Look out! Over-share coming…. I don’t poop as much as I would like.
It’s awful. I feel bloated and generally uncomfortable a lot of the time. My abdomen gets distended. I’m grouchy. It’s worse since I had a baby.
Constipation is a very common problem, particularly among women. It’s generally defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, though for some healthy people that number may be the norm. The thing is, when you’re stopped up, you know it. You’re full of shit.
Laxatives are a quick fix.
Stimulant versions contract your intestinal muscles, while saline ones add extra water to the stool, but you shouldn’t take any of them long-term (if at all).
Other recommended remedies: eat more fibre, fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Drink more water.
Get more exercise. Avoid alcohol, smoking, caffeine. These are the same fixes for everything, all the time. Then there are those yogurts containing probiotics that get ladies dancing in the commercials.
I eat plenty of fibre – which you can also get in supplement form – and drink lots of water, walk everywhere, eat yogurt, take probiotics, but I’m not about to give up wine or coffee.
There’s got to be another way!
What the experts say
“Constipation is the most complained-about digestive concern. I recommend 1 to 2 tablespoons of chia seeds or flaxseeds per day in addition to magnesium bisglycinate, a highly bioavailable amino acid chelate. It’s not dependent on stomach acid for absorption and is well tolerated.
Constipation may indicate a toxic lifestyle. Herbal detoxification that cleanses the colon can make a significant difference. The synergistic effect of botanicals like fennel and Turkey rhubarb root works to support a healthy digestive tract and remove debris stuck to the intestinal walls.
Sweep your colon with organic herbs to improve digestive function. Fermented foods like kefir and high-quality probiotics are also recommended by naturopaths.”
SARA CELIK, naturopath, Toronto
“Chew well – try for 30 times. Avoid liquids during meals except for herbal teas, broths, soups or stews. Eat food warm or at least at room temperature. Avoid greasy or very spicy food.”
ZORANA ROSE, naturopath, Toronto
“Abdominal massage stimulates peristalsis, the muscle contractions of the digestive system that move waste. Some things you can do yourself: A cold cloth on the abdomen for no more than 10 minutes increases blood flow to the intestines and encourages movement. Something as simple as rubbing the abdomen for a few minutes in a clockwise direction can give great relief. Start off lightly, increasing the pressure a little with each pass until you’re using medium pressure and then decreasing pressure with each pass, back to a light pressure to finish off. Move in a clockwise direction because it mimics the natural flow of the digestive system.”
AMANDA MROZ, massage therapist, Integrative Health Institute, Toronto
“Acupuncture and acupressure work well for constipation. A point on the arm, san jiao 6, has been called the ‘poo press.’ It’s on the back of the arm, about a quarter of the distance from the wrist to the elbow, between the two bones. Press for 45 seconds to a minute when sitting on the toilet. Your bowels can move right away.
There’s another spot about 2 inches from the belly button on either side. Press until it’s slightly uncomfortable and hold for about a minute.
The large intestine’s job is to let go, to get rid of things you no longer need, not just poo. When people have a tendency to hold on to emotional stuff – it could be grief and sadness – their bowels tend to do the same.”
KALEB MONTGOMERY, Chinese medicine practitioner, Toronto
“Make a formula of cascara sagrada and senna leaf with a small amount of licorice and a little bit of ginger, with mint and fennel added to help decrease intestinal spasms. Take a teaspoon in a cup of boiled water at night, but not for too long, the first two herbs particularly. You can take licorice, dandelion root, burdock and Turkey rhubarb for longer than a week. Also fennel, ginger and mint.
Bulking laxatives that bulk up the stool include psyllium husk and flaxseed. Add a bit of slippery elm powder to these. Put a tablespoon of that mixture into a very tall glass of juice or water and stir.
Soak prunes with a little bit of cinnamon overnight, then eat the prunes and drink the soaking water.”
CELINA AINSWORTH, herbalist, Toronto