What happens (or doesn’t) happen in the bathroom is your business. But when “business is slow,” you want a solution right away. To discuss the uncomfortable topic of constipation, we spoke with Jeffrey Fein, MD, a gastroenterologist at Banner Health in Arizona. With his help, we made this list of at-home constipation fixes.
1. Exercise and Diet
Before you read on, how many servings of fruit and vegetables have you had today? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 1 in 10 adults are getting enough (5-7 servings) fruits and vegetables in their daily diet. The number of adults getting enough exercise isn’t much better. Just above 20% meet the CDC’s weekly recommendation for 75 minutes of vigorous exercise and two muscle-strengthening workouts. Improved diet and exercise should be your first defense against constipation. Pour some prune juice, chop a salad and tie up your running shoes to get everything moving.
2. Over the Counter (OTC) Medications
If you’re feeling a little constipated, you may find what you need at the grocery store or corner drug store. Dr. Fein recommended MiraLAX as a remedy that can be effective in short-term cases (a week or less) of constipation. MiraLAX is an example of an osmotic laxative, which increases fluid retention in the intestines. There are several other types including stimulants, lubricants and softeners. Be sure to drink plenty of water when taking any of these medications. If your discomfort lasts more than a few days, speak to a doctor.
Your body relies on fiber. In addition to a healthy diet, fiber supplements such as psyllium husk can help add bulk to your stool, allowing it to move more easily through your digestive tract. Supplements can’t replace a healthy diet, but they could be the extra boost your routine needs.
4. Herbal Teas and Coffee
A hot pot of brew can jumpstart more than your productivity in the morning. It’s not uncommon to make a morning trip to the bathroom, even if you haven’t had coffee. For people suffering from constipation, adding a cup of coffee to your routine could be just enough to get the gears turning in your bowels. Although many teas haven’t been known to produce the same results as coffee, some contain senna, which Dr. Fein mentioned is the same active ingredient found in the over-the-counter laxative, Senokot.
5. Squatty Potty & Others
Finally, we get to the article’s key question. The Squatty Potty and other toilet platforms position your knees above your hips, theoretically aligning things for a smoother exit. Some people say it helps. Other people see no difference. While both sides make claims, there is little research to prove either point. If you’re someone who’s tried everything, kick up your feet and try to relax with one of these.
Of course, constipation can go from a minor annoyance to a serious issue if you aren’t paying attention. Dr. Fein said that if you are experiencing abdominal pain or rectal bleeding, you should contact your doctor. The same recommendation applies if your constipation is new or if it has lasted for more than a few days.