Decorum dictates that one speaks not of religion or politics while in polite company. At FBG, we happily avoid such contentious subjects, but aren’t afraid to dive head first into the poop! Er, I mean the topic of poop, or actually, the lack thereof.
Emily Post be damned, we’re talking constipation and if you’ve ever suffered a bout of intestinal congestion, you’ll attest it’s a subject worthy of discussion. For the record, constipation is medically defined as anything less than three bowel movements a week. Food and lifestyle are common culprits, but before you reach for a chemical cure, check out these natural fixes. (As always, check with your doc first!)
Poop Fix No. 1: Water
Hard, dry, lumpy stools are often the result of dehydration. Feces are roughly 75 percent water, so even mild dehydration can be a mitigating factor in the quality of poop produced. Drink plenty of water, (64 ounces is still a widely agreed upon estimate) and eat foods that have high water content like melon, celery and grapefruit.
Urine output and volume is a good measure of hydration. If properly hydrated, you should have the urge to relieve your bladder about every two to four hours; the urine should be light in color and not overly odorous. If you don’t meet these criteria, down the liquids and sip a glass of potassium-rich coconut water to help restore your electrolyte balance.
Poop Fix No. 2: The Mighty Mango
If you find yourself in a bind (constipation joke intended), eat fresh mango first thing in the morning and immediately after dinner. The fruit contains an enzyme that breaks down protein in the intestines that in turn stimulates the digestive system and offers natural constipation relief.
The mango is also rich in dietary fiber. Active adults require between 25 to 40 grams of fiber per day, with that being a mix of soluble (like oatmeal, dried beans, apples, carrots) and insoluble (like whole grains, seeds, nuts, dark leafy vegetables) fiber. Make sure you are getting your RDA of fiber, but beware; too much fiber in the diet can cause your elimination process to come to a screeching halt. If you are constantly gassy and bloated, you may be consuming too much fiber.
Poop Fix No. 3: Work Those Asanas
Combat constipation with the healing practice of yoga. Spinal twists, forward folds and inversions exercise the abdominal organs and stimulate intestinal blood flow. Pranayama or controlled breathing not only helps to relieve emotional stress (another culprit of constipation) but also inspires bowel action through relaxation.
Pavanmuktasana, or wind-releasing pose, is helpful in eliminating trapped gas, a common problem associated with constipation, and will get things moving in the right direction. (Always start with your right leg to work the correct path of the colon!) Practice yoga regularly to keep the abdominal organs strong and functioning at their optimum.
Poop Fix No. 4: Castor Oil Poultice and Self Massage
Desperate situations require desperate measures. Castor oil! But wait, before you drink the stuff — castor oil tastes nasty, causes severe cramping and explosive elimination — try this much gentler approach.
When applied directly to the skin, castor oil will slowly absorb into the intestines. Make a poultice of castor oil and apply it in the evening, just before bedtime. The laxative effect works overnight, promoting gentle stimulation with normal contractions.
Repeat the process for two or three consecutive nights if needed.
- Cut a piece of white flannel cloth big enough to cover the abdomen from ribs to pelvic bones.
- Soak the cloth in castor oil.
- Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees and place the soaked cloth over the abdomen. Cover with a piece of plastic wrap (castor oil is very sticky) and then cover with an old towel. (Castor oil can stain.)
- Place a hot water bottle or heating pad on top of towel.
- Leave pack on for 45 to 60 minutes.
- Remove and gently massage the abdomen starting just below your navel (from the ascending colon) working in a clockwise motion (to the descending colon).
- The flannel cloth may be kept in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for continued use. Only add enough oil the next night to keep the cloth saturated.
Constipation is a common problem that affects about 80 percent of the population at one time or another. Keep your BMs on a schedule (they like that), and don’t resist the urge when nature calls. Daily exercise keeps more than your metabolism zooming; it also keeps that digestive tract in good working order. Just one more reason to keep on moving!
What natural constipation fixes do you have up your sleeve? Please share! —Karen