Everybody poops, which is why it’s no surprise that constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the United States. At least 2.5 million people see their doctor each year due to constipation, so if you find yourself backed up due to a sluggish digestive system, you aren’t alone.
Constipation is annoying, frustrating and downright uncomfortable, but there are a number of ways to relieve it. Here are nine tips for relieving constipation.
What causes constipation?
Before we cover tips for easing constipation, let’s start off with why we get constipated in the first place. Leann Poston M.D., M.B.A., M.Ed. explains, “Constipation is usually a result of decreased motility of the bowel or decreased lubrication and fluids in the stool.”
There are a number of reasons that can cause constipation: changes in routine (hello quarantine), lack of fiber-rich foods, lack of movement and physical activity, stress, travel. Literally almost anything can contribute to constipation, so if you find yourself constipated, try one of these solutions to relieve constipation.
How to relieve constipation
1. Drink coffee
It doesn’t happen to everyone, but for some of the general population, coffee can trigger a laxative effect in the body, which can help alleviate constipation.
Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, General Practitioner, explains further. “Coffee can be a great way to get your body’s functions moving, creating contractions in your colon and intestine muscles, while also acting as an energy boost to help you productively move through your morning.”
Aragona recommends using coffee sparingly though.
“Coffee can also come to be something you rely on, so I would advise keeping it to when you really need it, as opposed to it being part of a daily morning routine.”
2. Eat fiber-rich foods
High-fiber foods like beans, fruits, oatmeal and vegetables can help increase gut mobility, the frequency of bowel movements and can even increase stool volume. Poston says, “[Fiber] holds water in the stool and increases its bulk.”
Poston also recommends eating prunes.
“Prunes have been the standard home remedy for constipation. Besides fiber, they contain sorbitol which seems to have a laxative effect.”
3. Enjoy more high quality fats
High quality fats like those found in avocados, fatty fish, MCT oil and olive oil can all help to relieve constipation, but be careful not to overdo it. Too much fat in the diet can actually cause constipation, so just like everything in life, enjoy quality fats in moderation.
Staying well hydrated is critical for normal bowel function, especially if you are working to consume more fiber. Poston further explains, “Increasing fluids, especially water or sparkling water, will soften stool and make it easier to pass.”
Whether you enjoy that morning mug of tea or stay hydrated throughout the day by carrying around a reusable water bottle, make it a point to drink an adequate amount of water every day. Sip, sip, hooray!
5. Incorporate probiotics
Probiotics are a popular tool to help nourish the gut and keep digestion regular. Probiotics can be found in probiotic-rich foods like fermented foods and yogurt, but you can also supplement with a trusted brand of probiotics.
6. Make time for movement
Inactivity can lead to constipation, especially if you have suddenly experienced a disruption in your usual exercise routine. Increasing activity can speed up digestive transit time, so complete an at-home workout, go for a walk, hit the gym or sign up for a studio class, but whatever you decide to do, find a way to move every single day.
7. Stick to a sleep schedule
Going to sleep at the same time every night can help maintain regularity. Just like changes in our activity or diets can affect digestion, so can our sleep schedule. Our circadian rhythm controls not just our sleep/wake cycle, but also our digestion. If you find yourself constipated, try sticking to a solid sleep schedule.
8. Stress less
When our cortisol and stress levels are high, our bodies perceive danger, which can send us into fight or flight response. Unnecessary systems, like digestive and reproductive systems can suffer (hello hormonal imbalances) as our bodies prepare to either fight off danger or run away. By reducing cortisol and stress levels, we allow our bodies to release their clench (literally) on our digestive systems, so if you are constipated, find a way to calm down and relax. Speaking of relaxing…
9. Take a magnesium supplement
Magnesium is a miracle mineral that can help to ease constipation (magnesium citrate) and help reduce stress and help you relax (magnesium glycinate). I have taken both forms and can vouch for the amazing effects of each. For me, magnesium glycinate is a lot easier on my system than magnesium citrate.
If you don’t want to add another supplement to your shopping list, eat more magnesium-rich foods like avocados, bananas, nuts and seeds. Or, take an epsom salt bath.
The next time you feel a little backed up, try one of these tips to relieve constipation. Your body will thank you!