I frequently have patients complain about how constipation makes them cranky, bloated, hungry, and overall miserable. Oftentimes they're too embarrassed to talk about the problem until it becomes unbearable.
Researchers find roughly 12 to 19 percent of the population (about 63 million people) suffers from constipation. While it might be common, constipation is definitely not normal, and it can have disastrous consequences.
As a medical doctor, I understand how healthy digestion and eliminating waste once or twice daily—that's daily, not weekly!—becomes critical to your overall health. After all, your liver flushes out toxins and dumps them into your intestines. If they don't leave your body, they get reabsorbed and then nasty things happen.
To get things moving consistently, focus foremost on your diet, which drives most constipation. While chronic stress and antibiotics overuse can mess up your gut, a diet high in processed foods and sugar does more harm promoting constipation.
More specifically, these seven strategies help most patients "get things moving" effortlessly:
1. Avoid constipating foods.
Dairy tops the list, while gluten is a close second. I challenge you to give those up for at least three weeks and see how your digestion and overall health improve.
2. Increase your fiber.
As hunter-gatherer humans, we ate 100 to 150 grams of fiber a day. Today most modern humans are lucky if they get 8 grams daily. Besides eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, try adding 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed a day to your food in things like your smoothies or salads for an easy fiber boost. Nuts, seeds, and beans also contain high amounts of quality fiber.
3. Eat more healthy fats.
Those include wild fatty fish like sardines and salmon, olive oil (which lubricates the digestive system), and avocado. One of the best "laxatives" is MCT oil, which I recommend in my book Eat Fat, Get Thin. You can put it in your coffee (which also helps you go), or use it in your smoothies and salad dressings.
4. Get more magnesium.
Many people don't get enough of this mineral, plus things like chronic stress, caffeine, sugar, and toxic overload often deplete what little magnesium we do have. Eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods like nuts, beans, and greens. Even then, you'll want to supplement 200 mg to 1,000 mg of magnesium citrate daily. Gradually increase the dose until you go once or twice a day. If you take too much, you might get loose stools. If that happens, back off a bit.
5. Ditto vitamin C.
This is another great poop inducer. You can take 2,000 to 4,000 mg or more a day along with magnesium. The same principle applies here: If you begin to get loose stools, just back off a bit.
Moving your body helps you move your bowels. Whether you do burst training or just walk vigorously, exercise makes a great laxative.
7. Drink up.
Hydration is critical for proper elimination, so drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
Incorporating these simple steps will help most people. If you're still struggling, you might have underlying problems like a sluggish thyroid that a functional practitioner can help address.