Constipation is one of those topics we tend to avoid in regular conversation. However with as many as 1 out of 5 people suffering from constipation at some point in their lives, perhaps it should be up for discussion.
What defines constipation?
In an ideal scenario, a person should pass a softly formed stool (matching type 4 on the Bristol Stool Chart) without any discomfort or pain 1-2 times a day. Any less than this is considered constipation.
Varying levels of constipation
- your bowel movements resemble a type 1, 2, or 3 on the Bristol Stool Chart
- you never really feel completely empty after a bowel motion
- you don’t pass a stool daily
- sometimes experience pain, extreme bloating or discomfort
Here are some of the most common causes of constipation;
- Poor diet and a diet rich in inflammatory foods
- Low-fat diets
- Bad posture
- Magnesium deficiency
- Medication side effects
- Lack of fibre and prebiotic rich foods
- Faecal compaction
- Bacterial imbalances within the gut – there are over one hundred trillion bacteria living in our guts. In an ideal world, our gastrointestinal tracts would have perfect integrity from top to bottom. However, leaky gut and gut flora imbalance (too much of the bad guys and not enough good guys) is becoming more and more common. As a result, it can lead to digestive issues such as gas, bloating, pain, constipation and/or diarrhea just to name a few.
- Lack of food – skipping meals regularly, or generally not eating enough food at one time
- Lack of exercise
- Poor digestion
- Sleep deprivation – sleep is so important for your nervous system, mental clarity, focus, state of mind and energy. Sleep is not often thought about when you think about digestive issues. However, when your body doesn’t get enough rest and sleep it affects the body’s ‘rest and digest’ function which is responsible for producing our digestive enzymes, bile, acid as well as affecting our gut motility
- Stress – Stress affects many aspects of our health including the ‘rest and digest’ branch of the nervous system
So as you can see, there are many different reasons you may be experiencing constipation and other digestive issues. Luckily there are lots of natural tools you can begin to utilise to improve and relieve your constipation naturally, enabling you to feel great inside and out.
14 Tips On How You Can Help Relieve Constipation Naturally
- Increase your fibre and prebiotic food intake
Start to incorporate more foods that contain pre-biotics, into your diet, such as; onion, garlic, leek, dandelion greens, chicory root and asparagus as they provide food for the beneficial bacteria already living in your gut which will aid in digestion.
You can also try adding in chia seeds, slippery elm, psyllium husk and ground flax seeds which all contain high amounts of beneficial fibre. Read my blog ‘Fibre and its Benefits….Beyond Regularity’ and ‘Importance of Eating Prebiotic Foods for Optimal Digestion’ for more information on this topic.
N.B. I don’t recommend taking fibre supplements as many of them contain harmful ingredients such as; aspartame, artificial colours, flavours, maltodextrin and wheat
- Consider your gut bugs
As well as pre-biotics, we have probiotics which are the beneficial bacteria found in yoghurt and other cultured foods. Probiotics have the ability to ease digestive woes. However, we are killing our good bacteria through; consuming a poor diet full of inflammatory foods containing preservatives, colours, flavours, additives, antibiotics, medications, tap water and high stress are all gut killers.
It’s essential we look after and nourish our gut. To maintain optimal digestion, start by incorporating delicious homemade fermented foods such as; sauerkraut, coconut water kefir, cultured cashew cheese/ dips, cultured vegetables, and coconut yoghurt. We also recommend you consume the Changing Habits Probiotics daily as it also contains both pre and probiotics too.
Did you know that magnesium is a natural laxative? An easy way to absorb more magnesium is through an Epsom salt bath. Try having one each night before bed. Soak in the bathtub for 20 minutes with 1 cup of Epsom salts. If you don’t have a bathtub, you can have a foot soak instead.
If you haven’t seen any improvement in regards to your constipation after having regular Epsom salt baths or foot soaks, then I recommend you start massaging your stomach, just before bedtime. Combine a couple of drops of magnesium spray, a small amount of coconut oil and 1-2 drops of either peppermint or lavender essential oil.
Simply massage your stomach in the direction of your GI tract for a few minutes. Start at the bottom right hand side of your stomach. Massage in small circles, moving up the right side of the abdomen, across the top of the abdomen and then down the left hand side of the abdomen.
The gentle movement can help to evacuate some of the trapped gas in your stomach as well as promote a bowel motion the following day. Read my blog ‘Signs of Magnesium Deficiency and What You Can Do About It’ for even more information.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C boosts the immune system, is a powerful antioxidant, fights free radical damage, as well as being used as an effective and natural remedy for constipation. Higher doses of Vitamin C have been shown to have a laxative effect which can provide some welcome relief for constipation. Start by increasing your Vitamin C intake slowly by mixing 1 tsp of Camu Camu into water 2-3 times a day.
One of the main causes of constipation is a lack of physical activity. Aim to get 30-60 minutes of daily exercise, as this will increase blood flow to your organs, help your lymphatic system flow, stimulate the muscles in the GI tract, tone the walls of your colon and speed up the digestive process. This all helps to stimulate a bowel movement and move waste through the intestines. Additionally, certain yoga poses such as cobra, child’s pose or hero pose can all help with digestion, constipation and improve bloating.
Sometimes it can be as simple as correcting your hydration status. If you are dehydrated you are more likely to have fluid retention and harder stools. You may not have even considered how being correctly hydrated affects your stools however this is very important to maintain regularity.
Water will help to flush out waste and toxins, keep you hydrated, as well as helping to remove excess salt from your system. Aim to drink 2 litres of filtered water each day, increasing the volume on hotter days.
