One of the worst feelings we can experience physically is constipation. It can leave us feeling bloated and uncomfortable, possibly for days, depending on the level of irregularity we are experiencing. Regularity is extremely important to our health and can have a direct impact on our energy levels, our moods and our ability to perform. Certain behaviors can cause constipation to set in, such as travel, pregnancy and even, a change to our diet; regardless of the cause, however, there are a variety of things you can do to help alleviate the problem, or better yet, avoid the problem all together.
- Get in Fiber Rich Foods: One of the reasons we can become constipated or have trouble with bowel movements is that we don’t consume enough fiber. It pays to get in a minimum of 25 grams of fiber a day. If you are traveling or have other influences that might cause constipation (such as taking medication or pregnancy), however, I recommend you increase this to 35 grams or more per day. If you aren’t used to consuming a lot of fiber rich foods, work your body up to this amount slowly. Otherwise, you may become excessively gassy or uncomfortable. Make sure to start off your day with a breakfast high in fiber rich foods, such as fruit, bran cereal or oatmeal. Fruit, in particular, has a tremendous effect on helping to avoid constipation. As a result, aim to have three servings of fruit a day.
- Stay Well Hydrated: Dehydration can make stools dry and hard. This can eventually lead to constipation. In order to soften stool and maintain regular bowel movements, drink plenty of water. Although in certain situations, you may need more water, a good rule of thumb is to drink the number of ounces equaling your weight in pounds divided by two. (E.g., if you are 160 pounds, drink a minimum of 80 ounces of water). Good hydration helps to keep your digestive tract healthy and clean.
- Exercise: Maintaining a regular workout program is a great way to avoid constipation. Exercise helps to decrease the time it takes for food to move through the large intestine and keeps bowel movements loose. Further, when you do aerobic exercise and core exercises (abdominal exercises), you contract your stomach muscles which helps to move stools quickly.
- Breathe Deeply: Taking time to breath deeply every day can help to avoid constipation. Deep breathing exercises help to massage the abdominal muscles, as well as contract and release the muscles in the intestines. This ultimately increases your chances of having bowel movements.
- Probiotics: If you are still constipated after trying the above, you may want to consider supplementing your diet with probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria that can be found naturally in a the gastrointestinal tract. Supplementing the diet with probiotics helps to aid in digestion which in turn can help to avoid constipation. Probiotics can be found naturally in cabbage and artichokes. But, we if you aren’t a fan of these foods or find it challenging to get them into our diet, consider getting them through supplements. A couple to consider include: Align and Accuflora.
Do you suffer from constipation? What do you do to avoid it and maintain regular bowel movements?