By Cassie Shortsleeved; Photography by Pexels
Constipation can be a real pain the butt. But beating it might be easier than you think.
Making some good-for-your-health habits part of your routine is good for your bowels, too, says Maged Rizk, a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic. If your pipes are all clogged up, first try simple lifestyle changes to help you go number two before moving on to the heavy hitters.
“The way I would rank constipation remedies would be from first-line therapies to last-line therapies,” says Rizk. Think of first-line as lifestyle changes you can make and last-line as options you have after you attempt those tweaks.
And first, a note on what doesn’t work: No matter how tempting it may be to take one, just say no to laxatives. “They can be effective in the short-term, but in the long-term, they can cause bowel dependence, which means the bowel won’t contract without the stimulant,” says Rizk.
Try these Strategies
Here are seven strategies — ranked in the order you should try them before moving on to the next. One method of relieving constipation isn’t necessarily better than another. Sometimes, you may need meds to help clear things out.
Watch your meds
Everything from meds for sinus issues to the pills you pop for high blood pressure can have effects on your GI tract, slow motility (movement through your gut), and lead to dryer stools and constipation, says Rizk. So too, can medications for chronic pain, he says. Be particularly careful of anticholinergics — meds that can dry out parts of your body (like your sinuses) but that can also lead to constipation. Not sure of the side effects of the pills you’re on? Ask your doc.
Reach for H2O
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. “When you’re adequately hydrated, your body doesn’t need to conserve water,” says Rizk. “When your body is dehydrated, it leads to increased absorption of water within your large intestine and can lead to dry, hard stools.” So check your pee (if you’re filled up on enough H20, it should be more clear than yellow), and get your eight glasses a day.
Go for a run
It’s true: You can run your way to better bowel habits. The very act of working out shakes your GI tract—a good thing when it comes to beating constipation. “Every time you’re running, for example, you’re causing vibrations and causing your GI tract to move, allowing gravity to work and things move things along,” says Rizk. Ever heard of runners’ diarrhoea? Case-in-point.
Study your diet
There’s no way around it: Your diet and your poop are intricately connected. To speed along a stalled system, aim for between 25 to 50 grams of fibre a day, including breads, grains and fruits and vegetables, says Rizk. Fibre loosens stools up a little bit, so instead of them becoming compact and dry, they’ll be less compact, he says.
Stock up on probiotics
Go for Greek yoghurt, too: “Foods that contain probiotics or natural bacteria can promote good bowel health, too,” adds Rizk. And remember to keep your protein in check. The higher the protein content and the lower the carb content in your foods, the more of a problem you’re going to have with constipation, he says.
“There are different positions on the toilet that can improve how we have bowel movements,” says Rizk. “The way we do it in the U.S. is not the natural way to have one.” Why? In part because your anorectal angle — the bend between your rectum and your anus – isn’t straight when you simply sit down. Because of that, gravity can’t do its work, he explains. By putting your feet up on a stool while you’re sitting on the John, you’re taking advantage of gravity and straightening out that angle, allowing for a better bowel movement, he says.
When you poop is important, too.
“Give yourself the appropriate time to have a bowel movement,” says Rizk. That’s usually a little bit after you’ve eaten — when your GI tract is active. If you make going to the bathroom after breakfast a habit, for example, your body will learn to adapt.
Nothing seem to fix the problem? Rizk says there are plenty of other medicines out there that can ease constipation. You can use non-absorbable sugars and salts, he says, or see your doc for a prescription. Prescription meds, like Lubiprostone and Linaclotide, can sometimes be an option.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com