While your bathroom habits are not usually a topic that people want to bring up in polite conversation, it can be a common problem that affects most of us at some point in our lives. We are talking about constipation. You may not realise it, but simple things that we do (or don’t do) may be to blame. Many of the occasional backups that we can experience are related to simple lifestyle factors. In this article, we discuss a few of the common causes and easy solutions you can use to keep things moving.
While every person is unique, health experts usually define constipation as a combination of symptoms that includes passing two or fewer bowel movements in a week, hard or dry stools, and excessive straining to have a bowel movement (1). Other than these concerns, there is a surprisingly wide range of what is considered normal in terms of answering nature’s call. Nearly everyone experiences constipation once in a while, but please don’t wait to talk to your doctor if you experience a problem that concerns you. If occasional backups are slowing you down, the following list of lifestyle habits can help you to get things moving again.
- Get Stress Under Control
Your level of stress can make an impact on every aspect of your life, even your bathroom breaks. In a survey of lifestyle and bathroom habits of healthy women aged 18 to 81 years old, stress was consistently at the top of the list for factors that impacted regularity (2). Emotional and psychological stress triggers the body’s fight or flight response—in technical terms, stress activates the sympathetic nervous system, or SNS. The SNS is like a master control dial that cranks up all of the body’s systems that can help you fight off danger or run away. At the same time, the SNS dials down other body systems that are less important in an emergency, such as digestion.
If stress has your body in a constant state of emergency, it can also have an impact on many aspects of digestive health, including regularity. Finding healthy ways to manage the stresses of everyday life can be an important tool for promoting digestive well-being.
- Get More Exercise
Exercise is just as important for digestive health as it is for the rest of your body. Making physical activity part of your daily lifestyle is one of the factors that can best help to improve regularity.
Too little exercise can slow things down significantly. A sedentary lifestyle or prolonged periods of inactivity is a known factor in bringing digestion to a halt. But regular, moderate physical activity, such as walking or cycling, can reduce the chances of experiencing constipation (3).
- Drink More Water
How well you keep yourself hydrated can have a large influence on digestive health. Even mild dehydration can have a negative impact on a person’s regularity. The reason is that hydration and digestion are closely linked because the large intestine plays an important role in maintaining the body’s water balance.
As a person starts to become dehydrated, the large intestine overcompensates by absorbing more water. After the large intestine has absorbed most of the water from its contents, the end result can be excessively hard, dry stools. To avoid this uncomfortable situation, make sure to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
- Get More Fibre, Both Soluble and Insoluble
Dietary fibre is one of the most important components of your diet with respect to digestive and overall intestinal health. Fibre is simply thought of as the indigestible component of plant-based foods, but it comes in several different types. Some types of fibre serve as food for friendly intestinal bacteria, such as certain types of soluble fibre, which is the predominant type of fibre in products such as our IsaLean™ Shake. Other types of fibre, such as insoluble fibre, add bulk and help to retain moisture, making stools easier to pass. Insoluble fibre comes from fruit, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains, and it is important to maintain your intake of these foods in addition to using Isagenix products in your third meal and mid-meal snacks.
On average, most Australians do not consume enough dietary fibre, with the recommended intake between 25 and 30 grams of fibre daily, depending on a person’s age and gender (4). Many people find it challenging to eat enough fibre-rich foods. But it shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve your daily intake as long as your diet includes plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
It’s also worth mentioning that significant diet or lifestyle changes can disrupt your usual daily rhythm, even when these changes are good for your health overall. If you have recently made a major change in your eating pattern, it’s not uncommon to experience changes in bowel habits.
If occasional irregularity has been a problem for you, consider the impact that your lifestyle may have on your intestinal health. Basic elements, such as how regularly you exercise, how much water you drink or how you manage everyday stress can make a difference in improving your digestive health.
- Bharucha AE, Dorn SD, Lembo A, Pressman A. American Gastroenterological Association medical position statement on constipation. Gastroenterology. 2013. January;144(1): 211–7.
- Zutshi M, Hull TL, Bast J, Hammel J. Female bowel function: the real story. Dis Colon Rectum. 2007 Mar;50(3):351-8.
- Dukas, L., Willett, W.C., and Giovannucci, E.L. Association between physical activity, fiber intake, and other lifestyle variables and constipation in a study of women. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003; 98: 1790–1796
- Dietary Fibre: Nutrient Reference Values. Article accessed 05.03.2018 from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/dietary-fibre