We all do it — the birds do it, even the monkeys in the trees do it — poop!
Call it what you want, bowel movement, stool, poop, feces, number two; it is not always a topic we like to speak seriously about but it can be a real problem for many people of all ages.
One bowel problem we don’t discuss much is constipation. When you have difficulty emptying your bowels of hard stool it can be uncomfortable and even upset your daily routine.
Many people, especially as they get older, begin to worry about their bowel movements. They think they should poop every day and begin to take action if it doesn’t happen. Sometimes that action can make things worse.
The reality is that we each have our own bowel pattern based on a variety of factors. What is healthy for one person differs to the next. Not everyone does or needs to move their bowels every day.
What exactly is a healthy bowel movement?
Everyone moves their bowels at a different rate, some every day and others a few times a week. A good rule of thumb to prevent hard stool is to go number two every three days. Some say constipation is less than three bowel movements a week.
Constipation occurs when your bowels move less often than normal for you. Everyone seems to suffer from this irregularity at some point. When your personal routine changes, it is time to investigate your symptoms to get back on track.
Constipation symptoms include hard stools, straining to move your bowels, feeling as though you haven’t fully evacuated your stools, cramping or swelling and abdominal pain. It you haven’t moved your bowels for a longer period, you may experience vomiting.
People who suffer from chronic constipation and a feeling of abdominal fullness can also lose their appetite until the bowels move. They feel as if there is no room for more food. This could lead to poor nutrition and even weight loss for some people. If you are having painful bowels movements, blood in your stool or difficulty moving your bowels, you should seek medical help from your doctor.
When our intestinal tracts become unbalanced, our bowel movements can change. There are a variety of factors that can impede regular bowel movements. If you can change the root cause of these issues, you may be able to prevent constipation from spoiling your day.
- Medications, including pain killers, antacids, antidepressants, iron (antibiotic use also unbalances your intestines)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Lack of physical activity
- Insufficient fluid intake
- Inadequate fiber in the diet
- Overuse of laxatives
- Resisting have a bowel movement when the urge strikes
- Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or MS
Relieving Constipation Naturally
Since so many things can lead to constipation, it is helpful to try to change some of these factors naturally instead of using laxatives which could worsen the problem over time.
- Increase the fiber in your diet – a good rule of thumb is 14 grams of fiber for each 1000 calories in your diet
- Increase the water you drink
- Get physically active
- Drink a warm liquid, such as lemon water, in the morning
- Avoid constipating foods like cheese, rice and bananas.
- Include active cultures found in foods such as yogurt to balance your GI tract flora
- If you feel like you need to move your bowels, go to the bathroom but don’t strain
- Try a squat stool so that your legs and hips align to ease the movement
- Mineral oil acts as a lubricant making the stool easier to pass
- Pelvic exercises to help you move the stool
As a last resort, you could use a fiber supplement that will add bulk to your stool or a stool softener which draws water into the intestines. Talk with your doctor about these and other options.
High Fiber Diet
Most of us fall short of the recommended amount of fiber in our diet.
According to the Institute of Medicine, women should eat 25 grams of fiber a day and men should get 38 grams of fiber each day however most of us get only about 15 grams.
Here are foods to choose to increase the fiber:
- Whole grain cereals with 5 grams of fiber per serving, oatmeal
- Whole wheat bread, rolls with 2-3 grams of fiber per slice
(at least half of all grains should be whole)
- Brown and wild grain rice, bulger, quinoa, barley, wheat pasta
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Skins of vegetables such as potatoes and fruits
- Nuts and seeds
Eating more fiber not only helps relieve constipation, but it can also help you manage your weight, control diabetes and improve heart health.
Having a healthy, balanced diet with adequate fluids in addition to getting enough physical activity will help you poop without tummy troubles!
We all need that!