It’s not exactly dinner conversation, but constipation is something that you and I should really talk about.
Constipation isn’t merely a painful inconvenience. It can impact many areas of your health and wellbeing, sometimes in very surprising ways. Skin conditions such as puffiness, acne, dark circles under the eyes and even rashes can all stem from internal gut issues.
When your bowel movements are regular, chances are that your insides are working well.
Regularity, Constipation, and Women
Before I delve into solutions for constipation, I'll chat about some quick basics.
There is a wide variation in what is considered to be ‘normal’ in terms of bowel habits.
As a very general guideline, constipation is classified as having less than three bowel movements per week. Other symptoms can include:
- Straining to pass a bowel movement,
- Feelings of incomplete defecation (i.e. feeling like you may need to go a bit more, even once you’ve finished),
- Having small, dry and/or hard stools,
- Experiencing a feeling of ‘fullness’ in your rectum.
Ideally, I think you should have a bowel movement at least once per day. I consider anything less than that constipation.
About 50 percent of people have one bowel movement per day or more, which means the other half are likely suffering from constipation..
Women are more likely affected by constipation by threefold compared with men. The female colon is longer and has more twists and turns, like a rollercoaster. We experience more stress and dysregulated cortisol. We’re more likely to overuse laxatives, leading to weaker bowel muscles. We’re more likely to have painful hemorrhoids, which occur in 40 percent of pregnancies, and to restrain from pooping in public places. Women are also more vulnerable to social conditioning that it’s not ladylike to poop, again leading to conscious withholding of stools, and contributing further to constipation. Hopefully I’ll convince you that pooping is normal, healthy, and essential to your hormone balance.
How to Avoid & Manage Constipation
As you can see, there are many things that can cause constipation. As with any multifactorial health issue, there are many factors which can help.
Once you’ve ruled out any underlying medical issues, here are some strategies that may be very effective at treating constipation:
Supplement with probiotics. Adding good bacteria from probiotics may improve transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency. establish a healthy gut microbiome, which can ease constipation. You can read more about how to feed your gut with probiotics here.
Drink water. If we think of our gut as one big water slide, you can see why not getting enough fluids is problematic. After all, you can’t ride the slide without water. Low fluid intake can cause constipation. Fluids keep food matter moving through your intestines, and nourish your intestines with water to make them smooth and flexible. Get your ideal water intake amount here.
De-stress. Studies show that stress decreases gastric emptying, pokes holes in the gut wall, and accelerates transit time. Plus, excess cortisol (the main stress hormone) may weaken your gut’s ability to absorb the micronutrients, namely copper, zinc, and selenium, you need for making thyroid hormones. So, start thinking about how you can manage your stress. You can learn more about how stress affects the skin here.
Up the fibre. Fibre helps to remove toxins, facilitates intestinal movement, and protects your digestive tract from inflammation, injury, and disease. Fibre also aids in weight loss and maintenance because it can curb your appetite by helping you feel full. Fibre-rich foods include quinoa, legumes, berries, nuts, vegetables, fresh fruits and especially green leafy vegetables.
Move your body for at least 20 minutes every single day. Regular exercise stimulates the larges intestines to move. I’m a huge fan of yoga twists for compressing the gut and then releasing (when you release the twist), which can stimulate the intestines to move. This Damask Rose Hydrating Mist is the perfect post-exercise pick-me-up to calm red and inflamed skin and our favourite way to lock in hydration from the outside.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, please feel free to share it with a friend if you think they will find it useful,