Any way you slice it, constipation is no fun. If you’re looking for some ways to relieve yourself without the help of laxatives, look no further. There are plenty of healthy, natural ways to keep your bowels moving on a regular basis.
The medical definition of constipation is having less than three bowel movements a week. However, for some individuals, having less than one bowel movement per day can produce uncomfortable symptoms including bloating and cramping.
Here are some easy tips to relieve — or prevent — constipation:
- Increase your intake of fiber. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. Fiber is naturally found in most fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. To maximize insoluble fiber intake, eat your fruits and veggies with the skin (when possible) and have plenty of whole grains. Prunes, in particular, are a natural bowel irritant that can improve constipation. Vegetables with high fiber content include carrots, cauliflower and broccoli.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking six to eight glasses of fluid a day is important for many reasons, including bowel regularity. Water keeps both the stool and the intestinal tract lubricated for easier passage. Also, increasing your fiber intake without increasing your fluid intake can actually cause constipation, so keep filling that water bottle. An exception to this rule, however, is alcohol. Alcohol actually dehydrates you, which can exacerbate constipation.
- Have some yogurt. As we’ve recently reported, there is conflict but promising research regarding probiotics and constipation relief. Probiotics are “good bacteria” that we need to keep our colons functioning properly and are the “live and active cultures” advertised on all yogurt containers.
- Exercise. Get your outsides moving to get your insides moving. Lack of exercise is often a cause of constipation. While the mechanism by which exercise assists in fecal passage is unknown, the effect is undeniable.