Part of my job is to answer questions about the body that most people are uncomfortable talking about. Constipation is a hot item and almost taboo to discuss unless you?re over 80 but we all experience it at one time or another.
Besides discomfort, constipation can create or indicate health problems like hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, colon cancer and medical issues so it needs to be addressed and remedied.
What’s the bottom line? How can you keep your digestive system healthy and regular?
- Hydration: this is one harped upon but it is true that if your system is not hydrated stools become hard which increases your chances for constipation. Drink till your urine is mostly clear, except first thing in the morning. You don’t have to drink 8 glasses a day unless that is what is needed for your particular body. Since food can contain a significant amount of water the key is to go by what your individual needs are.? If you exercise daily, or live in hotter climate you will need more fluid so hydrate accordingly.
- Fiber and Diet: natural fiber is the way to go. Why spend extra money on supplements that your body will be dependent on later? Include:
- 2 cups of vegetables per day (preferably 1 dark green leafy and one yellow/orange/red)
- 1-2 servings of fruit (1/2 banana is 1 servings as is 1/2 cup of berries)
- 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed for your omega 3’s and fiber (add to your morning yogurt or cottage cheese)
- 1-2 servings of one monounsaturated fat: 1 tablespoon of olive oil or 1/3 avocado (add avocado or olive oil to your salad)
- 1 ounce of nuts/seeds per day (about 20 almonds for a great snack)
- Add a probiotic to your routine. I recommend just 1 cup per day of natural plain or Greek yogurt since it contains natural probiotics and provides calcium. It is a great vehicle for adding fruit, nuts and your ground flax seeds
- Exercise: exercise increases transit time in the gut so it’s a great natural way to keep both your gut and body regular and healthy. Just half an hour per day for walking, or being active can make a difference.
What if you are doing these things and still experiencing constipation?
- Time for gut health – this may sound crazy but do you take the time to actually slow down and give your body time for digestion (eating mindfully) and elimination? If you?re always on the run this might be one to consider
- Old Remedy – try drinking a little warm water with a touch of lemon squeezed in to stimulate your digestive system first thing in the morning before you start eating or doing other activities – also adding 1-2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar to the lemon water is even more effective
- Magnesium – magnesium is an important mineral for optimal health and may be low in your diet. Good food sources of magnesium include almonds, sunflower seeds, cashews, peanuts, spinach, avocado, and yogurt so including these on a daily basis is helpful to your health. Since magnesium is a natural stool softener taking a little at bedtime (200-400 mg.) is very safe and can naturally put your gut on the course to normal activity – magnesium glycerinate is the preferred type.
Besides being the body’s largest organ, the digestive track is designed to bring appropriate nutrients to the body is and dispose of unnecessary waste so keeping it healthy is crucial.
Straining no more may mean it’s time to incorporate healthy habits for your gut into your routine just as you would other lifestyle habits – your health depends on it!