I also recommend to my clients to drink a glass of warm lemon water or herbal tea with a dash of apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning. This is a great way to improve your digestion as it aids your liver to detoxify the body. It also acts as a natural diuretic so reduces water retention. By adding ginger to your tea, you will also reap the anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits that will soothe the GI tract and reduce bloating.
Become aware of the way you eat. Chew your food mindfully and slowly. Don’t sit in front of the TV or computer to eat your meals, instead sit at your dining table, sharing your food with family and friends, in a relaxed manner. Maintain a regular dinner time, eating before 7.30pm as this will allow your body to digest your food for a few hours before you go to sleep. You can also try adding ½ – 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in some water 15-20 minutes before each meal to aid digestion.
Use a ‘squatty potty’. Place the stool against the base of the toilet, and rest your feet on the stool. This allows your body to be in a squat position, which relaxes the puborectalis muscle, enabling you to make a bowel movement.
- Stress levels
Have you ever noticed any changes in your digestive system when you get stressed? Symptoms like constipation or diarrhoea are examples of how emotional stress can lead to real physical changes in your body. I honestly cannot stress (pun intended) the importance of implementing techniques to reduce your stress levels into your daily life.
Consider taking up yoga, meditation – even if it’s just for 15 minutes, dance, sing, write in a journal or practice gratitude journaling, manage your time better allowing yourself more time for the things you love to do. Aim to go on an annual holiday which will allow you to completely switch off and relax. Get out into nature as much as you can and for as long as you can. Try deep breathing and utilise essential oils such as ‘Instant Calm’ or ‘Destress and Revive’ or ‘Peace and Meditation’ from TWENTY8. These are just a few suggestions, but try to find something that you love to do daily.
- Sleeping habits
Stop using technology at least 2 hours before bed time. Dim the lights, use candles and salt lamps. It’s also a great idea to connect to the earth for at least 20 minutes daily as this helps to improve sleep, promote calmness and reduce stress levels. It also helps to relieve muscle tension, headaches, chronic pain and reduce inflammation. By connecting with nature, avoiding the use of technology and dimming the lights, this enables your body’s natural circadian rhythms to re-balance. You can also try dabbing a drop of lavender oil onto your feet, palms or your pillow, before going to bed as it’s a great calming aid to promote sleep.
You may be surprised to learn that enemas are incredibly effective and are a quick constipation relief. It removes the bulk of the stool which is important as this is where the toxins reside. The last thing we want is for constipation to lead to faecal compaction, discomfort, pain and bloating. This can also lead to the reabsorption of those toxins if the stool isn’t evacuated daily. Enemas are completely safe when performed correctly.
If you are not prepared to try enemas at home, consider seeing a professional colon hydro-therapist. For adults you can try water enemas first, which clears the bowel of any faecal compaction, then follow it with a coffee enema. This aids your liver to cleanse and detoxify as the various substances in the coffee absorb through the rich capillary bed of the rectum into the portal veins, which leads directly to the liver. Coffee enemas have been used as a healing remedy for hundreds of years and are a well-known aspect of the Gerson Therapy for cancer treatment.
If you would like more information on enemas, please read the GAPS book by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride as there is a whole chapter explaining the benefits along with the correct instructions to successfully complete an enema. If you’re more of a visual person, you can also watch this YouTube video by Jess Ainscough as she explains how to prepare a coffee enema.
- Bentonite clay
Bentonite clay benefits your body by helping to expel many toxins (environment, water, ingested, pollution, petrol fumes etc.) resulting in an immune increase and inflammation reduction. It aids digestion as it alkalises the body, relieves digestive issues such as constipation and pain as well as being a great addition to an Epsom salt bath by drawing toxins out from the skin.
Mix ½ tbsp in filtered water (using a plastic spoon or fork) and drink just before bedtime (at least 2 hours away from food). This is the brand I consume. However, if you’re adding it into the bath for detox purposes, it’s not necessary to use a food-grade bentonite clay.
Healthy quality fats support regularity and have many health benefits. They stimulate bile release from the gallbladder, which leads to muscle movement in the colon. If you’re still confused about fats and which ones we recommend to consume at Changing Habits, then I recommend you read my blog ‘The Many Benefits of Fat’ to clear up the misconception that fat makes you fat.
Caffeine is a major source of antioxidants and is a stimulant, so it can often help to stimulate the digestive tract and relieve constipation. I also suggest you source organic and MOLD FREE coffee, these are the two brands I recommend and personally use; Bulletproof coffee beans or grounds or Macro Organic Coffee beans or grounds from Woolworths. You can also read my blog ‘6 Ingredients You can Add to Your Coffee to Boost Flavour & Health Benefits’ for extra tips.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic here are some great podcasts you can listen to;
- The Poopcast – Low Tox Life with Helen Padarin
- Because Poo is Not Taboo feat. Constipation with Lynda Griparic – The Healthy Exception
- Parasites & Poo: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – 100 not out
- Emotional Stress, Poo & More – 100 not out
- Lynda Griparic – Naturopath & Poo Whisperer – Shiny Healthy You
If you’re still experiencing issues even after implementing the tips and tricks above, I would highly recommend you book in to have a one on one consultation with myself or Sheridan. We can order stool tests to see what is currently living in your gut, and do some additional investigative work in regards to your diet and lifestyle so we can help you to discover the root cause of your stubborn constipation (or other gut issues) so you can begin to feel healthy again and do the perfect number two.
Happy changing habits