functional nutrition

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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

RDN, CGN, CLT
(602) 422-9800

Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist
Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist

Chronic Constipation Making Your Miserable? Here Are 5 Tips to Get Things Moving

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A woman sitting on the couch with her head in her hands because she’s frustrated by how her chronic constipation is interfering with her life.

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Constipation is miserable. I totally get it — when nature’s call goes unanswered, it can feel like time stands still and your digestive system is taking an extended vacation. It seems like you should just be able to go into the bathroom and well… go. But it doesn’t always work that way, especially if constipation is an ongoing problem for you. You find yourself desperately searching for quick solutions to get things moving again. Well, worry not, because in this article, I’ve got your back(side) covered!

When you’re dealing with constipation, you want relief ASAP. That’s why I’m sharing my best practical tips and suggestions you can try today to kick-start your sluggish bowel. From simple lifestyle changes to natural remedies, I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that might just help you bid farewell to constipation and welcome back regularity. So, get ready to say “goodbye” to the discomfort and “hello” to a smoother, more satisfying bathroom experience. Let’s dive in and get those wheels turning — literally!

Relieving Constipation Tip #1: Hydrate

The vast majority of people don’t drink enough water. In fact, some sources report that as much as 75% of adults are chronically dehydrated. Your body uses water for a lot of things including maintaining your body temperature, lubricating and cushioning your joints, and (yep, you guessed it) elimination.

Hard, dry stools are harder to pass. You need enough water in your system to meet your immediate needs and to keep your ? soft and pliable.

I know it’s hard to get in enough water each day. You’re busy. You’re distracted. And let’s face it, water just doesn’t taste as good as all the other things you could drink. But if you want to address your constipation, upping your water is the first place to start.

Sometimes it’s as easy as deciding to drink more water. But for most of us, making it taste better and building a habit around water can make a big difference. Here are some ideas to help get your started on upping your hydration:

? Make spa water.

Slicing up some fruit and dropping it into your water can add flavor, nutrients, and up the refreshment factor. Think things like cucumber, citrus, and berries.

? Carry a water bottle with you.

If you’re sitting at your desk frantically trying to get your work done or driving around town, you’re probably going to ignore your thirst unless you have water within arms’ reach. Carrying a water bottle with you keeps water readily available. And it can help you keep track of how much you’re drinking.

There are lots of type of water bottles available. They even have bottles with graduated measurements to help you stay on pace with your hydration throughout the day.

? Add some ice.

For many people, cold water tastes better and is more refreshing. And while there is some anecdotal evidence that room temperature water may be better for bowel movements, there’s not a lot of science to back that up.

If you start adequately hydrating with cold water, but it doesn’t help your constipation, then consider trying some room temperature water instead — especially in the morning.

But generally, more water is better than less. And if keeping it cold helps you drink more, I’m all for it. Be careful about putting water bottles in the freezer unless they are freezer-safe though.

? Set goals and reminders.

You can gamify your water drinking. If you’re competitive by nature, or you love to reach a goal or check off a to-do, why not use that to your advantage when it comes to hydrating?

Try getting a larger container for your entire day’s supply of water and using it to refill a smaller glass or bottle throughout the day. Or set a reminder on your phone to drink some water every hour. You could even set up a kid-style star chart with a reward at the end. Whatever works for you!

? Limit caffeinated beverages

I’m not saying ditch the coffee. But caffeinated drinks can actually work against your hydration. Caffeine is a stimulant that acts as a natural diuretic. So it removes water from your body and increases urine production

? Limit alcohol.

Alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and liquor, reduces the secretion of vasopressin, a hormone involved in the regulation of urine output. Basically, alcohol also increases urine output, which can lead to dehydration.

Relieving Constipation Tip #2: Exercise

Motion is lotion. Exercise can make a big difference with your constipation. Whether you’re in the throes of a constipation nightmare, or you just want to be proactive and prevent the next one, exercise can help.

Ideally, if you can manage 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week, you can get maximum benefit from your efforts. But don’t let perfectionism get in your way. Some exercise is better than no exercise. Even if all you can manage is a walk around the block when you go out to check the mail, that can make a difference.

And every time you consider passing (pun intended) on your exercise, just chant to yourself, “motion is lotion, motion is lotion…”

Relieving Constipation Tip #3: Set Your Body Up for Success

Constipation is one of those things where lots of little actions add up and make a difference. Getting in that water and adding in some exercise can make a tremendous difference. But in my practice I recommend some additional strategies that can help too:

? Simulate the squatting position when you go.

Sitting down on a toilet with your knees level with your hips is actually not a great position for when you need to ?. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could actually squat on your toilet. But thankfully, there are easier ways. There are a few different varieties of foot stools that are designed to fit around your toilet. Many of them slide back out of the way. Then when it’s time, you just slide it forward and rest your feet on it.

This gets your body in a position that’s more conducive to having a complete BM. And it has the added advantage of being more comfortable (and safer) than trying an acrobatic or contortionist move to get into a squatting position on a standard toilet.

? Give yourself some time.

Relaxing works some magic on both your nervous system and your digestion — your gut and brain are closely connected after all. If you can relax (especially in the morning when your body is primed for a BM), you’re more likely to be able to go.

Relieving Constipation Tip #4: Add Small Changes to Your Daily Routine

When it comes to constipation, small changes over time really can make a big difference. And oftentimes, simple diet and lifestyle changes can get things moving. Unfortunately, in our culture, we have a tendency to follow a self-defeating pattern:

Notice a problem and promptly ignore it.

Notice the problem again and hope it magically goes away

Worry about the problem as you notice it’s only getting worse

Wait until you’re miserable and then finally go to the doctor and go on medication ?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-medication. But it isn’t always needed if you address a problem before it becomes dire. That’s why I encourage my clients to make those small changes that make a big difference. And the earlier, the better.

If constipation is becoming a problem for you, I have a series of things you can add to your daily routine that can make a difference. Any one of these can help. But when you do them in combination, it can be magic. They’re easy, quick, and pretty inexpensive.

I break it all down in this Instagram post.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t see a practitioner (see Tip #5). But there are things you can do that may either eliminate your need for meds, or work alongside your medications to get you more relief. Next week, we’ll look at how your diet can help with chronic constipation.

Relieving Constipation Tip #5: Get Some Professional Help

Everyone deals with constipation from time to time. But if you’ve read this far into this article, I’m guessing “from time to time” isn’t a part of your constipation equation.

If constipation is an ongoing issue for you, or if it’s interfering with your quality of life, it’s time to get serious. Constipation is uncomfortable and annoying. But there are also risks of some more serious consequences. So if constipation is a chronic issue for you, your best bet is to see a knowledgeable practitioner who can get to the bottom of your issues (see what I did there?).

In my practice, my driving motivation is figuring out the root cause of my clients’ digestive issues. I feel a rant coming on so brace yourself… Too much of our medical system is set up to relieve symptoms. And yes, I want you to find relief! But just masking symptoms doesn’t solve the underlying problem that’s causing the symptoms in the first place.

Symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something is off. And just covering it up, or even relieving symptoms, doesn’t do any long-term good unless you also find and address the underlying problem.

I’m like a healthcare detective. When I meet with a new client, we absolutely talk about things they can do right away that will get them feeling better. But that’s just where we start. While we’re taking measures to reduce symptoms, I’m also working behind the scenes to solve the underlying problem. And once we do that, the symptoms go away on their own.

If you’re ready to find the underlying issues that are causing your digestive symptoms, I’m here for you.

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