Bloating. Cramping. Gas. Pain. Discomfort.
We've all been there. A backed up “internal plumbing” system—constipation. Read on for a few natural options that encourage the relief you’re seeking.
What causes constipation
Constipation is the slow movement of feces through the colon, resulting in infrequent bowel movements or those that are hard to pass. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
eating foods that lack fiber
high levels of stress
imbalanced gut bacteria
hormonal-related, such as a menstrual cycle, birth control, or pregnancy
medications or underlying illnesses
Pooping is normal
The elimination of feces — otherwise known as bowel movements or pooping — is not a typical topic of conversation for most people, but it’s certainly nothing to be embarrassed about.
Pooping is as natural and normal as breathing. It’s the way your body expels leftover waste and toxins that it doesn’t need once it has absorbed all of the nutrients consumed from the foods you eat.
Essentially, the digestive system is your body’s internal plumbing system, and it functions best when the pipes are clear.
The importance of bowel movements
The frequency, shape, size, color, and consistency of your feces — also known as stool or poop — can tell you a lot about the overall health of your body.
Digestive enzymes, blood flow, hormones, and muscle contractions are all involved in the digestive process. So when one or more of these components is off track, your digestion can suffer, and it shows up in your poop.
How to know if you’re constipated
There’s not a set number of bowel movements per day that is considered “normal”, but going anywhere between once a day to once every other day is fairly standard.
As a general rule, you should aim to have a bowel movement three or more times a week at a minimum.
Difficulty having a bowel movement more than a few times a week can be a sign of a sluggish digestive system or constipation.
What healthy poop looks like
If you’re eating enough fiber and drinking plenty of water, your stool should ideally be one long, smooth “S” shape.
That said, if your stool is thin or broken into smaller pieces, it’s not cause for concern as long as it doesn’t cause discomfort. Stool that is hard to pass or that is very liquidy can be a sign that something is internally off with your digestion.
When it comes to color, a normal stool is medium to dark brown. If you've been eating a lot of green-colored foods — such as green leafy vegetables, vegetables juices, pistachios, or greens powders — it may have a slight green tint to it, which is also considered normal.
Stools that are black, gray, yellow, white, or red in color can be a sign that something is problematic. Keep in mind, stools with a red tint can be common if you eat a lot of deeply colored vegetables such as beets; however, if you experience stools with this tint and you cannot link it to a food you recently ate, you may want to seek medical advice.
Bristol Stool Chart
A helpful aid to determine the health of your bowel movements is the Bristol Stool Chart, developed in 1997 as a clinical assessment and research tool.
This scale classifies stool into seven categories depending on its “transit time", or the time it takes for the stool to form in your colon.
Normal, healthy bowel movements should feel easy and not cause pain. You should not need to strain or experience too much pressure or burning, and your intestines should feel cleared out afterward. Needing to push too hard during a bowel movement is indicative of constipation.
According to the Bristol Stool Chart,
Types 1-2 are signs of constipation, with the stool being held too long in the body.
Types 3–4 (especially type 4) are considered to be the ideal, normal stool.
Types 5-7 are signs of diarrhea with the stool moving too quickly through the body.
Bristol Stool Chart
How to reduce constipation and have more frequent bowel movements
If you experience infrequent, uncomfortable, or even painful bowel movements, you are not alone. With today’s Standard American Diet (SAD) and lifestyle consisting of low fiber foods and high levels of stress, many people experience chronic constipation.
But, worry not, you don’t have to live with constipation! There are several steps you can take to help increase the frequency and ease of your bowel movements.
Use the tips below to support your digestive system and experience more frequent and easier bowel movements:
Increase your fiber
Fiber acts as a broom to sweep your intestines clean and adds bulk to your stool. Try to consume fiber from whole food sources — such as plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes — as much as possible.
Aim to get between 25-40 grams of fiber per day. If you are not used to eating much fiber, work your way up gradually in order to avoid bloating and discomfort. Generally, high-fiber foods that are cooked are more gentle on your digestive system than raw (e.g. cooked broccoli vs. raw broccoli).
Water, water, water
Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
Eating a lot of fiber can backfire if it’s not paired with water to keep it moving through your gut. Fiber swells and expands in the digestive tract, so if it doesn’t have enough water to absorb and keep it moving, you may experience uncomfortable bloating.
Keeping your digestive system well hydrated will assist with forming healthy stools that exit your body with more comfort and ease.
Reduce stress levels
While it’s not possible to eliminate all of life’s stressors, it is possible to actively counteract the stress that comes your way. Aim to incorporate at least one stress-lowering activity into your day.
Stress-lowering activities vary from person-to-person, but examples include gentle stretching, yoga, mediation, walking or other gentle to moderate exercise, diffusing essential oils, acupressure pillows or rings, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature.
Probiotics create a healthy environment in your gut—that is, the gut microbiome. In a healthy gut microbiome, the “good bacteria” is able to balance the “bad bacteria,” which prevents digestive issues. Probiotic-rich foods include kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and plain yogurt.
Eat a Sian Bian Guo
Sui Bian Guo is a fermented green plum that helps to clear out your internal "plum"bing.
Sui bian guo was first used medically by Chinese herbalists in the 5th century. It has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help with supporting regularity.
Sui Bian Guo is extremely effective, while being very gentle on your system.
Take one sui bian guo daily after a meal. Make sure to drink 8oz-16oz of water along with the sui bian guo. (caution: the stone is still present in the fruit).
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Sian Bian Guo
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