Constipation is both uncomfortable and inconvenient. It is a problem for millions of people and something that everyone deals with from time to time. In fact, research shows that 16-20% of Americans deal with frequent or chronic constipation. Constipation is defined as: difficulty emptying the bowels. It is generally associated with hard stools, slower than normal movement of food, and fewer bowels. Even if you don’t deal with it often, it can creep up during times of stress and travel.
Constipation brings with it a slew of symptoms that can impact your entire day: anxiety, bloating, gas, low back pain, and fatigue are commonly associated with constipation. The reality is that no one wants to be constipated; consumers spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on laxatives and prescriptions to treat this issue. While these conventional treatments can help bring relief, they are not without side-effects, and often result in dependency. There are also dangers to abusing laxatives, such as dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, damage to the colon and digestive organs, malnutrition due to passing food too quickly, and in the extreme issues can compound and affect cardiovascular health.
On the bright side, constipation can be treated naturally with lifestyle and dietary support. There are specific foods you will want to eat, and others you will want to avoid.
Foods to include:
High Fiber Foods: Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables will not only supply your body with vital nutrients but will also give your body the fiber its needs for smooth bowel movements. Try to include the following: beans, sweet potatoes, apples, pears, berries, prunes, figs, avocado, chia seeds, flax seeds, broccoli, cooked dark greens, and winter squash. Green leafy vegetables are great to consume daily because along with fiber they contain a substantial amount of magnesium, which can improve constipation. Prunes and figs work as natural laxatives, just use caution to limit dried fruit as it is high in sugar.
Foods to avoid: Fried foods, alcohol (which can lead to dehydration), foods that are high in calories, yet low in nutrients and fiber (think typical American diet), refined flours, processed dairy (lactose intolerance can result in constipation). Pay attention to how you feel after you eat food- listen to your body and determine if the food nourishes you or slows down your digestion.
When it comes to eliminating constipation, be sure to drink more liquid! Did you know that studies show 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated! Dehydration is a major cause of constipation. If you do not typically eat much fiber in your diet, add it in slowly and make sure that you are drinking plenty of fluids. Consuming more fiber, yet not drinking enough can make constipation worse, as your body needs fluids to move the fiber along your digestive tract.
A holistic rule of thumb is to daily drink half your body weight in fluid ounces.
You can also try drinking warm liquid in the morning, such as tea, as warm liquid tends to stimulate digestion.
Mind-Body practices can also help relieve constipation. Being physically active is important, as muscle stimulation helps to move your bowels. When you are constipated, try light exercises such as yoga, walking, swimming, jogging, or dancing. Managing and reducing stress has been shown to help improve digestion. Mindfully relieve stress through yoga, walking, journaling, spending time in nature, and taking time to relax.
Practice Abdominal Massage for Constipation Relief:
One helpful mind-body practice that you can do anytime you are constipated is abdominal massage. Taking the time to do this can help send your body a signal of calm. While you are massaging, be mindful to slow down your breathing (doing a longer exhale stimulates the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system).
When you do this massage, you will be helping to move stool along the inside of your colon.
Use the fingers of both hands to massage in small circles with enough pressure to indent the skin.
Start to the inside of the right hip bone and work your way up the outer edge of your abdomen, working up until just below the rib cage.
Then massage across the abdomen, to the left side, staying just below the rib bones.
Continue to massage down the left side on the outer edge of your abdomen, stopping when you get to the inside of the left hip bone.
Lift your fingers and begin again from the inside of the right hip bone.
Try massaging for 5-10 minutes and see how you feel. You can practice abdominal massage throughout the day. You can make the process more luxurious and soothing by massaging with Edye’s Naturals Organic Face and Body Butter, or Edye’s Naturals Peppermint Skin Repair, depending on your smell preference.
*For more information on how to perform abdominal massage and other tips for constipation relief click here.