which type of vitamin C and dosage is appropriate for you.
15. Make probiotics supplements your friends
Did you know that the good bacteria inside of us regulate a lot of the digestion process? So, it would make sense that if your beneficial bacteria are damaged, perhaps due to antibiotic use, that motility will be compromised.
Like probiotic-rich foods, which we talked about earlier, supplementing with probiotics in pill form can be another way to consume them. Look for a probiotic that has several billion probiotics and a wide variety of strains.
Not only can probiotics re-regulate your system to alleviate constipation, it can also stimulate normal enzyme and acid production, both of which can help break down food so it’s not sitting stagnant in the system to putrefy.
16. Soothe your system with slippery elm
Slippery elm has been a digestive remedy for thousands of years, used both to treat constipation and diarrhea. Some go so far as to call it “nature’s laxative”.
Essentially, slippery elm helps to stimulate the nerve endings in the digestive tract, which helps to either speed up or slow down motility.
It’s recommended to pour two cups of boiling water over 2 tbsp of powdered slippery elm bark and steep for three to five minutes. Sip on it and you should soon feel relief.
If you don’t right away, give it another shot for the next few days, as your system may need time to acclimate to its effects.
17. Eat more papaya
Papayas are a great source of the natural enzyme papain, which helps the body to break down protein.
Unripe papaya, in particular, contains the most papain and can be helpful for breaking down protein in the intestines that the body may not be able to fully break down, thus preventing the accumulation of waste resulting in constipation.
Even more, papaya is a great source of insoluble fiber, which figs and prunes also have, and can help bulk up the stool and allow it to move easier in the digestive tract.
Smooth sailing: What’s your constipation remedy plan?
Implementing any one of these tips will begin to aid your body in naturally relieving constipation. Implementing a few of them together can be even more beneficial.
For example, increasing how much water you drink and fiber you consume, along with doing regular abdominal massages and releasing of negative thoughts can be a great combo treatment.
For even faster relief, drinking fig or prune juice or taking high doses of magnesium or vitamin C can be beneficial.
I recommend only doing one of these, not in combination, as they can be potent on their own.
With normal bowel movements, you should experience less bloating, cramping, inflammation, feelings of heaviness, toxicity and low energy, and will improve your long-term health.
Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com