Banishing Constipation for Good (Skin, That Is)

Our last post was all about pooping. Guess what? This post is not about pooping—it’s about not pooping! We’re really into bowel movements this month, because bowel movements are important. They should be normal part of daily life—something you’re not embarrassed to do or to talk about. Constipation increases skin blemishes and belly-bloat and generally makes you uncomfortable, and who feels attractive when they’re uncomfortable? So you should probably figure out what causes constipation and how to fix it, right?

First off, the textbook definition of constipation is less than three bowel movements a week. And you’re probably constipated if you have hard stools or need to strain more than 25% of the times you go. But one thing we learn to appreciate as integrative practitioners, everyone is different. Some people eliminate 1-3 times a day, so eliminating only three times in a given week is likely to make them feel pretty backed-up. Others go every other day, which is okay, too.

Constipation affects women three times more often than men, in part because women’s intestines are longer and curvier. But there are also cultural factors at play. Bowel movements are considered more taboo for women, so women are more apt to hold their poo rather than go when they need to. (To understand why this is so dangerous, check out our last post. LINK)  Pregnancy, changes in routine, stress and certain medicines and supplements (antidepressants and iron pills, hello!) can all be culprits.

You know how “drink good water” is a mantra around here? Well…

The number one cause of constipation is dehydration. If you exercise or sweat regularly, you should be drinking an ounce of water each day for every pound of your body weight. A standard disposable water bottle is 16 ounces, and a Nalgene re-useable water bottle is 32 ounces. So a 120 pound person would need to drink between three and four Nalgene bottles each day.

It seems like a lot, doesn’t it? But our bodies are up to 65% water, and replenishing that water is the best way to keep things flowing. If you make a habit out drinking a glass of water right after waking up, you’re already on your way to a smoother day.

Our diets are the second most important factor in preventing constipation. Veggies (three a day), fruits (two a day) and whole grains should do the trick. But if you’re eating lots of those foods—which contain insoluble fibers—and still having abdominal pain and gas, you may need to supplement with a non-fermentable, soluble fiber, such as psyllium husks. Probiotics and cutting back on dairy, meat and processed food should also help. And try a magnesium supplement. Magnesium helps everything relax, so in addition to constipation, it tackles headaches and muscle aches.

Don’t skip meals. Eating stimulates the digestive reflex, so if you’re only eating once or twice daily, things are bound to get sluggish. It’s a good idea to eat soon after you wake up, because we often have bowel movements within an hour after the first meal of the day. So if you get started early, you’re likely to still be at home—which, for many people, is a more comfortable place to go.

Try meditation, yoga or exercise.If you’re stressed, your muscles are probably tense. That’s bad news for your intestines, which are moved by muscles. 

Prune juice can be your best friend. It contains a mild laxative, to unblock things gently rather than urgently. Hot drinks like tea also encourage elimination, and caffeinated coffee is even better. But don’t forget that coffee dehydrates you, so you’ll need extra water to compensate.

There are also a few things you can do while you’re actually in the bathroom.

Have you heard of the Squatty Potty? It’s a stool that fits around the bottom of your toilet, to elevate your feet and give you better toilet “posture.” Basically it straightens your colon and allows gravity to work in your favor. You can find the Squatty Potty at Walmart, Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Amazon, etc. But if you already have a stool, that works too. The general idea is simply to get your knees above your hips.

 If it’s not coming, don’t strain. Straining may cause hemorrhoids—inflamed veins in your rectum and anus that cause pain and bleeding. After a few unproductive minutes, get off the toilet! Go for a brisk stroll around the block, grab a cup of coffee, and try again later.

If you need a laxative that’s stronger than prune juice, we recommend CleanseMore, which is natural and effective. LINK https://www.renewlife.com/cleanse-more.html And if you’ve been backed-up for awhile, maybe make an appointment with your internist?

Finally, if you’re interested in owning the cleanest bum in town, check out Tushy. (Link- tushy.me) Good post-poo hygiene helps prevent yeast and urinary tract infections, as well as other not-very-fun issues like anal tears and hemorrhoids. Use the code EMTUSHY for 10% off, and happy pooping!

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Posted in: Elizabeth Adams MD, Food Wisdom, Hydration, Skin Health

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