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How to Put Your Stomach on a Regular Schedule

January 10, 2012
By Guest Blogger
|24Comments|


Millions of people suffer from digestive problems in the U.S. We spend millions of dollars annually on digestive supplements, which has become a huge industry. Some people even grew to believe that digestive uneasiness is a normal state of being. While Eastern medicine strongly believes that digestion is a cornerstone of health and daily bowel movements are one of the indicators of good health, modern doctors consider two a week to be acceptable. Basically, most doctors are not concerned that you carry around a bag of toxic waste that gets re-absorbed into your blood stream five days out of seven.

In Chinese medicine and ayurveda, fewer than one bowel movement a day is considered constipation and requires serious attention. Unsupervised and untreated, it can lead to fatigue, unhealthy skin color, bad breath and headaches, in addition to general uneasiness in the stomach area.

Two years ago, before I dived into studying ayurveda and natural healing methods, my stomach was not exactly cooperating with me. Partially because of polycystic ovary syndrome and in a huge part because of my diet, I felt perpetually bloated (bye-bye sexy going out dresses!), often irregular and gassy. My stomach often looked like I was five months pregnant, even if ate very light. Sometimes it made me so angry and depressed that I wanted to cry. “How is it possible that I can’t control my own body?” I asked myself.

Two years and many books, workshops and kitchen experiments later, my stomach and I are in a very happy place. We made friends and our relationship soared to a new level of intimacy. Yes, being regular and bloat-free takes intimacy because you can’t do it without truly getting to know your body.

As I already mentioned, getting to know your body is a key to discovering digestive health. No matter where you are right now and how unhappy you might be with your digestion/elimination, you can make it 100 percent better with mindfulness and compassionate listening. It takes time to observe and to learn from your body. For now, I will share what worked for me in the hope that some of it might work for you as well.

Add it to your routine. Yes, I know it sounds funny, but it is one of the most profound things you can try. It should be a part of your morning cleansing routine. You brush your teeth, wash your eyes, shower. So why not cleanse your bowels first thing in the morning as well? In our crazy busy life, a lot of things have to be scheduled in advance to get done. Meetings? check. Laundry? check. Lunch with friends? check. Emails, classes, groceries and doctor checkups all need to be planned in advance. Going to the bathroom is no exception! Making it a habit is similar to training a puppy to go out at the same times each day. It takes some practice, but then it works like magic. We are creatures of habit and our body thrives in a familiar routine. Start by waking up 15 minutes earlier and slowly sip a cup of warm water with lemon or some herbal tea. I usually drink lemon/ginger Tulsi tea with a slice of lemon. While you drink this cleansing nectar, don’t play with your phone or check emails. This is your time to breathe and check in with your stomach. If your knees allow it, sit in Virasana and do several rounds of deep abdominal breathing. I find it to be a panacea for my digestive troubles. It increases blood flow to the digestive system, while breathing calms your nervous system and warm water stimulates peristaltic movement. Even if you don’t feel an urge to go to the bathroom right away, sit on the toilet and focus on breathing again (still no BlackBerry or iPhone in the hands, though!). Over time, your body will connect the dots, appreciate your non-hurried effort and start cooperating.

Give your belly some love. We take care of our nails, pamper our face and fuss over our hair, but our internal organs rarely get as much attention. If you’ve ever been in a managing role, you know that one of the easiest ways to get productive cooperation is to provide rewards and be nice. Our belly appreciates warmth, love and attention, as well. Abhyanga or a general whole body massage improves regularity due to its calming effects on the nervous system. Nervous stomach and irritable bowels need some calm and peace. If a whole body oil massage is an unreachable luxury, try gently rubbing your belly with your palm. Lie on your back, bring your feet into a butterfly (soles of the feet together and knees out to the sides) and gently massage the stomach clockwise.

Slow down. This one was huge for me, especially because I used to eat a lot while walking or in the back of a cab rushing somewhere. Now, I would rather skip a meal than eat in a rush. The stomach is closely connected to the nervous system. If you are in an overdrive rushed mental state, digestion can’t function properly. Good digestion and stress are on different ends of the spectrum. You need to slow down both your thoughts and your breath when food enters your body and when it leaves it. Both processes need to be mindful. If there is one thing you are ready to change today, don’t eat on the run. Don’t eat while moving, talking or rushing. When you eat, just eat. When you poop, just poop.

Have you noticed that your mood and mental state are affected by your regularity or irregularity? What makes your belly happy?

