It's a common problem that most people avoid talking about. I, on the other hand, love discussing constipation, particularly because it can be a big indicator of your current health. Constipation has many causes, from poor diet and fluid intake to the presence of a pathogen (bacteria, fungi) to emotional imbalance.
Here are my top 13 ways to help get the bowels moving right now:
1. Express yourself.
Holding on to past memories or emotions can lead to anxiety and amplify stress. During stressful times it's common to hold on to our poo as well.
In Chinese medicine, when the large intestine (AKA our garbage collector) is out of balance, it's associated with an inability to grieve and let go. As a result, our bowel movements become sluggish and we store and recycle our waste, collecting toxins, bad breath, and all sorts of funky conditions along the way.
2. Eat fiber.
Every meal should contain a portion of fibrous food such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, chia seeds, ground flax seeds, berries, and avocado.
Fiber helps move waste through our digestive system and is also food for your gut bacteria. A healthy, diverse gut flora is important for regular bowel movements.
3. Include foods with prebiotics and probiotics.
These guys are food and fertilizer for gut bacteria, stimulating their growth and encouraging regular bowel movements. Good sources of prebiotics are asparagus, artichokes, green (raw) banana, and brown rice (that has cooled down). Good sources of probiotics are kombucha, fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, and apple cider vinegar.
Gradually increase the probiotics like fermented veggies, sauerkraut, and kimchi in your diet to let the gut adjust to a new bacterial environment. Start with 1 teaspoon with meals, increasing to 1 tablespoon.
4. Drink lots of purified water.
Water has the power to nudge waste out of your colon. The amount will depend on your activity levels, but as a general rule aim for 1½ liters daily.
Add ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan salt to your water to enhance absorption. Fluids should be warm or room temperature. Warmth loosens, unblocks, and welcomes muscle relaxation. Cold seizes and constricts.
5. Follow a routine.
Routine can dramatically improve constipation. To promote a healthy evacuation, your morning may include 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in warm water upon rising, followed by a smoothie rich in fats and fiber.
Relax for 15 minutes post-breakfast, calmly plan your day ahead, read a blog post, or engage in calm conversation. Following breakfast, I stand and read a blog post.
6. Use a standing desk.
Sitting, particularly after eating, can slow digestion down because it compresses the abdominal organs.
Sluggish digestion can lead to constipation and an imbalance in your gut microbiome (gut flora). Try standing or using a standing desk after meals instead.
7. Add herbs and spices to your dishes.
Certain herbs and spices nourish the organs of digestion and elimination, such as the liver, kidneys, stomach, and spleen.
They improve overall breakdown of food and can dislodge the waste that clings to your intestinal walls. Add them to your meals, smoothies, teas, slow-cooked dishes, and salads daily.
My favorites are:
- black pepper
- coriander seeds
8. Try Yin Yoga.
Yin Yoga works on improving the health of organs, bones, joints, connective tissue, fascia, and the mind and incorporates breathwork.
A class that works on the lungs and large intestine can help unlock constipated colon doors. If you've been holding on to grief and are unable to let go and move forward in life, supporting these organs can dramatically change this current reality.
9. Do some breathwork.
When the flow of breath is labored or short, the mind becomes agitated, stress and anxiety are amplified, and not enough nutrients get to areas in your body like your digestive system.
Without breath, there is tension, blockage, and resistance. Ten minutes of breathwork daily can help regulate bowel movements. I find deep belly breathing to be most helpful.
10. Don't forget the apple cider vinegar.
ACV improves the production of stomach acid, which means a more effective breakdown and absorption of foods and better elimination of waste.
Aim for 1 tablespoon of ACV in warm water upon rising or 10 minutes before meals.
11. Get your intake of healthy fats.
Our intestinal cell walls are made up of fat; therefore they need fats to function well.
Healthy fats such as coconut, olive, and macadamia oil; avocado; oily fish; butter; nuts; and seeds lubricate the bowels and help move waste through the colon.
12. Try a little ileocecal valve massage.
Sometimes the ileocecal valve, located between the small intestine and large intestine, doesn't work well. This can lead to a backlog of poop in the small intestine and constipation.
You can massage reflex points to improve its function.
13. Take your magnesium.
Magnesium is a muscle (intestinal wall muscles included) and nervous system relaxant, making it perfect for alleviating constipation, stress, and anxiety. I use magnesium bisglycinate as it's easily absorbed and gets to the areas I want to target before performing its magic.
What more info on alleviating constipation? Start here:
- Can't Poop? You May Need More Of This Mineral
- How To Free Yourself From Constipation
- Bloated? Skin Issues? What Your Body's Telling You And What You Can Do
Icon by Apple, Graphic by mbg.