Feeling all knotted up and tight inside? Our 10 expert tips will help unravel the pain and discomfort of sluggish bowels.
Bowel habits differ among people: some go once a day, others go three times a day, or perhaps three times a week. As long as you don’t experience any discomfort, pain, the need to strain or the sensation of not being able to empty your bowels fully, you’re bowel habits are probably okay.
But if you do experience any of the above, often have hard or lumpy stools, or go to the toilet less than three times a week, then you’re considered constipated. As well as causing discomfort and bloating, this can affect all areas of your life.
We usually keep our bowel habits to ourselves, which means by the time we do seek help for problems in that area, we’re usually in a bad state. Read on to discover 10 easy ways to help get things moving.
1. Mix it up
Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit every day, and include the skin and seeds where possible, as they contain the most fibre. Kiwifruit and prunes are especially useful for getting things moving.
2. Go brown
Swap white bread, white rice and white pasta for wholegrain choices, such as soy-linseed bread, brown rice and wholemeal pasta.
3. Love legumes
Make chickpeas, lentils and other beans a regular part of your diet. Try adding canned legumes to bolognese, curries and taco mix, or whip up a hearty salad with tuna, feta and chickpeas. Baked beans are another winning choice.
4. Top that!
Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, LSA (linseed, sunflower seeds and almond meal) mix, psyllium husks or chia seeds to your morning bowl of cereal. You can also add these to your smoothie.
5. Go slow
Always make changes to your diet slowly and gradually over a few weeks to prevent any discomfort.
6. Drink more water
If you’re dehydrated, there won’t be enough fluid drawn into your bowels to keep stools soft. Carry a water bottle when out and about or keep a glass on your desk as a reminder to drink throughout the day, and refill frequently.
7. Move more
Studies suggest that regular activity, such as walking, can encourage bowel motions. Even just walking to the letterbox once or twice a day will help reduce your risk of constipation.
8. Go regularly
To the toilet, that is! Sit on the toilet each morning and within 30 minutes of eating a meal, as this is the time when the bowel contracts the most. And if you feel the urge to go to the toilet, always do so straight away — don’t hold on until later.
9. Get comfy
When sitting on the toilet, make sure your knees are higher than your hips. Try putting your feet on an old telephone book or sturdy shoebox if your knees are too low. Don’t strain; allow yourself five minutes to just sit and relax.
10. Seek help
If you’re constipated for more than three months, notice any changes to your usual bowel motions or see blood in your stool, visit your GP.
Article sources and references
- Better Health Channel. 2014. Constipation. Accessed January 2022https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/constipation
- Dietitian Connection. 2020. Had constipation? Here are 4 things to help treat it. Accessed January 2022https://dietitianconnection.com/news/clinical/foods-to-eat-to-prevent-constipation/