6 Quick Tips to Improve Your Constipation

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Dr. Nicole Freitas, PT

Did you know that out of 100 people, 16 individuals suffer from constipation? In adults older than 60 years of age, 33 out of 100 individuals experience symptoms of constipation.

Are you experiencing the common signs of constipation? These include: straining during bowel movements because your stool is too difficult or painful to pass, having fewer than three bowel movements per week, and/ or the feeling of incomplete evacuation.

Here are 6 ways and IDPT can help improve your constipation:

  1. Increase the amount of fibers and fluids in your diet

    • Fibers allow for quicker movement of fecal matter throughout the intestines by bulking up stool and making it softer, larger and easier to pass.

      • You should have 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories you eat every day. Read the label on every food package to find out how much fiber a serving of food will provide. Foods containing more than 20% of the daily value of fiber per serving are considered high in fiber.

    • A body that is happily hydrated draws less water from the intestines, allowing for stool to be bulkier and easier to pass.

      1. It’s important to drink more fluids when you increase the amount of fiber you eat. If you don’t already drink over 6 glasses of liquid a day, drink at least 2 more glasses of water a day when you increase your fiber intake.

    • Remember, it is important to gradually increase your intake of water and fiber slowly. Many people notice bloating, cramping, or gas when they add fiber to their diet. Making small changes in your diet over a period of time can help prevent this. One should contact their gastroenterologist or nutritionist to make individualized dietary goals.

  2. Increase the amount of physical activity you are getting

    • Exercise increases the nervous system, which stimulates contractions along the gut to further move stool along.

    • There are many ways to exercise to create happy bowels. Do you like walking, running, other cardio activity like the elliptical and stairmaster? How about weight training?

      • Sometimes constipation can occur if too many ab exercises are performed at once, leading to tightening across the abdomen. It is helpful to consult with a pelvic physical therapist to find an exercise routine that is beneficial for you.

  3. Learn pelvic floor muscle coordination

    • When the pelvic floor muscles do not properly relax in order to have a bowel movement, constipation may persist.

    • One way to address this is to perform the opposite of a pelvic floor muscle contraction (Reverse Kegel). Here’s how to perform a Reverse Kegel:

      • Lay down in a comfortable position.

      • Inhale through your nose allowing your abdomen to rise and your diaphragm and pelvic floor to expand. Think of your pelvic floor muscles lengthening and widening with each inhalation.

      • Breathe out through your mouth and allow the pelvic floor to return to resting state.

      • Practice this exercise 3 times per day for 3 to 4 minutes at a time.

      • Avoid pushing outward as your perform the Reverse Kegels.

  4. Learn proper toileting techniques/ modifications

    • Modifying your toileting posture to one in a deep squat creates an angle in the rectal canal that causes the least amount of strain, allowing for easier passage of stool.

    • Ways in which you can get into this proper toileting posture in by getting your legs up on a stack of books or a stool in order to elevate your feet so gravity is assisting the passage of stool. Addition of a Squatty Potty to your bathroom is a cost effective and easy fix to this problem!

  5. Design and stick to a toileting schedule

    • Regardless if there is an urge or not, scheduling when you use the bathroom 20-30 minutes following a meal can encourage a bowel movement by utilizing a reflex that tells your intestines to move when your stomach is full.

  6. Perform abdominal massage

    • Abdominal massage can stimulate wave- like contractions throughout your intestines, which helps move waste along the digestive tract.

    • Feel free to watch our video regarding performance of abdominal massage.

Tamra Wroblesky