Do you sometimes feel like you’re carrying around a load of bricks in your belly? When I get backed up, everything suffers—my overall energy, mental clarity, attitude… So although I covered the basics of healthy poop in an earlier blog, today I want to tackle constipation head-on and talk about how we can all be more regular.
Constipation is obviously uncomfortable, but did you know that it could lead to health issues like fecal impaction (study), colon cancer (study and study) and other digestive problems? That’s why avoiding chronic constipation is high on my prevention checklist.
So let’s get proactive about poopin’. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel when this train is on track. Choo, choo!
What does it mean to be “regular”?
Everyone has their own unique “regular.” Technically speaking, constipation is any disruption in your typical rhythm that feels uncomfortable. But if you’re the type who goes only a couple times a week and still feels okay, I’d say it’s still worth a shot to try some of my tips below and see if you can increase the number of times you’re going to the loo. You may find that you feel better than you ever knew you could! I’m a firm believer that having a bowel movement (BM) once or twice a day is best for your beautiful bod.
How to identify healthy poo
Your poop should not only be frequent, but also easy to pass, soft, smooth, in the shape of a “C” or “S” (the shape of your intestinal tract) or in clear-cut soft blobs. Although most healthy poop is stinky, it’s not gas mask foul-smelling. And lastly, it should be brown, or dark brownish-greenish color if you eat lots of leafy greens (gold star for you!).
9 constipation causes & tips for relief
Even if constipation runs in your family or you have a highly sensitive or stubborn system, you don’t have to give in to feeling backed up and bummed out all the time. Use my tips below to help loosen things up. Constipation is usually caused by two or more of the following:
- Not enough fiber. You need fibrous foods at almost every meal, which include a mix of both insoluble fiber (ex. whole grains, non-GMO corn and foods containing non-GMO corn bran, nuts, seeds and fruit and vegetable skins), and soluble fiber (ex. chia seeds, flax seeds, oats, beans, lentils and strawberries). Get more examples of insoluble and soluble fiber sources here and shoot for at least 25 grams of total fiber daily. Rye bread, beans, lentils, flax seeds, chia seeds and celery are real constipation-busting superstars. Enjoy some of these nutritious foods every day for healthy poop.
- Not enough fluid. You need water to hydrate your high-fiber bowel movements. Without enough H2O, your stool becomes dehydrated and hard, making it difficult to pass. Aim for half your bodyweight (lbs) in ounces daily.
- Not enough exercise. At least 20 minutes a day of low impact aerobic activity like walking, jogging, dancing or jumping jacks will encourage motion through your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Try a walking or standing workstation to help you incorporate more activity into your work day, or go for a daily morning, lunchtime or evening walk for healthy GI stimulation.
- Too much supplemental calcium or iron. An excess of these essential minerals may actually be stopping you up. If you think these supplements could be your constipation culprit, check out my guides to getting calcium and iron through your meals. Food sources of these minerals are more gentle on your system because they aren’t as concentrated. Plus, plant sources of calcium and iron also contain fiber and other nutrients that support a healthy digestive system and prevent constipation.