Constipation is something we don’t usually like to talk about. Being in the nutrition business we often ask someone how many times they pooped a day. Many are taken aback by this question. Some will laugh nervously, others might give a look of “that’s none of your business.” But it is!
We usually explain that what you eat and what comes out the other end (and when it does) tells us how effectively and efficiently you’re digesting your food. Maybe we’ll tell them a story to ease back into the question. For example, a relative was complaining about weight gain and cravings, and when I asked how many times a day did she pooped, she laughed and said, “You mean how many times a week, right?” Yep, she had one to two bowel moments a week, and to her this was normal. She is not alone!
There are many reasons for occasional constipation – diet, not enough water, sedentary behavior, resisting the urge to use the bathroom, and stress are just a few. And yet many of these are lifestyle issues and can often be overcome with 5 simple changes:
1. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water.
The standard recommended water intake for adults is eight 10-oz glasses a day. If you want to be exact, then divide your weight in half and drink that amount in ounces. For example, if a person is 150 lbs, they would need to drink 75 ounces of water a day. This is a baseline and would increase depending on the weather and how much you perspire.
2. Eat a diet rich in plant fiber.
We generally recommend a Paleo-like (grain free and dairy free) diet with plenty of real plant foods high in fiber. Here are ten fiber-rich foods we especially love:
- Leafy Greens (especially kale, collard greens, and spinach)
- Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts
- Sweet Potatoes or Yams
- Nuts and Seeds (especially almonds and pumpkin seeds, but remember only in moderation!)
- Legumes (garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils, and split peas)
- Apples and Pears (with their skin)
3. Take your enzymes.
Food can be your most powerful medicine, however it can also cause difficulties if not digested. Undigested carbohydrates ferment, fats turn rancid, and proteins putrefy. This is the ripple effect of digestion. So don’t waste a good thing – take your enzymes with every meal!
4. Add probiotics to your nighttime routine.
Probiotics taken at bedtime have been shown to help soften the stool. They also add ‘good’ bacteria which aid in digestion. And then the good fiber sources you’re eating further nourish the gut flora by feeding the bacteria to grow and colonize.
5. MOVE! Just 20 to 30 minutes of brisk walking can improve your colon health.
Exercise helps constipation in two ways: it decreases the time it takes food to move through the large intestine, and it helps stimulate the natural contraction of intestinal muscles. That’s right, your colon is a muscle.
There are times you may find that you need additional support when dealing with occasional constipation. We like to say “a jump start for a sluggish colon.” We recommend ReleaseZyme, which is uniquely formulated with cascara sagrada, senna leaf, goldenseal root, and psyllium seed along with enzymes to help “jump start” the occasionally sluggish colon and assist the body in the elimination of waste.*