Constipation is one of those things we prefer not to talk about, but for those of us who struggle with it, it’s important.
Needing to go to the bathroom, but not being able to is one of the worst feelings I can think of. It’s painful both physically and emotionally.
I believe that if you’re facing this in your life right now, there’s a good chance you always will – it’s a matter of how our bodies are designed.
There is hope though.
When I was improving my diet years back, the issue disappeared, and I think the same can happen for you too.
How it all starts
I’m not sure exactly when we start having this problem, but I’ve dealt with it as long as I can remember.
In my opinion, you either deal with it or you don’t, and I think constipation affects those with a slightly different system.
Growing up, I never wanted to go to the bathroom. Usually when I had to go, it wasn’t a good experience, so I would put it off and hold it in. I’m pretty sure other family members struggle with it, but being family they don’t like to talk about that kind of stuff much. I know from personal experience though, if it takes more than a couple minutes to get things moving, you’re dealing with some level of constipation.
When your system is healthy, you only need a couple minutes to be in & out and onto the rest of your day.
My problem was no secret to my friends either. Boys being boys I guess we talked about this stuff more than most, but I’ll never forget how shocked they were to learn I hadn’t pooped in a week.
That’s right, an entire week.
With as much food as I eat, I almost can’t believe that either. While I got my friends to laugh about it back then, I realize today just how dangerous that is.
When it comes to bowel movements, your goal needs to be at least once per day. And not just to keep things moving and prevent a backup, but to get the toxins and waste out of your system to keep from leaching back into your system.
How to move forward
It’s important to know you’re not alone, as you can see I’ve clearly struggled with it too.
It’s also important to know you CAN and WILL be able to fix it, although you may have been struggling with this for 20+ years like me.
When I was in high school my mom bought me some generic brand Metamucil, aka the fiber supplement. I wasn’t consistent in using it, and my siblings would joke with me about taking it, so I usually kept it tucked away in the pantry and eventually forgot about it.
That didn’t matter though, because increasing my fiber wasn’t working.
The Fiber Myth
One thing that’s long frustrated me is the fiber concept. While I DO believe fiber is important for regular bowel movements, I DON’T think that’s all there is to it.
You at least need fiber + water.
Without the water, you’re system is at a stand-still. Eating a granola bar is VERY different than eating a giant salad; both are loaded with fiber, yet one is dehydrated and the other is full of water. When they both enter your digestive tract, one acts like a sponge turning to concrete while the other is like a wet mop that keeps things moving.
Using Coffee & Laxatives
Everybody loves coffee, but the truth is it doesn’t always work. And, you’re actually not even working to solve the root of the problem, which is primarily what you’re eating. Coffee comes in at the last minute and uses it’s caffeinated powers to help stimulate your digestive muscles, but it’s also really dehydrating, which actually works AGAINST tomorrow mornings chore, leaving you right back where you were today. It’s a stimulant, not a solution for healthier bowel movements.
And then there’s laxatives. Who actually wants to take these? Having endless diarrhea is nobody’s idea of a good time. And guess what? That’s not a solution either, we’re just continuing to treat the symptom.
Finding a Real Solution That Works
In the past 6 years of closely paying attention to what my body does well with, I’ve found there are a 3 main components to having consistent bowel movements:
- A Hydrating Diet
- Regular Exercise
- Low Stress
I’ve also realized there are a few things that I need more of and those I need less of, such as…
Things to increase
- Deep breathing
- Exercise, particularly cardio
Things to decrease
- Excess Grains & Flour
For me, the biggest thing I did for my digestive system was eating a plant-based diet. It was a total game changer for me, even if it hadn’t relieved my constipation – but the fact that it did was an added bonus, I was stoked!
Within a week or two of eating my new whole food diet I realized I wasn’t having any issue with regularity.
Right about that same time, I decided to quit coffee. Although I actually just drank it for the energy boost. But, since eating cleaner I didn’t need it anymore.
For this reason I aim for a salad and green smoothie every day.
Finally, I constantly monitor my stress. I’ve found that intense work and exercise greatly slows down my digestive process, so I focus on deep, steady breathing as much as possible. For me, being relaxed is one of the most important pieces to regularity.