You have pooped for so long that it is easy to take the simple but necessary act for granted. If at some point you can’t walk, it probably won’t ruin your day, but you can feel uncomfortable, bloated, and, well, crappy.
It is important to remember that there is no standard frequency for bowel movements. Some people poop every day while others poop every few days. Both are normal and as long as you are feeling fine there isn’t much to worry about.
However, you probably know exactly how often you typically have bowel movements. So if you suddenly have trouble walking, that’s a big deal.
There can be many reasons you can’t poop, from having too little fiber or water in your diet to taking a new medication, says Dr. Karen WeiRu Lin, Assistant Dean of Global Health and Professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
While chronic constipation can be a sign of an underlying health condition, like irritable bowel syndrome, if you only have occasional difficulty pooping, it likely isn’t. Fortunately, according to doctors, the following home remedies can help get things moving again.
1. Increase your fluid intake.
“Water is really important to relieve constipation,” says Dr. med. Rudolph Bedford, gastroenterologist at the Providence Saint John Health Center in Santa Monica, California. If you are simply not a “water person”, Dr. Lin, try to get enough through other liquids like broth soups or water-rich products like watermelon. Just take a pass on sugary drinks as these could make the problem worse.
The actual amount of fluids you will need will vary from person to person. However, the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommend that women aim for at least 11.5 cups of fluids (including fluids made from water, other liquids, and food) per day and men aim for 15.5 cups.
2. Eat more high fiber foods.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that helps slow digestion by adding bulk to your diet. It makes you feel fuller and faster – and things are moving down there. “It keeps the stool soft and moves through it,” confirms Dr. Bedford.
Pro tip from Dr. Lin: Make sure you drink plenty of water with your fiber for maximum benefits. Good sources of fiber are whole grain products, nuts and seeds, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Plums, pears, apples, oats, and lentils are good examples of particularly helpful foods for relieving constipation.
3. Consider a fiber supplement.
If you need some strong fiber ASAP, Dr. Consider taking a fiber supplement. Ideally, take one that is dissolved in water, such as psyllium (also known as Metamucil). The water part is important, says Dr. Bedford: Fiber absorbs water, which makes your poop bulkier and easier to move.
4. Enjoy a cup of coffee.
The caffeine in coffee “increases the contractions of the muscles in your gut to push things through,” says Dr. Bedford. It also contains fluid that can be beneficial. However, too much coffee can dry you out. Dr. Bedford therefore recommends drinking water with your coffee for maximum effect. Not a coffee drinker? Strong tea can have a similar effect.
5. Get moving.
Exercise is important to staying healthy overall, but it can also stimulate the blood in the muscles of your intestines, making them contract more and push the poop forward, says Dr. Bedford. “Exercise and exercise are always good for fighting constipation,” he says. If you’ve been on the sitting side lately (haven’t we all?), Try taking a quick walk or doing a full workout.
6. Have some healthy fats.
Foods that contain healthy, unsaturated fats like avocados, nut butters, olives, and oily fish can help speed things up in your GI tract. “These fats lubricate the lining of the intestines and allow the stool to move much more easily,” says Dr. Bedford. One cup of avocado also has 10 grams of fiber, which makes it a good option to try.
7. Drink warm water.
Water is generally crucial for relieving constipation, but warm water can also be a good tactic. It “stimulates the inner lining of the intestine,” says Dr. Lin. This can cause contractions to push your chair down.
8. Recharge probiotics.
Probiotics (the good bugs in your gut) are live microorganisms that play a key role in how your body digests food. Just know this: they won’t work right away. “It’s not like Tylenol for a fever – it doesn’t work in 20 minutes,” says Dr. Lin. “It takes time for good bacteria to digest food piece by piece, and it can take more than a day.” Still, Dr. Bedford: “It will change the bacterial imbalance in your gut. It can also make things move through your system much more easily. “Consider consuming high probiotic fermented foods like Greek yogurt or fresh sauerkraut, or take a good quality probiotic supplement to support your overall gut health.
9. Try heat therapy.
Dr. Lin has two recommendations when it comes to heat therapy. First, try drinking a cup of warm water, wait 30 minutes, and then gently massage your lower abdomen to stimulate the area. If that doesn’t seem to help, take a hot shower with the water focused on your lower back.
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10. Consider a stool softener.
Stool softeners can be available in capsule, tablet, liquid, or syrup form. They’ll soften your poop to make it easier to pass through. While they can do the trick, Dr. Bedford to take more natural approaches first, as some emollients can cause nasty side effects. “The preference before taking a stool softener is to drink fluids and ingest more fiber,” he says. If you end up trying this tactic, keep in mind that it only takes the fabric softener one to three days to kick in. Don’t take them for more than a week unless you get OK from a doctor according to the United States National Library of Medicine.
11. Try an osmotic laxative.
An osmotic drug (better known as a laxative) is a type of drug that draws water into your intestines to help you release. Polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX) and bisacodyl (Dulcolax) are popular options. While taking an osmoticum can help keep things moving, Dr. Bedford to focus on your water and fiber intake first.
If you’ve tried these home remedies to make yourself puke and you’re still having issues, or if you find yourself constipated on a regular basis, Dr. Bedford that it is time to see your GP. They can conduct an assessment to determine what may be behind your inability to poop – and provide guidance on how to resolve the problem.
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