Does your digestion get a bit ‘stuck’ when you eat something different or go on holiday? Perhaps it gets ‘temperamental’ almost daily?
Whatever the reason for sluggish bowel movements, your gut is trying to tell you something! You might be missing some vital nutrients, water or fiber. Perhaps your daily habits are also adding to the problem and discomfort.
Unsure if your body is clearing out regularly enough? Aim to empty your bowels daily and such symptoms as bloating and persistent flatulence can also indicate some internal obstructions. If you don’t visit the bathroom for #2 every day, you are at risk of reabsorbing the toxic waste back into the body, causing lethargy, sleep issues and hormone imbalances.
The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to relieve constipation naturally, without the need to turn to medication. Check out these hacks tested and loved by many of my clients through the years.
Mix a tablespoon of flaxseed (or linseed) in about ¼ cup of water and leave overnight in the fridge.
The flaxseed will change texture and become more gelatinous. Drink the solution without chewing. Because flax walls are hard to break down and flax is a source of insoluble fiber, it works as a brush in the digestive tract and helps clear the waste out, while feeding the gut flora along the way.
A brilliant natural solution, however due to its specific taste and texture it doesn’t appeal to everybody. If you’re not a fan of this, then add ground flax to salads, soups and in smoothies- at least this way you will get some of its insoluble fiber content and nourish the gut flora.
Most people know that staying well hydrated is good for health, but they don't always directly link it to constipation. Water is a necessary medium to help detoxify the body and help you get ‘unstuck’.
If you often experience constipation, make sure you start your day with drinking at least 2-3 cups of lemon water, as lemon helps detoxify the liver. Keep sipping water throughout the day and if you drink caffeinated drinks, like coffee and black tea, counteract each cup of caffeinated drink with a cup of water to sustain optimum hydration.
Magnesium is a great supplement to have, when experiencing constipation. It helps draw moisture into the bowel, creating a mild laxative effect, making it easier to pass stool. For best results choose magnesium citrate.
Additionally, magnesium helps relax the body and the mind and support adrenals, so if you feel run down and stressed- magnesium is the obvious choice.
If your body is more sensitive to change, you may experience constipation when you change scenery like go on holiday or have a one night stay over at a friend's house. Similarly, your body may not respond well to chaotic habits and may favour routine. If you have recently been out of your regular routine, consciously stick to regular mealtime structure for a week or so and regain regularity in your bowel movements.
This can be an incredibly beneficial physical way to get the contents of your bowel moving by stimulating the colon and drawing some blood towards it. Additionally, this can help with stress relief and boosting body confidence.
You can use your fingertips, knuckles or palm of the hand and massage your belly starting with the lower right corner of your abs and moving up in a horseshoe shape, following your colon. Massage as long as 15-20 min daily to experience best results.
Derived from the seeds of Plantago ovata, a herb mainly grown in India, Psyllium husks are a type of soluble fibre, that pass through the digestive tract and act as a bulk-forming laxative. It also draws water to the colon, which supports effective bowel emptying. Easy to add in smoothies or have it as a supplement separately.
If your diet is low in fibre and especially vegetable fibre, consider that for swift and effective bowel transit you need around 7 portions of veg and fruit daily and around 30 different types of veg per week to keep your gut flora happy and well- functioning. Fibrous vegetables are especially important to keep your bowels regular.
If you know people who swear that they cannot ‘’go’’ without their morning cup of coffee, there is some truth in that. Caffeine can stimulate the digestive tract, causing it to empty. However, caffeine is also dehydrating, which means that it only works when you are well hydrated. This method will not work, if you are only drinking coffee and barely any water.
Good quality cacao has a similar effect on the bowel, however it affects blood sugar balance less than caffeine would do, making it a more stable and balanced alternative. Swap your morning coffee for cacao tonic for best results.
Spend the majority of your day sitting down? A plan to move daily, even if it is only 10-15 min every day, can help relieve constipation and discomfort. More active exercise also promotes increased metabolism, which supports digestive tract to move a little more efficiently. Yoga is particularly effective to help detoxify the internal organs and stimulate the bowel.
Stress response is a common reason for chronic constipation, especially if you experience other symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability and inability to focus. Simply pay attention to relaxation techniques everyday, creating extra time for practices like deep breathing, resting and stretching.
Note that constipation can also be caused by insufficient building blocks and energy consumed. If you are restricting your food intake or suffer from an eating disorder or disordered eating patterns, it may simply be that you are not getting enough energy and the food doesn’t pass quickly enough through the bowel, creating discomfort.