How to Relieve Constipation

Un-backing your back up |


You might think an article about constipation relief is a tad strange for a skin care website. I admit, it is a bit out of place. But, I wanted to include it anyway because having regular bowel movements is integral not only to your intestinal health, but to your overall health. And that includes the health of your skin.

I first became aware of the link between constipation and skin back when I was trying to clear my acne. Looking up acne treatments, one of the remedies was internal cleansing. At the time, I was constipated and did think constipation was a cause of my acne. However, in the end, being regular made me feel better as a whole, but it wasn't the key to clearing my skin. It's different for everyone though. Whenever my friend is "backed up," she gets pimples on the top of her head.

What is constipation?

There is no precise definition for constipation because everyone has different frequencies of bowel movements. However, if you don’t go number two for two or three days or only poo out tiny pellets, you are probably constipated.

A good way to explain constipation is to think of a line of cars at the edge of a cliff. Each time you eat something, another car is added to the line and pushes the first car over the edge. When you are constipated, more cars are added but the first car in line stays put. Things are only fixed when the pileup at the front is removed.

Constipation remedies

Luckily, there are several things you can do to help relieve constipation:

  1. Eat more fiber (psyllium husk, bran, fruits - especially kiwis, and vegetables).

  2. Drink more water (helps loosen stools).

  3. Get some exercise (especially jumping jacks or hopping on a trampoline).

  4. Avoid constipating foods (ex. yogurt, cheese, milk).

  5. Drink prune juice or eat prunes (some recommend to soak prunes in hot water overnight and drink the concoction in the morning).

  6. Take a spoonful of olive oil in the morning and a spoonful of it at night until you can go to the bathroom.

  7. Drink three big glasses of warm water one right after another (or 300 cc of it) first thing in the morning on an empty stomach (this really works and is what I do every morning).

  8. Set aside “poopy-time” every day, preferably at the same time each day. For example, go sit on a toilet, even if you don’t have to go, for 5 minutes every morning to get your body conditioned to wanting to go number two each day during that time.

  9. Don’t hold it in. When you have to go, go (even if it’s in a public restroom) or else you’ll develop poor bathroom habits.

  10. Don’t think or stress out over being constipated. You know the saying, a watched pot never boils? It kind of works the same way.

Some people also recommend taking black strap molasses, spoonfuls of apple cider vinegar, or drinking a strong cup of coffee to relieve constipation. Whether they will work will depend on the individual.

If making dietary changes doesn’t help, consider taking stool softeners (ex. Miralax), milk of magnesia (magnesium oxide has mild laxative effects), or drinking senna tea (a natural laxative). Full-strength laxatives are a last resort for me because they tend to be overly harsh with your system. Dependency on laxatives is also dangerous because it encourages your colon to be “lazy” and not function properly.

When to see a doctor

If you are constipated for more than five days and/or if the above remedies have not given you any relief, it is best to see a medical professional. When you go to the doctor, they’ll probably prescribe magnesium oxide tablets along with anti-flatulence pills to take after each meal and tell you to come back in one week. If after one week you are still backed up, enemas or suppositories may be the only solution.

Enemas are little bulbs of liquid solution, usually saline, that you (excuse me for being graphic) basically shove up your butt and squeeze. The enema solution will stimulate your colon to contract and make you poo.

Suppositories are usually pyramid-shaped glycerin tablets that you also shove up your rear end. The presence of the suppository in your colon stimulates a bowel movement. Unlike enemas, which tend to provide immediate relief, suppositories can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to work.

On a side note, if your stools are black or bloody, seek medical attention immediately! Black stools represent an ulcer, tumor, or other serious medical condition in your upper intestinal tract. Bright red blood in your stool, however, is generally safer. You still need to see a doctor, but bright red means that the bleed is closer to your anus, which means it’s probably an anal fissure or internal hemorrhoid.

Don’t be embarrassed about being constipated because it could be a symptom of something serious, especially if you are always constipated. I had a friend who was severely backed up but didn’t do anything about it and when she finally went to the doctor, they found a growth inside her colon. So, if you can't go number two, don’t hesitate to go to someone who has the means to make you poo.

Being constipated hinders healthy intestinal function, making you more prone to getting hemorrhoids and other intestinal disorders, so you want to make sure you are regular. Most of the energy from food you eat is used to fuel your digestive system, so make sure you take good care of it by practicing these constipation relief remedies. Having a healthy digestive system makes you healthier overall.

Last updated: September 20, 2012

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