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GI tract back on track

5 ways to naturally relieve constipation.

Article Author: Beverly Wong-Ken

Article Date:

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We've all been there. You're bloated, your stomach aches and you just can't go. In short, you're constipated. While uncomfortable, it's a common problem that can have many potential causes, including changes in diet or routine, lack of fiber, or pregnancy. Thankfully, there are natural ways to relieve that backed-up feeling.

Robert Kawa, DO, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care, shared five ways to naturally relieve constipation and help get your digestive tract back on track:

1. Get active.

"The most common signs of constipation are bloating, pain, fullness, lack of bowel movements and changes to gas patterns," said Dr. Kawa. "And one of the major causes is a sedentary lifestyle."

If you're experiencing these telltale signs, exercise may be able to speed things up.

"Motion is lotion," said Dr. Kawa "We need to remain active to help our muscles massage the intestines and promote normal movement that helps keep our bowels regular."

2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Have you heard? Water is good for you! Constipation is related to dehydration in the colon, so upping your water intake can be seriously beneficial.

"Drinking water stimulates the gut to make sure we don't get unnecessarily 'blocked up,'" Dr. Kawa explained. "Sodas and artificial sweeteners, along with caffeine and alcohol, will dehydrate the body and can worsen constipation."

3. Fill up on fruits and veggies.

"You should get 5-6 servings of fruit and/or vegetables in your daily diet at minimum," said Dr. Kawa. "I would say this is the biggest opportunity to improve constipation, as most standard American diets don't meet these criteria."

He added, "Actually eating fruits and vegetables allows you to increase the fiber content of the gut, which you miss if you just drink juice. Think about fiber as a bulking agent that works like a toothbrush for your colon. It bulks the stool and, with enough water, keeps your insides clean, healthy and happy."

4. Probiotics are GI pros.

Living in your body at all times are two kinds of bacteria: good and bad. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that help keep you healthy.

"They can stimulate good bacteria to optimize your natural gut flora to keep you regular and comfortable," Dr. Kawa said. "Diets heavy in saturated fats and meats have been shown to change the gut flora, making constipation and abdominal pain more prevalent."

5. Turn up the heat.

According to Dr. Kawa, there are two ways heat therapy can help with constipation.

"When taken in moderate amounts, coffee and other warm liquids can help lubricate the gut lining to stimulate bowel movements," he said. "Additionally, heat to the stomach and lower back, along with massages, can mimic our natural walking motions. This stimulates nerves that originate in the spine to help normalize the function of our organs."

It's important to remember that all bodies and digestive cycles are different. This means there's no real standard frequency for bowel movements. It's always best to listen to your body and follow your gut.

"Natural solutions are always the first recommendation," said Dr. Kawa. "However, there are medications and other supplements that assist the body in times of need to help you get back on track. Osmotic laxatives, like Miralax®, and bulking agents, such as Metamucil®, mimic natural options by encouraging more water intake and fiber to help rectify the symptoms. If you have tried these without success, it may be time to seek out your primary care physician to make sure your symptoms are not from another source."

If you’ve experienced a change in your bowel movements, a visit to your primary care physician is a good place to start. To find the right one for you, call 202.4YOU or click here to fill out an appointment request form.

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