What are Constipation and its Symptoms?Normal, healthy evacuation occurs once or twice a day. When you’re constipated, your stool is hard, small, difficult to pass, or even painful to pass. On top of that, you often feel abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, rectal discomfort, malaise, and as if you haven’t completely evacuated your bowels.
Causes of ConstipationWhat’s causing your constipation? It could be one or several things. Truth is, constipation can stem from your diet, lifestyle, genes, or medication. Here are the most common causes of constipation:
- Poor Diet: Too much high-fat meats, dairy products, eggs, refined sugars, and processed foods. Too little water and dietary fiber.
- Food Allergies: Food allergies have a direct effect on your digestive system. Lactose and gluten are the most common food allergies that lead to inflammation and, in turn, digestive problems. But even if you don’t have any food allergies, just eating too much dairy and gluten can cause constipation.
- Lack of Exercise/Movement: A sedentary lifestyle negatively impacts nearly all of your body’s systems. Prolonged sitting on a regular basis, lack of exercise, and a general lack of movement lowers your body’s metabolism, leading to constipation.
- Depression and Anxiety: Depression and anxiety slow down your metabolism on their own. On top of that, their symptoms are also causes of constipation (poor diet, lack of exercise).
- Effects of Medications: A handful of popular prescription drugs can cause constipation, such as antidepressants, painkillers that contain codeine, diuretics (prescribed for hypertension and heart disease), and antiparkinson drugs.
- Hypothyroidism: Your thyroid is the master control of your metabolism. When it’s not functioning well, everything slows down in your gut.
- Laxative Dependency: Laxatives are not meant to be taken regularly. Doing so can cause your body to depend on taking them to move its bowels. All the while, you are failing to address the underlying causes of your constipation and finding a natural, healthy remedy for it.
Natural Solutions for ConstipationChances are you have the ability to reverse your constipation without a drug or a prescription starting today. A variety of natural remedies for constipation are easy to find at your local grocery and health stores.
- Healthy Diet with Increased Fiber: First and foremost, if a poor diet is a contributor to your constipation, then a healthy diet is a great solution for it. Beans, fruits, and vegetables are delicious sources of natural fiber. I recommend that everyone eats 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, but, if you are constipated, it doesn’t hurt to add more to your diet while swapping out high-fat meats, processed food and refined sugar. Meanwhile, limit your dairy intake to 2 to 3 servings a day.
- Increase Fluid Intake: No matter your diet, drinking more water helps your digestive system run smoothly. For a quick punch, coffee can stimulate your colon, thus speeding up your trip to the bathroom. If you prefer a caffeine-free alternative, herbal tea or hot water with lemon juice can stimulate your colon too. Some people also experience benefits from drinking apple or prune juice, but be conscious of how much extra sugar the juice is adding to your diet.
- Increase Physical Activity: Get up and move! Go for walks. Ride your bike. Stay on your feet. Find ways to add physical activity into your life. Walk to the post office instead of putting outgoing mail in your mailbox. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Make a daily or weekly list of ongoing household chores that can keep you active during those times you feel drawn to the couch. If worse comes to worse, get up and dance during commercial breaks in your tv shows. For every ten pages you read in a book, walk in place 100 steps. More activity won’t hurt you, I promise you. All that moving around is fueling your metabolism and every major system of your body, including your digestive system.
- Magnesium Citrate: Magnesium pulls water into your intestines while relaxing your bowels. The increased amount of water helps soften and bulk up your stool, making it easier to pass. But since magnesium uses water, staying hydrated is crucial for it to effectively combat constipation without causing dehydration. Magnesium can be found over the counter in most pharmacies and health food stores. The recommended amount you should take will vary from person to person. Talk with your doctor about what they recommend based on your age and other health considerations, such as health conditions and medications.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C increases gastric mobility, which is doctor-speak for speeding up the digestive process. Because of this, too much vitamin C can lead to diarrhea. I recommend that you start with 1,000 to 2,000 mg per day and gradually increase it if you feel it’s not working. If you develop diarrhea after beginning a vitamin C supplement, it’s a pretty clear sign you are taking too much.
- Probiotics: The hundreds of billions of bacteria living in your digestive tract are the gut’s worker bees during digestion. They break down and metabolize food passing through your small intestines, extracting its nutrients and helping produce the waste that eventually enters your large intestine. Bottom line: Healthy gut bacteria means healthy digestion, and probiotic supplements are the most direct way to strengthen your gut bacteria. I recommend a daily supplement with at least 10 billion CFU (colony forming units) in an enterically coated or microencapsulated formula to protect these delicate bacteria from your powerful stomach acids.