Spending too much of your life in the toilet? If you have constipation, there are a few principles that promote better bowel function, so here's a few easy tips to help....
Drinking more water simply helps to soften bowel motions, assisting the gut & bowel contents to 'get a move on'. It's much like mixing concrete really; if the mixture is too dry, then moving it where you want it to go is too difficult. Solution? Just add some water.
While other drinks may help, some worsen the issue by encouraging urination, thus dehydrating the bowel. These include tea, green tea, coffee, cola drinks and alcohol.
How much to drink? Depends on your age & gender, but for an adult female about 2.1 litres (8 cups) per day is recommended. For an adult male the recommended amount is 2.6 litres (about 10 cups) per day. For other ages including children, check out the Australian Government's recommendations here.
If you're having trouble drinking enough, see my blog on how to do it more successfully here.
Moving semi solids along a tube requires a degree of lubrication, so this simple step can help many people with constipation. I often recommend fish oil capsules or liquid, as they have many other health benefits and can be used in children successfully. Even adding in generous amounts of olive oil or coconut oil in cooking or taken straight off the spoon may help.
A note of caution; if you're taking fish oil, it's worth buying a premium type, a study in New Zealand's Auckland University in 2014 showed most fish oil supplements contained less than stated amounts of the active ingredients EPA and DHA, and higher levels of rancidity than were acceptable.
The study showed that the fish oil supplements; "best-before date, cost, country of origin, and exclusivity were all poor markers of supplement quality."
I use only one brand of fish oil in my clinic, this having been developed after the above study to address the negative issues, and containing the stated amounts of active ingredients at better than required levels of freshness and a better than world standard of purity and lack of heavy metals. I highly recommend you see your Naturopathic Practitioner for a premium fish oil supplement if required.
A tense person with constipation may benefit from relaxing, both physically & emotionally, to allow an easier passage of bowel motions. Children who have experienced constipation and pain or bleeding when trying to go to the toilet often develop a fear of passing motions, and this fear may compound their problem by tightening up the muscles of the bowel and stopping normal movement.
How to fix the emotional/physical tension? I regularly prescribe magnesium supplements to reduce tension, but magnesium has an added benefit in constipation; it attracts water into the bowel, thus softening the mix. Certain types of magnesium may worsen bowel function, so I'm very specific about which types I use.
Getting your body moving by regular exercise is a simple way to promote peristalsis, the wave-like movement of bowel muscles that helps move bowel contents along. Those who are sedentary, or who sit for long periods of time may suffer from constipation, and a simple fix may be to just get moving more regularly!
There are circumstances when further investigation of constipation is recommended via your GP. These include;
Changes in your bowel habits that lasts longer than 4 weeks. This could include diarrhea or constipation or a change in bowel motion consistency
Bleeding from the bowel, or blood in bowel motions
Feeling tired or weak
Tenesmus (the feeling that your bowel hasn't completely emptied after going to the toilet)
Stomach or abdominal pain or discomfort, especially if it's lasting
(source, Mayo Clinic)
Other medical tests for constipation could include thyroid function testing, a diabetes checkup and a pregnancy test (if relevant)!
There are even more "ations" in helping constipation! I have a total of 10 tips that help most clients with constipation, and it may be a combination of all 10 that help you 'get going'. If you're still struggling with bowel function despite all the above tips, I recommend you book into your Naturopath to help your regularity, and thus, your overall health. As a Toowoomba Naturopath, I can not only help people in the local area, but offer consultations to clients all over Australia via Skype or Phone, so if you can't find Naturopathic help locally, feel free to book in via my electronic diary here.