There’s no beating around the toilet bowel on this one: Constipation is flat-out horrible. It feels uncomfortable, makes you bloated and probably pretty crabby (just me?). And while in the midst of a BM dry spell, when all you want is some freaking relief, you might feel like the only troubled pooper in the world. But that’s where you’re wrong. Some 42 million Americans suffer from constipation, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases—and if you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, stools that are painful and difficult to pass, or feel like you’re just not getting it all out, all signs point to you being one ’em.
Not to worry, toilet-challenged comrades, because there are a wealth of reasons that may explain the poop-light plight. “For the most part, constipation is caused by poor diet, not enough fiber, too much fiber without enough water, and physical inactivity,” says nutritionist Maya Feller, RD.
“For the most part, constipation is caused by poor diet, not enough fiber, too much fiber without enough water, and physical inactivity.” — Nutritionist Maya Feller, RD.
If you suspect your constipation is caused by a larger issue (Feller elaborates that certain medications can slow the digestive tract, and conditions like pelvic-floor dysfunction and inflammatory GI diseases can be at play, too), it’s important to get to the doctor stat. Otherwise, a few simple lifestyle tweaks could go a long way for pushing you along on your constipation-crushing journey.
Reach your No. 1 goal of going No. 2 with these 9 natural remedies for constipation
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Research shows that even mild dehydration can lead to constipation. Since our bodies are made up of 50 to 65 percent water, it only makes sense that not having enough of it would make it hard it to poop. “If you’re dehydrated, your body will take up the water from your food as it passes through your GI tract,” says Feller. “When you are well-hydrated, your body won’t need to take up as much water from your food waste, resulting in a bulkier and softer stool that is easier to pass.”
So if you’re constipated and not sipping on enough H2O, fill up your glass and start chugging. Find regular water boring? Carbonated water might do the trick, too.
2. Fill up on healthy fiber
Fibrous fruits, vegetables, and other foods are an excellent way to get things moving. “Fiber adds bulk to stools, helping it to move more quickly through the GI,” says Feller. So during your next grocery-store run, load up on fibrous, constipation-busting staples like prunes (dried or fresh), strawberries, beans, whole grain products, and broccoli. Then meal-prep a whole week of constipation-combatting winners.
3. Pour a cup of joe
While overdoing it on the coffee can be a recipe for disaster for a lot of reasons (hello, jitters and anxiety!), enjoying a healthy bowel movement with your morning cup of joe can be a nice, probably-not-bad-for-you perk. “Coffee is a natural stimulant that can help the muscles of the colon contract and release,” says Feller.
While we’re all about you loading up on your favorite single-origin drip (or whatever the kids are coveting these days), make sure you’re not relying on the stuff to do all the work for you and your intestines. It’s still vital to eat a healthy, fiber-rich diet and drink enough wate. In fact, functional medicine doctor Jill Carnahan, MD, recommends pregaming an eight-ounce cup of coffee with a tall glass of warm water.
4. Embrace mylk
Even if you’re not straight-up lactose intolerant, dairy is a common irritant to many a digestive system. “Dairy causes constipation in many people because a large percent of the population does not have the appropriate enzymes to break down lactose,” Dr. Carnahan says.
So if you’re constipated and can’t find a cause, try swapping in oat milk for your usual 2 percent in tomorrow’s latte. And don’t be too surprised when pooping gets a lot easier.
5. Curl up with a heating pad or a hot water bottle
No, these remedies aren’t just for period cramps: If your stomach is in way-too-tense knots, try curling up with a heating pad or hot water bottle. Heat is very soothing and may just relax your muscles enough to help you poop.
6. Take magnesium citrate
Magnesium is known for helping to naturally relax muscles, and that truth joyously extends to your bowels if they’re in need of a little TLC. “Magnesium is a natural laxative and relaxes the smooth muscle of bowel,” Dr. Canahan says.
A magnesium citrate supplement is especially helpful for busting your constipation (and, hot tip, it’s also smart to pack with you for travel needs). “Take 500 to 1000 mg of magnesium citrate daily or until you’re having normal, soft bowel movements more than one time daily,” she adds. If you want to stay regular, and your current situation could use a boost but isn’t a total drought, try taking a lower dose of magnesium citrate tablets as a dietary supplement.
7. Get yourself (and your bowels) moving
Ah, good old exercise—is there anything it can’t do? While I wait for that answer, here’s the reason hitting the gym might lead you to a much-needed bathroom visit: “The movement from exercise can mimic the squeezing that the GI does to create a bowel movement,” says Feller. Basically, when you move, so do your bowels.
Go for a run, take a long walk, or try some taking a few yoga twists at home—anything asks your body to be more mobile than normal can help. This, coupled with enough water, will get things going in no time.
8. Load up on two secret salad ingredients: EVOO and seeds
Beyond supporting brain and heart health, extra virgin olive oil is also great for helping with constipation. “When you’re constipated, try a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil several times daily on an empty stomach,” says Dr. Carnahan. Hey, it’s worth a try, right? Especially since you’ll be getting all that good fat along the way.
Not an olive oil kind of person? No worries— Dr. Carnahan says certain seeds are a great alternative. “Mix two tablespoons of ground flaxseed or chia seeds into water and stir, the let sit for 10 minutes,” she suggests. “Stir it together again, then make sure to drink on an empty stomach.”
9. Make time and space to poop
I know it seems silly, but stick with me for a second: If you’re constantly feeling tense and rushed every time you head to the toilet, your journey to letting nature take its course won’t be easy either. “For the person who is constipated, being in a rush and not making time to go to the bathroom can worsen the problem,” says Feller.
So, do yourself a solid (had to!), and schedule time in your poop journal to get. it. done. If your issues persist, seek medical attention, but otherwise, by sticking to this list of natural remedies for constipation, you should be able to make good on your number-one goal of going number two.
Whatever you do, don’t hold in your poop. Seriously, it’s bad for you. And when it comes to relationships, just accepting that poop is a thing might be the most refreshing option.
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