Trust your gut. It’s solid advice for maneuvering the complexities of life, but it doesn’t always pan out in the literal sense. Sometimes, your gut betrays you. We’re talking the physical betrayal that is constipation.
We’ve all been there, even if we don’t like to talk about it. It’s uncomfortable and downright unpleasant. But there are steps you can take to ease the pain of being internally sucker-punched in the gut, whether it’s an occasional blockage with simple home remedies, or a chronic occurrence that requires a little extra help.
Why your gut gets backed up sometimes
First things first. How can you tell if you’re having enough bowel movements to keep your gut healthy, and what causes constipation in the first place? The number of bowel movements considered “healthy” varies based on factors such as your age, gender, overall health, and eating and exercise habits. Generally speaking, however, if you are having three bowel movements or fewer per week, there may be cause for concern. Other symptoms of constipation include hard, dry, or lumpy stools, difficulty or pain when passing stools, or a feeling that you haven’t passed the entire stool.
Constipation – which can manifest itself in infrequent and/or hard-to-pass stools – affects about 20% of Americans each year. It’s most often caused by dehydration or simply not getting enough fiber, but it can also stem from stress, hormonal changes, or certain injuries or illnesses that impact the digestive tract. If the following advice for natural constipation relief or home remedies don’t help, you may want to consult your doctor to look for a more serious cause.
Natural constipation relief
Your first step in combating constipation is through natural adjustments to your diet or daily habits. If your tummy troubles are caused by dehydration or low fiber intake, it stands to reason that drinking more water or eating high-fiber foods should help. Getting more regular exercise and adjusting your bowel movement form can help, too.
Constipation usually results from being dehydrated on a regular basis, so the best course of action is to keep hydrated consistently. Nevertheless, drinking water can help after you’ve reached a point of constipation. Some studies have found that sparkling water may be even more effective than tap water at easing constipation, as it can help move things along in the digestive tract in addition to hydrating. Carbonated sugary beverages such as pop, however, can make constipation worse.
Get more fiber
According to the American Dietetic Association, the average American consumes far less fiber – only 15 grams daily – than our bodies need. Women under 51 need about 25 grams daily (21 grams for those 51 or older), and men under 51 should aim for 38 grams daily (30 grams if they’re 51 or older). Why does that matter? Fibrous foods aid in combatting constipation by increasing both bulk and regularity of your bowel movements, which helps make stools easier to pass.
If you want to give your diet a natural fiber boost, some good options to try are oats, whole-grain bread or cereal, rice and beans, or fruits and veggies such as pears, strawberries, avocado, apples, carrots, or broccoli. If you’re really struggling to consume enough fiber through your diet, you can try a fiber supplement.
Another natural option is to increase blood flow to your abdomen through light exercise. Try going for a walk or easy run to get things going. Maintaining a regular exercise routine may help keep you regular – or at least more comfortable – going forward.
Finally, take a look at your form when having a bowel movement. If you are forced to sit upright too much, you may be working against your body’s natural inclination. Try placing a footstool in front of your toilet for your feet, allowing you to squat rather than sit. This should help avoid excess strain that might otherwise prevent you from comfortably passing stools as frequently as you need.
Products to relieve discomfort
Sometimes we need a little extra help relieving the discomfort of constipation. There are a number of personal hygiene products designed to assist in your efforts to have more comfortable and more regular bowel movements. Which products you should use depends on your specific pain points and goals. You may also want to consult with a doctor before using any product to help ease constipation to ensure you know how to use them safely and correctly.
One of the first products that may come to mind when you’re looking to get your bowels moving is a laxative. There are different types of laxatives, but they are typically intended to help move stool through your digestive tract more easily. Some of the most common variations of laxatives include:
- Laxative stimulants, which squeeze the intestines
- Osmotic laxatives, which help move fluids through the colon
- Lubricant laxatives, which coat the walls of your intestines to help stool move through more easily
If you suspect dehydration is causing your constipation, and the result is hard, painful bowel movements, you might want to consider a stool softener. Stool softeners pull water from your intestines to moisten a hard stool, allowing it to pass with less pain and strain on your part.
Enemas and rectal douching
For severe constipation, you may find relief through enema administration or the use of a rectal douche. An enema is a device and technique that involves inserting liquid or gas into the rectum (the end of the large intestine) to clear the bowels or insert medication. Rectal douching, on the other hand, cleans out the anus (the very end of the colon) using water to help void stools that are too hard to pass. Flents offers both a Douche Kit and a combination Douche and Enema kit to bring your belly and bottom some relief.
Constipation can range from mildly uncomfortable to moderately painful, but it’s not uncommon. There are natural, easy-to-use products available to give you the relief you deserve so you can tackle whatever else life (or your family) throws at you.
Healthline: How to Make Yourself Poop
Medical News Today: 13 Home Remedies for Constipation
WebMD: Dietary Fiber for Constipation
Healthline: 22 High Fiber Foods You Should Eat
VeryWell Health: The Health Benefits of Fiber Supplements
Healthline: Enema Administration