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6 Tips for Overcoming Constipation Naturally
Posted by Dr. Ben Kim on Mar 30, 2017
What follows are six simple suggestions that I have found to consistency help people overcome constipation and experience regular and comfortable movements.
1. Ensure that you are optimally hydrated.
If your body and gastrointestinal tract are not provided with enough water through healthy liquids and water-rich foods, waste materials that travel through your colon will tend to be harder by the time they reach your rectal pouch.
You don't want to drown yourself with water by drinking continuously throughout the day without any consideration for your sense of thirst and activity levels, but generally, regular intake of water-rich foods and healthy liquids will promote ideal transit time of waste through the colon and help create comfortable stool consistency.
The more active you are throughout the day, the greater your need for water will be.
2. Eat substantial meals rather than graze on smaller amounts of food throughout the day.
Each time you eat a substantial meal, stretch receptors that are embedded in your stomach wall are stimulated to trigger contractile waves through the smooth muscles that govern your small and large intestines. Called peristalsis, these waves promote regular movement of waste material through your colon and rectum.
Eating substantial meals allows significant boluses (roundish masses) of waste material to travel together through your colon - these boluses are more capable of transforming into well formed stools than smaller bits of material that are the result of taking in smaller portions of food.
3. Maintain a nutrient-rich diet that includes plenty of healthy fats, naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, and microorganisms that contribute to healthy gut ecology.
Your digestive system requires a wide spectrum of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, and other nutrients to function optimally. Eating a minimally processed diet that includes some naturally fermented foods and/or quality probiotics will help ensure that all of the moving parts of your digestive system - including the smooth muscles that generate peristalsis through your intestines - are functioning as they are intended to.
The general principle is this: if you are unlikely to find it on a farm, in a garden, or in the wild, then it shouldn't be a part of your diet 95 percent of the time.
4. Be physically active.
Physical activity - be it a leisurely walk, engaging in stretching and mobility exercises, or playing sports - facilitates movement of waste materials through your intestines. Gravity is a factor, as is the need that physical activity creates for fluids and nutrients in your body to flow.
5. Take care of your autonomic nervous system.
Your autonomic nervous system has two major components - parasympathetic, which is dominant when you are feeling relaxed and balanced, and sympathetic, which dominates when you are physically or emotionally stressed. There is a third component to your autonomic nervous system - called the enteric division - that governs peristalsis throughout your gastrointestinal tract. Bowel movements are best when the parasympathetic nervous system dominates over sympathetic activity, which facilitates optimal firing within the enteric division.
To create and sustain parasympathetic dominance, make time to rest physically and emotionally and engage in activities that leave you feeling balanced. Things that cause you to smile or laugh from the heart and belly, respectively, and experiences that give you a sense of personal fulfillment tend to support parasympathetic dominance and healthy bowel movements.
6. Avoid ingestion of substances that slow transit time of waste materials through your intestines.
Many medications affect autonomic nervous system activity and management of electrolyte levels that, in turn, impact transit time of waste through the intestines.
Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, narcotic pain medicine, antihistamines, antacids, antidepressants, and synthetic iron and calcium supplements are just a few substances that can cause constipation.
If you regularly take any synthetic supplements or drugs that promote constipation, you might consider working with your physician to address root causes of your health challenges and giving yourself a chance to taper off such substances.
I hope this article proves to be helpful. If you have any questions about these tips for overcoming constipation, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
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