There are several main factors to help maintain a healthy digestive system. We should be having a bowel movement at least once a day, and up to 3 times, so long as the stool is formed well and not too loose. Ideally we are getting the majority of our bowels to be a number 4 on the Bristol Stool chart, yet 3-5’s are the range to be considered healthy to have daily.
If you’re concerned about constipation, I’d assume you’re in the 1-3 range on this chart, or simply not going at all right now. The more firm, big and ball like your stools are, the longer they have been sitting in your GI tract. When this happens materials start to get recycled (including hormones and toxins) and it can cause issues in the long run if occuring chronically, let alone cause frustration, discomfort, body image issues, anxiety and depression.
So what can you do if you are chronically constipated or not going at least once daily? Here are the top things to focus on if you aren’t already:
First and foremost, Rest.
Ever heard of “rest and digest”? That’s the phrase associated with the “parasympathetic state” where our nervous system can be calm and perform healing and digestive duties while doing so. We want to be in this state more often than not. Yet in our day and age, most people tend to be in a sympathetic state, which is considered a “flight or fight” state that is upregulated, and may cause you to go to the bathroom immediately, or may cause your bowels to be held up for a long period of time (constipation) – depends the person on this one, everyone is different. These mechanisms were meant for life threatening situations (like being chased by a wild animal or person) where your body wanted to dispel anything inside in order to fight better, OR, to hold things in and pause its functioning white you fight (or flee a dangerous situation). And we actually don’t have too many of these real life threatening situations today, yet our body sees it the same when we get road rage, impatient with our kids or spouse, an email from our boss, or anything that causes stress.
So what are some ways to get back into a more restful state to help your GI do its thing? Here are ideas to start with:
- Breathe more slowly with longer exhales
- Clockwise manual massage on your stomach (large intestine/colon) to literally stimulate and move things along
- Eat slower, chew more
- Go on a slow walk or stretch
- Meditate or journal
- Minimize distractions when eating or in stressful situations (close your eyes even)
- Set boundaries with people and work so you don’t overwhelm yourself with being rushed or the feeling of having to do too much.
- Use a squatty potty (or stool) to elevate your feet while going to the bathroom – helps set your body up for success and relax the right muscles
When you find yourself in an elevated state, feeling like you have to poop but you can’t, try one of these, yet most importantly, allow time and space to breathe and relax.
Next up – Nutrition.
What should you eat in order to be able to get those #4’s on the stool chart? If you are constipated, try adding these first:
- Fiber at every meal
- Fruits and veggies like apples, carrots, berries, pomegranate, dates, cooked and cooled potatoes (resistant starch), green bananas, leafy greens, or your favorite cooked cruciferous veggies. Avocados are my favorite as they have fiber AND fat, which both help with constipation.
- Seeds or ground fibers like chia, pumpkin, sesame, or psyllium husk
- Instead of Metamucil, first try psyllium husk, then, PaleoFiber RS, or Fibermend.
- Probiotic rich foods daily if not at every meal – sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, refrigerated pickles, or even some kombucha in moderation (high in sugar)
- Fat at every meal
- A fat paired with a quality protein like grass-fed steak, heritage breed pork, pasture-raised eggs, wild caught salmon, etc.
- Avocado – fiber and fat in one!
- Drizzle a little extra olive oil on your salad or veggies, add MCT oil/powder (use code ‘Proclivity’ for a discount) to your coffee, tea or full fat yogurt.
- Hummus, seeds, raw nuts – be sure they either are oil-less or paired with a quality oil (olive, coconut, avocado) and not an inflammatory one (safflower/sunflower, rapeseed, canola, soybean, etc.)
- If you do add fiber, you also need to add more water to help that fiber move along, or you could actually make the constipation process even worse
- Sip on water throughout the day and more so between your meals, rather than at meal time as to not dilute your stomach acid and digestive enzymes, further slowing down digestion.
- Add in electrolytes! Not only will this help with all bodily functions, but also likely help you drink more water. We love LMNT as it has no sugar, and the appropriate levels and TYPES of electrolytes.
- Aim for half your body weight in ounces for a daily total goal.
- Adding in some caffeine like coffee or tea may help you go to the bathroom sooner, yet remember they are diuretics and will dehydrate you, so add more water to your daily total if doing so!
Now this may seem counterintuitive after reading about the “rest” section, yet we need both. Both rest and relaxation, and also movement to help your body contract in different ways, for your body to use up energy and therefore digest, and then perhaps to create a little bit of nerves to help things move along.
Different ways to move to help with constipation:
- Walk, run or hike
- Stretching with deep breathing and twisting movements – world’s greatest stretch, downdog and happy baby are our fave yoga movements for this!
- Proclivity’s FREE 30 day dumbbell program (email us for it)
- ANY workout you enjoy – could be really moderate, or really tough! For me, I know a walk won’t do as much as a workout where my body is pushed a little and in different positions, yet you know you best!
Last stitch effort if you’re constipated and tried everything…
If you have been constipated for more than a day now and you’ve tried all the things mentioned above, consider planning a tough workout with other people, or book a group class – if you’re the kind of person that gets a little nervous or excited. These feelings can help move things along for you prior to that event! Have you ever had to do a presentation and had to go to the bathroom right before? If not a workout, speaking in front of a group, go take a shooting lesson at a shooting range, or read out what your imposter says to someone else (that could be us!). Combine that with a little diuretic (coffee, tea, dates, or apple juice) and see if that does the trick.
If you have done all of these things above and listed here, and still no improvement, it’s time to chat with either a functional medicine practitioner, or at least us in a complimentary Clarity Call to get an outside perspective to see if it’s physiological or perhaps psychological in nature.