"Constipation can usually be easily remedied with just lifestyle changes and supplement support."
Today’s video is Part 2 of Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD’s series in digestive health as we age.
Digestive problems can occur at any age, but with age there is a much greater possibility of digestive health disorders. And constipation leads the list of complaints!
Yesterday we talked about what causes constipation. Today we're discussing what you can do about it!
- 01:27: We're focusing on natural solutions to constipation
- 04:30: The health risks of constipation
- 05:51: A quick review of Part 1: the causes of constipation
- 10:51: Let's discuss what you can do to relieve or prevent constipation naturally
- 11:10: Drink 3 - 4 extra glasses of water per day
- 11:55: Drink warm liquids first thing in the morning
- 12:23: Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
- 14:17: Top foods for constipation relief
- 19:42: Why you should avoid commercial fiber products
- 21:56: Fermented foods or probiotics
- 23:35: Get exercise and other body movement daily
- 24:56: Demonstration of 7 yoga stretches for constipation relief & prevention
- 33:18: Do not ignore the urge to poop
- 33:42: Avoid over the counter laxatives, or take with extreme caution
The Constipation Cure Program
Constipation is one of the most common bowel-related problems in the U.S. and impacts about 20% of the population. In most cases you can rid yourself of both occasional episodes of constipation and chronic constipation, with Dr. Nancy's Constipation Cure Program. As part of our discussion on natural solutions to constipation, we'll discuss laxatives, as well as the best foods and exercises. Follow this program if you need constipation relief!
Bowel movements are a topic many people are hesitant to talk about, but there's no reason to be embarrassed about it! Everyone eats and everyone excretes. Regular bowel movements are extremely important for your health. Without them, toxins start to accumulate and build up in your body and then they get recirculated in your bloodstream. If these are not eliminated regularly, and completely, your waste will dry up and become hardened to the walls of your colon, which will lead to further health issues. When you are chronically constipated, feces builds up in your intestines, coagulates, and hardens.
Fortunately, constipation can usually be easily remedied with just lifestyle changes and supplement support.
The Health Risks of Constipation
Those who experience constipation know that it's very uncomfortable, causing bloating and cramps, and a feeling of incomplete elimination. However, despite the fact that it's extremely uncomfortable, most people view constipation as little more than a nuisance instead of a serious health threat. This is a mistake, though, because chronic constipation is serious. It can lead to fecal impaction, causing stools to get stuck in your intestines.
Constipation has also been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer, and has been tied to diverticulitis, diverticulosis, and even appendicitis.
Straining to have a bowel movement, which is common with constipation, is also not something to be taken lightly. It can lead to hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and even rectal prolapse, in which part of the intestine protrudes from the anus. It can also be quite painful, leading to severe abdominal pain, which is one of the reasons emergency room visits for constipation have been on the rise. In fact, billions of dollars are spent each year on ER care for constipation each year, and a good portion of that is due to laxative abuse.
A Quick Review of Constipation Part 1: The Causes
Being constipated simply means your bowel movements are difficult or infrequent. Almost everyone experiences it at some point. It's not normal to experience frequent constipation, and you feel much better when your body is back on track and stays that way. So what's normal?
The normal length of time between bowel movements varies widely from person to person. Some people with super efficient metabolisms have them three times per day, while others have them just once a week. But going 3 or more days without a bowel movement is considered too long. After 3 days, poop gets harder and more difficult to pass.
Why Constipation Happens
We covered several age-related reasons constipation might happen in Part 1. Here are a few additional causes.
- Changes to what you eat, or your activities. When you travel for vacation, for example, and your activities vary from your normal routine, this can cause constipation. One of the main reasons this occurs is that travel can throw off your gut balance, so taking a good probiotic like Smarter Gut Health before and during travel will really help.
- Not getting enough water or fiber.
- Eating too much animal protein, especially red meat, can lead to constipation.
- Consuming dairy products
- Not being active. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, or are nursing an injury, you are probably prone to inactivity, and this can bring about more frequent episodes of constipation.
- Resisting the urge to poop. Don't resist the urge when you feel it. That will impact the feces.
- Stress. When you're stressed or tense, your muscles tighten, and you have a hard time having a bowel movement.
- The overuse of laxatives.
- Lots of medications, especially strong pain killers and antidepressants
- Antacid medicines that have calcium or aluminum
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), as well as Colitis.
- Thyroid issues
- Problems with muscles in the colon or other parts of the digestive system
- 15. Colon cancer
The Ticket to Better Bowels
Drink 3 - 4 extra glasses of water a day
In addition to what you currently drink, add a few glasses. Try keeping an insulated water bottle with you at all times. Water will help the saliva production in your body, which helps digestion. It will also help you stay hydrated. The longer the feces stays in your body, the more water it loses, and the harder it becomes.
Drink warm liquids first thing in the morning
Try lukewarm water with lemon on an empty stomach, as a great way to wake up your system, reset your body, and balance your body's PH levels.
Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
Incorporate leafy greens and fresh fruits. Your dietary intake can be a primary cause of constipation, particularly if your diet is high in processed foods and low in fiber. Your body needs fiber in order for your bowels to be healthy. Unless you eat regular whole fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and seeds, you'll be missing out on healthier forms of fiber. Many experts say you should aim for 32 - 34 grams of fiber per day.