Nadya Andreeva is a yoga instructor and ayurveda enthusiast who grew up in Russia. She teaches yoga at Strala Yoga in New York City and leads workshops on Healthy Grocery Shopping at Lifethyme Natural Market in NYC.

Photo credit: cheekycrows3



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24 responses to How to Put Your Stomach on a Regular Schedule
  1. thanks Kris for all your energy!

    This article rang alot of bells!

    sheryl miller

  2. I have had no bowel movements in like 4 days since I am in a juice fast. I am in day 6 and I have started taking enemas. The first one came out with pretty ‘dirty’ just water, but afterwards it’s all pretty clear, the color of whatever juice I last had. How is this possible? Where’s my trash bag?

  3. Thank you Nadya!
    I have trouble with my bowel movements since my birth, and this article really helped me.

  4. @Eleni, It often happens during fasts that our elimination becomes irregular. Most well-balanced detox programs will advise adding psyllium husk or mild laxative teas to stimulate elimination. Otherwise you might defeat the whole purpose of a detox if holding on to all the waste. If the waste is not eliminates it hardens and the toxins from it escape into the blood stream. Fatigue, skin problems, tongue coating, and bad breath will follow. Try adding smth with fiber to the juice fast. Maybe flax seed water, psyllium husk, or milled flax seeds with chia seeds smoothie. Those should help

  5. @Nikkita, I used to have tummy troubles until I started following ayurvedic Vata guidelines and food combining rules. It cleared out. What exactly do you experience? Have you tried any natural remedies or dietary changes?

  6. Great info! Since I am thriving with canser everyone always asks me how I am able to manage this disease. Elimination is a very important part of my strategy. The body routinely eliminates invaders in healthy bodies. If you have an issue like canser it is important to support all your digestive organs so it can work on eliminating things like tumors. I do this with regular coffee enemas and colonics. In an otherwise healthy body making sure that your bowels are functioning at an optimal level should suffice. Optimal being that an hour after something goes in, it should come out. Not many of us are capable of doing this so morning and evening evacuations DAILY should be the goal. Eliminating only once or twice a week is CRAZY and needs to be addressed ASAP.

  7. in my experience, diet and supplementation are vital in the digestive process as well. Indigestion, heartburn, and constipation are often the result of internal inflammation, so you must put out the fire. Aloe Vera Gel, Mint tea, colon cleansers, probiotics, and digestive enzymes like papaya and pineapple will soothe the tract and assist in digestion. The consumption of lots of vegetables, fruits, and other fiber, plus lots of water will assist in moving things along. Stomach strengthening exercises like Pilates will assist in digestion as well.

  8. Working from the hospital this is my third attempt to post this but you are THAT important! These symptoms should never be ignored especially when they persistent & last more than 2 weeks. They call OVARIAN CANCER the silent killer but it isn’t, you just need a doctor who will listen. I was given 2 months to live THREE years ago while in my thirties !?! If you are experiencing this get to a gyn/onc and ask for a TRANSVAGINAL ultrasound & a CA-125 blood test.

    Love and health,
    Christina Radzilowicz MA
    My story: http://www.crowdrise.com/CRad

  9. I’ve struggled with constipation since I was a kid. I’ve done the cleanse, tried raw foods, gluten free, vegetarian, food combining etc… I was told by an acupuncturist & a homeopath that my constitution works better if I would steam my veggies (that I should eat less raw). I went back to that at the end of last year. My breakfast is usually a green smoothie to which I add ground flax seed or coconut oil (as advised by a colon therapist) and I’m back to having salads for lunch and am so constipated and bloated I actually took a photo of myself to show my sister (I can’t have children but I now know what I would look like at about 5 months pregnant!). I drink a lot of water, take aloe vera juice in the morning, tried Udo Probiotics & digestive enzymes, natural calm etc… I have spent so much money on supplements (probiotics, enzymes etc…) & colonics and nothing is really helping. I’m at my wits end trying to fix this :(
    Any other suggestions? Perhaps there is something I haven’t tired that will work

  10. @Lola, I completely agree with you that diet is critical in keeping elimination regular and belly happy. I also found aloe vera juice very helpful in soothing my stomach. Exercises that strengthen abdominal are definitely of great help! I also found twists and nauli kriya very helpful when trying to increase circulation to the digestive tract. Nauli is pretty fun to learn. Try searching for it on youtube!

