Constipation Nation: What You Need to Know About Pooping
Did you have a satisfying poop this morning?
If yes, please share your ‘happy belly’ secrets in the comment section below!
If you are feeling heavy and plugged up, you are among the 100 million Americans who do not have regular daily bowel movements. If you want to check on the gravity of the situation, ask your coworkers or friends if they went to the bathroom this morning. There is a very good chance that a person sitting next to you (especially if it is a female) is literally full of shit!
‘Regularity’ is a loosely defined term. According to western doctors going to the bathroom once in 3 days is considered ‘normal’. Basically, most doctors are not concerned that you carry around a bag of toxic waste that gets re-absorbed into your bloodstream. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda disagree. According to the naturopaths the Western pooping norm is abnormal.
Americans spend over $725 million on laxatives each year. Plus add in endless fiber supplements, herbal colon cleanses and other digestive aids and you have a booming billion-dollar elimination industry!
Why Should You Care About Poop
We are used to hearing that "we are what we eat" but in reality, "we are what we assimilate and eliminate." If you can't assimilate nutrients from food and eliminate leftover materials, no matter what you eat, you can't be healthy. Ayurveda and TCM claim that digestion is a cornerstone of health. They say that you must to cleanse your pipes at least once a day to maintain good health.
Being constipated can lead to an array of problems: bad breath, weight gain, allergies, bloating, poor nutrient assimilation, fatigue, migraine, breakouts, heart burn, lower back pain and sadly, the list goes on. Unfortunately, some people even grew to believe that digestive uneasiness is a normal state of being. You need to clean up your act and fast before disease sets in!
How to Restore Regularity
Two years ago, before I dived into studying Ayurveda and natural healing methods, my stomach was not exactly cooperating with me. Partially because of polycystic ovarian syndrome and in a huge part because of my diet, I felt perpetually bloated and often irregular and gassy. My stomach often looked like I was five months pregnant, even if ate very light.
Two years and many books, workshops and kitchen experiments later, my stomach and I are in a very happy place. We made friends and our relationship soared to a new level of intimacy. Yes, being regular and bloat-free takes intimacy because you can’t do it without truly getting to know your body.
It takes time to observe and to learn from your body. For now, I will share what worked for me in the hope that some of it might work for you as well.
There are multiple dietary guidelines that you can follow to improve regularity. You can also help to physically move things along with exercise, massage, and breath.
Add it to your routine: Yes, I know it sounds funny, but it is one of the most profound things you can try. It should be a part of your morning cleansing routine. So why not cleanse your bowels first thing in the morning as well? In our crazy busy lives, a lot of things have to be scheduled in advance to get done. Going to the bathroom is no exception! Making it a habit is similar to training a puppy to go out at the same times each day. It takes some practice, but then it works like magic. We are creatures of habit and our body thrives in a familiar routine. Even if you don’t feel an urge to go to the bathroom right away, sit on the toilet and focus on breathing (no BlackBerry or iPhone in the hands, though!). Over time, your body will connect the dots, appreciate your non-hurried effort and start cooperating.
Stop constant snacking: Don't eat until the previous meal is digested. Do a quick check in with your belly before and after eating.
Stop eating non-food items: Packaged, processed foods that have an extremely long shelf life do not deserve to be on your plate.
Simplify your meals: The fewer ingredients, the easier it is to digest. Avoid bad food combinations.
Stop eating drying foods: One of the reasons you get constipated is because you are dehydrated. When your body is dehydrated, your colon is the first to suffer. A healthy colon has a very high percentage of moisture/liquid and in extreme situations like dehydration, your body takes liquid from colon to support other bodily organs.
Surprising drying foods. You might be eating way more drying foods than you realize:
- Fiber cereal and bars. Fiber is great but it needs liquid to move along, so don’t forget to drink plenty of pure water.
- Exercise: Being sedentary compounds constipation, while exercise increases the gut’s blood flow and improves gastrointestinal motility. Taking a short walk is often all it takes to convince your body it’s time to go. Certain yoga asanas are helpful in nudging sluggish systems into gear.
- Abdominal massage: Give your belly some love. We take care of our nails, pamper our face and fuss over our hair, but our internal organs rarely get as much attention. If you’ve ever been in a managing role, you know that one of the easiest ways to get productive cooperation is to provide rewards and be nice. Our belly appreciates warmth, love and attention, as well. Abhyanga or a general whole body massage improves regularity due to its calming effects on the nervous system. A nervous stomach and irritable bowels need some calm and peace. If a whole body oil massage is an unreachable luxury, try gently rubbing your belly with your palm. Lie on your back, bring your feet into a butterfly (soles of the feet together and knees out to the sides) and gently massage the stomach clockwise. Ayurvedic massage therapists or holistically trained digestive specialists can be of wonderful help.
- Breathe deeply. Take time time to breathe and check in with your stomach. If your knees allow it, sit in Virasana and do several rounds of deep abdominal breathing. I find it to be a panacea for my digestive troubles. It increases blood flow to the digestive system, while breathing calms your nervous system.
What It Comes Down to...
Our body is our Home. It is a place that should feel comfortable and cozy for us to live in. When we fail to maintain our Home in a clean condition, it is impossible to be comfortable living in it. It becomes anything but cozy and welcoming!
When our body is clean and light, we feel 'at home' living in it. To find this amazing feeling of being 'at home' in your own body, you need to keep its systems functioning well! You need to take care of your body and clean the sewage system if it gets plugged up!