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Constipation is one of those things that is a relative term. For some, constipation means simply a difficult bowel movement. For some, it means you’ve gone days or even weeks with no bowel movement. Sooner or later, to one degree or another, pretty much everybody has to deal with constipation.

The old adage, what goes in must come out, definitely applies. (Come to think of it, I may have made that one up.) Diet is the most integral component of stool management. A thing as simple as not drinking enough water can stop things up really well. Fruits and vegetables are usually good for the digestion. Fiber is great too, and easily obtained these days. But it’s only going to be a good thing if there’s enough fluid to smooth things along.

Classically, prunes are the motivating food. They can be raw, or to carry extra fluid, they can be stewed. Don’t be afraid. They taste sweet. There are even some with orange or lemon flavoring. The “p” fruits can all be helpful; prunes, peaches, pears, papaya and a-pricots. Raisins, syrup, celery, swiss cris are all helpful too.

Not getting behind (so to speak) in this area is always preferable to trying to catch up after getting into trouble. Adequate hydration, daily exercise, and a healthy diet all can contribute to good intestinal health. And as always, stress doesn’t help anything, so stress management and relaxation are vital. (Some people get loose bowels with stress and/or anxiety and some people bind right up.)

Some people’s intestines put raw vegetables through better, and some, cooked vegetables. Fruit is usually good for everyone to get things moving.

Generally speaking, red meat, nuts and cheeses are tough to digest. Every person is different, but these are generally true. If you know you are lactose-intolerant, then you know milk and all dairy products will give you gas and loose stools. For others, dairy will sludge things right up; especially cheese.

If you’re feeling full up, uncomfortable, one of the first maneuvers to try is to drink two big glasses of hot water, as hot as you can tolerate as fast as you can. It’s kind of like putting a hot water bottle inside your belly.

Putting a hot water bottle on your belly can help move things along. An equivalent attempt is a hot bath or shower. A simple rubbing of your belly in a clockwise fashion can get things going also. Rub firmly and like you have a huge Flava Flav clock necklace hanging around your neck, rubbing right around the face of the clock.

Don’t overeat if you already feel too full of stuff. Eat light, easily digested foods, and lots of fluids.

If you have a gas bubble stuck, use the principle of bubbles always rising to the surface; bend over or get on your knees and chest, like a baby, with your rear end up in the air.

If you just can’t get the poop/doo-doo/stool out, and it seems like it’s right there, I’m a big fan of glycerin suppositories. We use them for babies having difficulty passing a BM. It’s gentle and not absorbed into the blood stream. And it works fairly quickly. Once that little bullet melts, it can let things slide right on by.

There is a myriad of options for making stool softer if eating differently is insufficient. You can crush up flax seed and eat or drink it everyday with your breakfast. You can eat or drink psyllium, Metamucil or Citracel. Drinking a slug of Aloe Vera juice everyday can keep things regular. (Keeping it really cold can make it easier to drink.) Again, staying ahead of the problem is so much better than trying to catch up to it after you’ve got a situation.

Stool softeners are fine to take fairly regularly, not laxatives! Taking regular old cathartic laxatives like Ex-lax, more than once or twice a week can qualify as purging aka an eating disorder…really not good for your intestinal tract, sometimes causing permanent, irreversible damage. Don’t do it.

If constipation is a chronic problem for you, seek a medical opinion. Sometimes conditions like low thyroid or poor nutrition can affect intestinal motility. If your constipation is a new problem for you or to a degree you have never before experienced, seeing a doctor is a really good idea. You may need further testing. Blood work, x-rays and even a colonoscopy may be in your future.

I’m a big fan of Mira-lax and its protégés. They are gentle and really effective. Some people who can’t manage any other way can take a dose, half a dose, a quarter of a dose, of these medications everyday. You can adjust if as you need. If you feel that you need stool softeners all the time or laxatives more than once or twice a month, make sure you see a doctor and get checked out to your satisfaction.

Our bodies are amazing and can handle a lot of misuse and neglect, but we can certainly help things along by paying a little attention to some simple things. If you are or have been having a problem with constipation, please see the chapter on care of the anus.




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