The subject of going to a toilet (number two) may sound like an unpleasant subject for some of us to discuss but you cannot really avoid it. Everyone does it… but some do it regularly, and some do it only once in a while. Some of you don’t even think about it – it just comes naturally. Lucky you!
Unfortunately, the problem of constipation affects many of us. Whether you are a child or an adult, a student or a retired person, a pregnant woman or just an average statistical person, there is a quite a high chance that you don’t get relieved every time you go to a toilet. And when I say relieved, I don’t mean relieved from setting a new record in one of the popular iPhone games. I mean physically relieved. You know what I am talking about, right?
So, what is constipation? Or, let’s put it the other way around: what is normal stool?
There are many different angles to the definition of normal stool: its physical appearance, smell, frequency. Normal stool should be soft and it shouldn’t smell horrible. Well, any stool smells and there are no questions about it. But what I am talking about is that feeling that you and your clothes smell terrible several minutes after coming out of the toilet. If you have normal stool, you shouldn’t feel that you have to change your clothes after going to a toilet, or take a 30-minute shower trying to wash away that terrible smell, or pour half of the bottle of perfume all over yourself.
For the sake of topic of constipation, we are going to discuss the frequency as opposed to the other aspects of stool. Why? When you have a constipation, you don’t really worry about the smell too much. You actually care about successfully going to the toilet.
What is the normal stool frequency? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer. It may vary between anything from three or four times a day to three times a week. But a rule of thumb is that if you do the number two much less frequently than you used to do it in not too distant past or you feel discomfort because your stool is dry and hard, and it comes out with lots of pain – the chances are you have a constipation.
Constipation affects so many of us. If you don’t believe me, try talking to members of your family or your friends. While it may be a new norm for many people, it doesn’t mean that you should give up and be complacent about it. If you find yourself (or your close ones, including children) in the “constipated camp”, and you take medication to relieve constipation but it doesn’t help much, or you even dream occasionally about having a diarrhea (or have a constipation alternating with the diarrhea), then it is time for you to act.
I have good news for you. You can do it! But it will take some effort on your side: some diet and lifestyle change, perseverance and positive attitude. Obviously, if you have any medical conditions, you should consult with your doctor immediately.
I promise you these steps are not too difficult to implement. You just have to try and think about the ultimate prize: being able to relax and have a stress-free life both inside and outside of the toilet.
Ten effective ways to relieve constipation and to have a normal stool:
- Drink plenty of water: When your body is dehydrated, your stool becomes dry and hard. It may stick to the walls of your intestines and move too slowly. So, don’t forget to drink enough water and cut down on caffeine. One word of caution though. Don’t drink too much water during your meals, just wait 15-20 minutes after the meal. You don’t want to dilute your stomach acid with water when it is supposed to break down all that food you have just eaten.
- Heal your gut: Number one reason for constipation, diarrhea, and abnormal stool is that your gut is not functioning properly. This is obvious, right? You probably have yeast overgrowth (or Candida) and not enough “good” bacteria. You should consume things that help your “good bacteria” to strive and don’t feed Candida. Avoid sugar and other refined carbs, take probiotics, fight Candida. Make sure that you choose strong probiotics. If you have gluten intolerance, choose gluten-free probiotics.
- Exercise: Sedentary lifestyle is bad for you. Make sure that you exercise regularly, it is not easy but it is not impossible. You don’t even have to a gym, just exercise at home. Exercising will improve your digestive system. At least, do gentle abs exercises, e.g. bicycle crunches.
- Eat more fiber: Fruits and vegetables contain fiber. Fiber is important as it helps to regulate the body’s use of other carbs and helps moving food through the digestive system. Try consuming more raw fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, green beans, celery, cabbage, lentils, raspberries, avocados. You can also try eating fermented vegetables, for example Russian Sauerkraut.
- Eat breakfast: Forget about cereal and milk or peanut butter and jelly. Eat proper breakfast: eggs and sausages, muesli with yoghurt, vegetables. Let your gut wake up with you and make it work early in the day. If you don’t feel like eating a big portion, just have a small healthy snack.
- Wait for the right moment: As with many other things, timing is everything. If you have an urge to go to the toilet, go immediately! Don’t wait until you finish watching the morning news, reading the newspaper article or doing some task. It also helps to establish a routine, i.e. a bowel habit. An urge for a stool typically comes within 10-30 minutes after the meal. So, do some relaxing things or light physical activities in the morning, e.g. browse internet for 10-15 minutes after the breakfast or make up your room but DO NOT leave home immediately after the breakfast.
- Don’t sit too long: Sitting too long in the toilet may lead to hemorrhoids, which would make your constipation problem even worse. If you cannot relieve yourself after a couple of minutes, don’t strain too much. Just leave the toilet. There is no point for sitting there and waiting for the miracle to happen. Actually, the most common reason for spending too much time in the toilet is not constipation but electronic gadgets! Never bring them in the toilet, it is not hygienic.
- Choose the right position: There is a very good recent article about advantages of squatting as opposed to sitting. Apparently, sitting down while pooing is not the most efficient thing due to our anatomy. According to the German microbiologist, “squatting is the natural way to relieve yourself because it opens the hatch of the bowels”. So, what can you do about it? One of two things: either buy a toilet stool or install a squat toilet next time you refurbish your bathroom.
- Chew more: By chewing properly and not swallowing your food too quickly, you will help both your stomach and gut do their job more efficiently. When you chew, your stomach start producing acids that help break down the food. Also, chewing more will prevent you from overeating and help to shed a couple of extra pounds.
- Relax: When we are under stress, our body reacts in many different ways. Constipation may be one of the consequences of stress. Stress may negatively affect your bowel movement. Relaxing through meditation, physical exercise, reading positive books, spending time outdoors or with your loved ones will definitely help you to better cope with the stress.
And, one last piece of advice: don’t feel overwhelmed by the above list. You don’t have to do something difficult or make too drastic changes to your life. These are small things that will, hopefully, make a big difference. Just try them, and see if you feel better next time you go to the toilet. Good luck!