Constipation refers to any difficulty passing a bowel movement and is usually associated with hardened bowel movements. Frequency of bowel movements changes from person to person, depending on how quickly you digest and which foods you eat. Normal frequency of bowel movements falls between 3 times per day to once every three days! What is more important than how often you go is what the consistency/texture of the stool is, and if it is difficult to pass.
So, which poo are you? Try googling "Bristol Stool Chart".
We want to have normal (type 3 or 4) bowel movements that do not require pushing or straining. This is a great indication of gut health, and also helps to optimize the pelvic floor. Having to push and strain with bowel movements can influence pelvic floor muscle response as well as soft tissue support to the pelvic organs.
Mythbusters: constipation is common but not normal, you should not have to push or strain to have bowel movements and you CAN do something about it!
Here are some tips to help you start to address your bowel health.
In the Bathroom:
Have a bowel movement when you get the urge. If you ignore the urge then the stool can retract into the intestines where it can get dried out which makes it harder to pass later.
Put your knees up to mimic a squat. Here is an informative link about why we should put our feet on a stool when we go to the bathroom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYcv6odWfTM
Leave your cell phone outside. Sit, breathe, and relax = rest and digest. Check in with your breathing and how you and your body are feeling. Are you holding tension anywhere? Let your body do the work. Your body knows how to pee and poop, we just often get in the way by rushing or pushing. Use this AIRBAG breathing to guide you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9zsTUvNn-8
Gastro-colic reflex – most people get the urge to have a bowel movement about 20 minutes after eating breakfast. Eat a high fibre breakfast (think whole grains, fruits and/or berries) with a warm glass of lemon water (also stimulates bowel movements). Prunes also help with bowel movements.
Try taking Probiotics and 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed daily – helps with fibre uptake and hormone regulation.
For all meals:
Rest and digest - Our “fight or flight” stress response in our body diverts blood away from our digestive organs and towards our heart, lungs and muscles. We want to encourage our body’s relaxation “rest and digest” response around meals so that blood flow in optimized at the intestines, helping our body to absorb nutrients from our food as efficiently as possible. Purposefully try NOT to multitask or rush during meals (eating with intention and mindfulness) and trying to stay calm (to digest on!) while you perform gentle movements for 10-20 minutes after a meal (think slow deep breaths, taking your time through meal-time chores like clearing the table, washing dishes, even going for a short gentle walk outside if the weather is nice) can help to promote this natural response.
The night before:
After dinner, take 1 Tbsp of psyllium (the main ingredient in metamucil) in 3 Tbsp of unsweetened applesauce. If you’re constipated, follow the psyllium and applesauce with a big glass of water. If you are loose, just eat the psyllium and applesauce. This bulks up the fibre you ate for the day, producing the right quantity and quality of stool the next morning. Psyllium can be found at the Bulk Barn for very little money. Adding cinnamon can make this a tasty treat!
Magnesium Citrate helps to ensure muscles are relaxed and improves motility. General guidelines – take 100 mg at night for a week. If your stool is not a soft consistency by the end of the week, then you can take another 100 mg in the morning as well. You can continue to increase up to 350 mg/day if needed, or decrease your dosage if the stool is too runny. Please see a Naturopath, Doctor or Pharmacist if you have any questions.
Rub castor oil on your abdomen in a clockwise motion. Put a white t-shirt (avoids colour transfer to the skin from colourful clothes and keeps the oil from getting on anything) and then put a warm heating pad on that for 15 minutes as you relax before bed. Note: do not do this during pregnancy.
If none of these suggestions resolve your constipation I highly suggest you see a Naturopathic Doctor or your family doctor to look for specific management strategies for you. We want to eliminate waste from our body easily and regularly. Food elimination and/or medication options may be suitable to get you started, and these professionals are experts who can guide you through this process. If you have any questions about constipation or any other Pelvic Health concerns, feel free to contact or book in with Jenny or Robyn here