Everyone gets constipated at one time or another. When you do, you feel bloated and blocked. You strain on the toilet with no results — or with results that are painful. But there are some things you can consider to help with the problem and decrease your risk of becoming constipated.
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Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent than normal. The frequency or time between bowel movements ranges widely from person to person. But going longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long. After three days, the stool becomes harder and more difficult to pass.
Here are a few tips from gastroenterologist Maged Rizk, MD on how you can ease your constipation naturally and without medications:
1. Solutions are simple for most people
Most of the time, constipation happens for one of three reasons: you’re not eating the right foods; you’re not drinking enough water; or you’re not exercising enough. So the fixes are straightforward and can be accomplished easily without having to go to the doctor or take an over-the-counter medicine. Move more, drink more water and add fiber to your diet to add bulk to your stool.
2. Make time to move your bowels
This may sound obvious, but many people don’t make bathroom time a priority. Many of us have a hectic morning rush to get out of the house.
You can train your body to go by trying to move your bowels at a regular time every day. The best time is a short time after a meal, because this is when your gastrointestinal tract is awake and working, Dr. Rizk says.
“Even if you’re not sure you’re going to go, ritualize it,” Dr. Rizk says. “Your body is trainable. So if you’re having an issue with constipation, you can train the body to go at certain times of the day.”
Building in bathroom time might mean waking up earlier to eat breakfast and then move your bowels. Food can stimulate the need to go, and your home bathroom may be a more comfortable place.
Don’t avoid public bathrooms when you feel the urge, either. Delaying a bowel movement can make constipation worse.
3. Look to your plate
Have you made a major change in your diet? Sometimes drastic changes to what you eat can cause constipation. For example, if you suddenly cut all fat from your diet, it’s easy to get blocked up. You don’t want to overdo fat, but you need a little to move things through your bowel.
Be sure to include fruits, vegetables and other high-fiber foods in your diet each day. Good sources include bran and whole grains found in cereals, breads and brown rice.
Dr. Rizk says if your constipation lasts more than a few days, or you start experiencing pain or other symptoms, call your doctor.