“Once in 3 days vs. 3 times in a day” That’s how a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (DAOM) once explained the crucial difference between the Americans and the Chinese. He was speaking about their number of bowel movements per day and went on to explain how this had a huge impact on the overall health of these nations.
The debate of what technically constitutes “constipation” is far from settled. Many researchers say that there is no real “average” that everyone can be held to. Eastern systems of medicine, including Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, hold the “at least once a day” principle in the highest regard.
To Go, Go, Go
Whatever frequency works for you, you know when you’re backed up. You’re irritated, annoyed… the world just doesn’t feel right. Contrast that to a day you’ve gone and gone well, maybe after a few days. You feel light, fresh, and energetic. There’s no disputing the connection between the gut and the mind, is there? Chronic constipation is also associated with many painful conditions such as acne, hemorrhoids, etc., so in general, it’s better to go regularly.
Moving Things Along
Here are a few basics that both traditional wisdom and modern research seem to agree on to get the plumbing moving along nicely.
Get Physical Exercise
Getting at least 20 minutes, appropriate for your age and any health conditions is a no-brainer. Exercise stimulates the peristaltic (wave-like) motion of the intestine and helps stool move smoothly through the bowel.
Sufficient Fluid Intake
Having enough fluids in your diet can help the stools stay smooth and pass through the gut. Remember that your large intestine literally squeezes the digested food to extract liquid nutrition and forms stools from what remains. If you don’t have enough fluids, the stools end up being hard and difficult to pass.
Eat Plenty Of Fiber In Your Food
Vegetables, fresh fruits (especially dried fruits), and whole grains, including wheat, bran, and oatmeal cereals, are excellent sources of fiber. Sufficient daily fluid intake with fiber is an absolute must. This helps to “bulk up” the stools and create sufficient pressure upstream to move the stools smoothly through the digestive tract.
Squat Rather Than Sit When You Go
It takes some getting used to, but this little trick seems to work like magic for many sufferers. Squatting changes the angle of your lower abdomen and exerts the correct pressure on your intestine, helping natural evacuation. There are many squatting platforms available to help you use your regular pot in this fashion.
Natural Supplements For Managing Constipation
As always, there are natural supplements to help your system re-balance itself and get you going like clockwork. Here are the highlights!
We don’t get enough from our food to start with, and processed foods leach it away too, so many of us are deficient in this mineral that is critical for smooth muscle movement. The star of the old milk of magnesia remedy, magnesium pulls water into the gut to moisten and give volume to feces. It also gets the muscles of the gut limbered up and moving.
- What seems to work for many: Start with 500 mg of magnesium citrate and work your way up if needed.
If there are no results, increase to 750 mg. If still constipated, increase dosage to 1000 mg daily. If you’re still clogged up, chances are, magnesium was neither your problem nor your solution.
Across cultures, fermented probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut were part of the daily diet. The “pro” or “good” bacteria in these foods would help digestion, get stools to the right consistency and keep gas-producing bad bacteria from multiplying. You can add these foods to your daily intake or get a probiotic pill with the correct balance of 5–6 strains of good bacteria.
- What seems to work for many: 1–2 probiotic capsules with 5–30 billion CFUs (colony forming units)
The fiber from psyllium husk combines with fluids to form “bulk” that helps move stool through the intestinal tract. As with natural food fiber, drink plenty of water through the day when using Psyllium.
- What seems to work for many: Start with 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) in a glass of water. Take up to 2 tsp gradually, if needed
This excellent source of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is also a great mover of the bowels! You can grind it up fresh in a coffee machine and mix the powder in a glass of water, or you can boil whole flaxseed briefly in a glass of water and have the mixture. The gelatinous substance that flax produces works like a natural laxative.
- What seems to work for many: 1 tablespoon in 6–12 oz of liquid
A dietary fiber derived from the konjac plant, this too works synergistically with sufficient water to form the bulk needed to move stool through the colon with the least strain.
- What seems to work for many: 3–4 g per day
Vitamin B5, Or Pantothenic Acid
Among the group of cures that works best on an empty stomach, Vitamin B5 works by inducing rapid peristalsis in the colon. Some people find it works best when B5 is taken in the morning and magnesium is taken at night.
- What seems to work for many: 2,000–3,000 mg of B5 on an empty stomach in the morning, with 500 mg of magnesium at night
Known for its immune-boosting properties, this water-soluble vitamin is also used on an empty stomach to help induce colon peristalsis and give rapid results. Dose with care, since it can give some people diarrhea.
- What seems to work for many: 1,000 mg on an empty stomach
This Ayurvedic remedy gets its name from the “3 fruits” that are dried and powdered to make it. Ayurveda is based on a system of body types or personality types, called doshas, and each person is supposed to be dominated by 1 or the other of 3 doshas. The most prized herbal remedies in Ayurvedic medicine are those that suit people of all 3 doshas, and Triphala is one of these. It aids digestion and is a potent colon cleanser. The powder is mixed in water traditionally, but the modern capsule is far more palatable.
- What seems to work for many: 3–5 g divided into 2 doses or 6-10 tablets of 500mg each, divided into two doses.
Approved for use by the FDA as a laxative, senna is an herb that has certain natural chemicals called sennosides that irritate the colon and cause it to evacuate. May be better for acute constipation rather than for regular use.
- What seems to work for many:1/2 tsp of liquid, or 50–100 g of a capsule
That’s the constipation round up as of now. Let us know if we missed any that work for you.
As a final word, please bear in mind that some prescription medications, like anti-depressants or sleep medications, which work by numbing nerve impulses, may interfere with the peristaltic motion of the colon. If you are on any of these and are suffering from constipation, consult with your doctor. You may check out a comprehensive list of supplements that help in constipation.
Go regularly, smile a lot, and live long!