Bowel health is not what you would call a water cooler topic of conversation. Waste elimination is a private matter and often a private struggle for many people. Professional opinions vary on how many bowel movements an adult should have, ranging from three a day to three a week. I believe if you are not having at least one or two healthy bowel movements a day, you may be suffering from constipation. If this becomes the norm, you may be suffering from chronic constipation or your lack of regular elimination may be the symptom of another condition.
Backed-up bowels are not uncommon and can be caused by numerous factors. Insufficient insoluble fiber in the diet and not drinking enough water are the most common reasons people become constipated. The good news is that these are easy to fix by drinking more water and eating more high fiber foods like vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, berries and whole grains (unless the constipation is a symptom of Crohn’s or Colitis – additional fiber could make the condition worse). Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can also cause constipation, as can lack of exercise and the use of medications like pain killers. Temporary health changes like pregnancy can also result in temporary constipation.
If you have ruled out any underlying medical condition (or pregnancy), are eating plenty of fibrous foods and drinking lots of water and are still not regular, here are some simple remedies to help boost your bowel function, adapted from my new book Weekend Wonder Detox: Quick Cleanses to Strengthen Your Body and Enhance Your Beauty.
Probiotics–The Beneficial Bacteria: Take a full-spectrum probiotic supplement twice a day and well-spaced from meals (try when you first wake up and when you are about to go to bed). These good bacteria are needed to manufacture healthy nutrients in the intestines, increase the absorption of vitamins and control the proliferation of harmful bacteria. Don’t be fooled by the commercials on television pushing yogurt and other processed foods as probiotic-rich solutions to your health issues. Most of these products have insufficient quantities and varieties of living cultures to do much good. A great alternative is to add fermented and cultured foods to your diet.
Magnesium: This mineral is an effective and gentle laxative that increases the water content in stools to support elimination. Most people eat a magnesium-deficient diet which is easily corrected by adding dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cashews and almonds, legumes and replacing red meat with sustainably-harvested fish like albacore tuna. A high-quality calcium-magnesium supplement (400 mg of each mineral) is a good addition to your diet as well.
Aloe Vera: You don’t hear as much about aloe today but the juice of this plant has been used for millennia to not only treat ulcerations in the digestive tract but to stimulate the elimination of fecal matter from intestines. A quarter cup of sugar-free, preservative–free aloe vera juice twice daily will help keep you regular.
Licorice Root: This medicinal herb tastes like many of the candies that bear its name but don’t possess its therapeutic properties. Licorice root reduces inflammation in the intestines and helps eliminate waste. As an added bonus, a cup of licorice tea can help boost you when you are experiencing both emotional and physical stress. The herb is also available in tincture form. Individuals with high blood pressure or kidney failure, as well as people taking heart medication should avoid licorice. Follow package instructions for the product you choose.
Yoga to Go: The yoga posture known as Apanasana is a simple and effective way to support intestinal cleansing and support the elimination of toxins. Throughout the day, take a moment to stretch out on your back with your legs extended and arms down at your sides. Slowly lift your legs and bend your knees, drawing them toward your chest with your feet together and toes pointed away from you. Keeping your knees together over your chest, wrap your arms around your legs and hold for at least 20 seconds. Gently roll to your left and hold for 20 seconds and then roll to your right and hold for the same amount of time. Repeat the entire process at least three times and then relax on your back with your feet extended.
Conduct a Colon Cleanse: A good colon cleanse delivers on the promise. And, while there are many on the market, most rely on harsh herbs that will keep you on stand-by near the bathroom. Instead, choose an all-natural approach with high fiber foods and gentle and proven herbs that help remove build-up in your intestines like the Colon Cleanse Weekend outlined in my book Weekend Wonder Detox: Quick Cleanses to Strengthen Your Body and Enhance Your Beauty.
The vast majority of people suffering from constipation can rid themselves of the problem (and the waste!) in a matter of days with a few simple lifestyle changes. If you don’t see improvements after trying these tips and dietary changes, you may want to consult a qualified medical professional to determine if the constipation is a symptom of an underlying health condition. However, most people will feel both regular and renewed.
Check out my new books Weekend Wonder Detox and 60 Seconds to Slim. Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.