  11. @Veronika, while I do love salads and think that having live foods in important there is some validity to your acupuncturist advice. In some cases slightly cooked foods especially at night time or when you are tired will be more gentle on your stomach than raw rough salads. If you are committed to keeping salads in your menu, try making them with softer greens, massage them, and use warm home-made dressing. I love making lemon/barley miso/ginger/turmeric/sesame oil and hot water dressing. Mix all the ingredients and then pour over spinach. Also if you want to chat regarding your diet, email me at nadyaand@gmail (dot) com. I will be happy to share my experiences!

  12. @Nadya: Thanks a lot, Nadya! I thought daily enemas were enough for elimination, but I see this was not correct. I will start having herbal laxative teas from now. Wish me luck on the 7th day of my juice fast!

  13. @Veronika: IMO< Definitely follow Christina's advice, and if you do not have ovarian cancer, you might have food allergies or yeast overgrowth, which causes bloating. I have gone through this before, and did a yeast cleanse which involves dietary changes and supplements for 3 weeks, but worked like a charm for me. Also, certain medications, and stress cause constipation. I am a big proponent of HOT foods, even when you are cleansing, as they relax the bowels and tummy. I cook vegetables in broth, season and puree them, for a thick, creamy texture, served warm or hot. Very soothing.

  14. @Eleni, Enemas are great but can to dehydration and increased constipation. It also depends what kind of enemas you do (what do you add to the water? Salt or various herbs may be recommended depending on each particular case. It helps not to disrupt natural PH of the colon and prevent irritation.)
    If you choose to have laxative teas, try to avoid prolonged use of habit-forming herbs such as senna.
    Good luck on your juice cleanse and listen to your body’s signals!!! Please email me if you have any further questions!

  15. Thank you for your suggestions!

  16. I had been on the SSRI Paxil since I was 10. This past August (I am now 21) I stopped taking it. I was never “constipated” per say, but I was never really regular. After being off the meds for a while (and drinking regular green smoothies every morning, and a diet consisting of mostly raw fruits and greens, and some cooked) my bowels became predictably regular (usually within an hour of having my morning smoothie). It was much cleaner feeling and the smell was minimal. Because my anxiety and depression got to a point where I couldn’t function, I gave in and took a prescription for another SSRI, Prozac from my doctor. Now I am constipated, bloaty, gassy, and when I do have a movement… it is smelly. So my suggestion would be – consider if you are on any meds or suppliments that may be the culprit… I never thought it was the meds before and thought I was just a “gassy person”. WRONG!

  17. As I was reading this, I could only think: this is me! Especially the PCOS and the constant bloated belly that is so closely related to stress. It is often the first sign that something is getting to me.
    Were there any particular dietary changes that you made that helped? A lot of what I’m reading has suggested cutting out sugar, including sweet fruits, for around a month to see if that helps with the yeast balance.

  18. I found Dr. Schulze’s intestinal formula by reading a recommendation from this site (Dr. Junger) and have found that I feel so much better. It is all natural and vegan and works 100% of the time. It is so much better to clear out all of the junk!

  19. I found Dr. Schulze’s intestinal formula by reading a recommendation from this site (Dr. Junger). It has helped me recover from years and years of constipation. I have to say that clearing the junk out every day has helped everything from my mood to decreasing the size of my belly.

  20. I am so grateful for this article and the discussion. Thank you, everyone! I’ve been suffering for months with severe abdominal bloating (I look more like 7 months pregnant vs. the 5 everyone mentions :-), and while I sensed I might be gluten/dairy/sugar intolerant, even a 2-week vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free cleanse in January left me bloated and unhappy most of the time (although I did have slightly increased energy). Just about anything I eat these days sets me off into bloating and burping. Luckily I poop at least once a day, if not more, depending on what I eat.

    Has anyone experimented with cutting out grains? I’ve been reading lately that pyric acid (?) in brown rice can make you bloated/gassy, and that all grains need to be soaked/fermented before cooking. I hate the thought of no more brown rice…wondering if anyone has feedback on this.

    I am at my wit’s end but am now suspecting chronic stress to be the culprit. Since I tend to worry too much, I’m not going to assume/fear I have ovarian cancer, although after seeing Christina’s post, it’s got me fearing a bit.

    Thanks for all the sharing, and keep the ideas coming. I also suffer from compulsive overeating, so it’s hard for me to consider elimination diets, because I have a huge emotional component to being so deprived, even if only for a few weeks.

  21. Oops, I meant PHYTIC acid – sorry :-)

  22. You sound sexy. Can we hook up?

  23. Aloe vera is a succulent plant species that probably native plant originated in northern Africa. The species does not have any naturally occurring populations, although closely related aloes do occur in northern Africa.

  24. What’s up, just wanted to say, I loved this
    post. It was practical. Keep on posting!