Some of the top foods known to relieve constipation by adding bulk and softening stools, while decreasing gut transit time and increasing frequency include:
- Pears (green or brown)
- Brussel sprouts
- Swiss Chard
- Sweet potatoes
- Beans (dried, not canned)
- Chia and flax seeds (try these in smoothies!). Flax seeds work best ground.
- Rolled oats
These foods stimulate healthy bowel production in many ways. Most contain a good amount of both soluble and insoluble fiber. For example, the insoluble fiber in prunes, known as cellulose, increases the amount of water in your stool, which adds bulk. Meanwhile, the soluble fiber in prunes is fermented in the colon, to produce short-chain fatty acids, which increase stool weight. Greens, as well, help add bulk and weight to stools. All of these foods have their own way of producing healthy, consistent, stools.
What About Commercial Fiber Products?
Stores are full of synthetic, artificial, fiber supplements sold as a healthy way to relieve constipations. These contain high amounts of chemicals and often sugar. Some contain psyllium husk, which has been linked to side effects such as interfering with medication absorption, bloating, and gas. It can cause obstruction or blockage in the GI tract, especially if you have failed to properly mix the psyllium husk with enough water, which could even lead to choking. So, avoid these synthetic products and stick to natural, whole fruits and vegetables in Dr. Nancy's anti-inflammatory diet.
Add Fermented Foods to Your Diet
Implement sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, and other fermented foods, or If you don't love these types of foods, or don't eat them regularly enough, add a healthy probiotic, like Smarter Gut Health.
This supplement contains three great probiotic strains that help with constipation, as well as a prebiotic fiber, for even better results. Both fermented foods and probiotics will restore a healthy balance to your gut bacteria, which you need for better bowel movements.
Most days of the week, you need exercise and other body movements. If you are not active, get active! When you move your body, your muscles in your intestines are more active, which makes a huge difference in how you feel, and keep your digestive system flowing properly. Walk, run, bike, or do anything else to get your body moving.
Specific Yoga Stretches for Constipation
1. Downward facing dog. This is just an upside down V. Simply bend forward, and walk your hands forward, pressing your hands into the ground, and keeping your tailbone high. Look between your legs, and breathe. This pose is extremely relaxing, and it immediately calms your central nervous system, which can in turn release the tension in your pelvic floor muscles. Hold this pose for about 20 breaths, then put your knees down, and repeat.
2. Seated twist. Sitting straight up with your feet in front of you, straighten one leg in front of you, and cross the other foot over your leg, keeping the knee bent. Then turn your torso toward the knee that is up. Inhale, elongate your spine, and squeeze your thigh. This will loosen up your internal organs and get things moving! Inhale as you return to center, then repeat on the other side.
3. Lay down on your back, and squeeze your knees up to your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees and squeeze. This will eliminate extra air trapped in your body. Rock side to side to gently massage your spine. Inhale back to center.
4. Crescent Twist. Standing straight up, put one leg forward until you are in a lunge position. Then take the opposite arm to the forward leg, and cross it over the lunged leg, leaning forward and twisting. Your tricep will be pressing against the outside of your thigh.
5. Start out lying flat on your belly, arms to your sides. Inhale, raising your torso as you do. Then use your hands to press your body upward, and lean back into child's pose, with your tailbone resting on your heels, arms extended forward, forehead resting on the ground. Then shift forward until you're laying on the ground again. Repeat. Do this a few times to massage your internal organs and get stagnant food and particles moving.
6. Standing forward fold. Standing with feet shoulder distance a part, exhale and bend forward. You can bend you knees if you want, and rest your torso on your thighs. Inhale and halfway lift, then exhale and forward fold. Repeat a few times.
7. Supine twist. Laying on your back, extend one leg straight forward, and bring one knee to your chest. Hug it with your arms, then extend your arms out to a T, and twist so your knee is resting on the ground. Hold for a few breaths, return to neutral, and repeat on the other side.
Do Not Ignore the Urge to Poop
When you feel the urge to go to the restroom, stop what you're doing, and go.
Avoid Commercial Laxatives
Did you know that laxative abuse is actually a huge problem in the United States? It may be tempting to turn to an over-the-counter laxative for constipation relief, but it can be risky. It's much healthier to use the anti-inflammatory diet or other natural solutions. If you do use laxatives, use them with caution and under your doctor's care. If you take too many laxatives, it can lead to dehydration, and abnormal levels of electrolytes in your blood, which can cause kidney damage, heart problems, and even death.
Another crucial reason laxatives (including laxative teas) are not a good option, is that your body may become dependent on them. This is especially true with stimulative laxatives, which work by increasing the contraction of your muscles in your intestines. This risk also applies to laxative that claim to be natural. These may decrease your colon's ability to contract on its own, causing you to become dependent on them. Over time, you can damage your nerves, muscles, and other tissues. The cumulative use of commercial laxatives has also been associated with increased risk of colon Cancer.
For these reasons, and because constipation is easy to remedy naturally, it's best to avoid laxatives, and use them only as a last resort, and for a short amount of time.