Have you caught yourself indulging during quarantine and summer break? Let’s face it - most of our routines have been totally thrown out of whack the last few months. Gyms are closed, parents have become home school teachers, and for many, working from home means working longer hours. Food is love and it isn’t uncommon to find comfort with snacks or sweets. Add in the summer heat and we have the perfect recipe for constipation! Before we dive into some tips to combat our elimination woes, it may be helpful to refer to a Bristol Stool Chart here to understand variations of stool. The chart ranges from type 1, which can be very small hard clumps to type 7, which would be an example of diarrhea. While we can have variations of normal throughout our life, the goal should be in and around a type 4. Who knew there was so much to learn about poop! Now that we have that under our belt, here are some recommendations to unclog the pipes:
Dehydration leads to dry, lumpy stools that can be hard and painful to
pass. We should be especially careful considering the summer heat! It is recommended to drink about half your weight in fluid ounces of clear liquids a day (ex: a 200 lb person should have roughly 100 fluid ounces of water a day). Treat yourself to a fun water bottle on Amazon or at Home Goods and calculate how many times you should refill during the day! Remember, that recommendation does not include teas, coffee, juices, or the beloved La Croix. Carbonated water is not absorbed the same way as plain old H2O. We are not saying you can’t have these if you truly enjoy them, just keep in mind these do not count towards your ounces of water.
- Fiber (soluble versus insoluble)
Adults need 25-35 grams of fiber a day and there are two types of fiber: soluble
and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water and turns into a gel like substance; this should account for about ⅓ of your fiber intake. Examples of soluble fiber include oatmeal, flax, citrus fruits, apples, and most beans. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and helps bulk up our stool to keep it moving through the gastrointestinal system. Insoluble fiber should account for the other ⅔ of your fiber intake and includes berries, prunes, carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts and bran. Whether you’re feeling backed up or on the looser side, those leafy greens are a huge help!
- Squatty potty
Did you know constipation can be due to tight pelvic floor muscles?! We have a deep pelvic floor muscle, the puborectalis, that kinks around the colon and helps keep us continent throughout the day. If the muscle is tight or in spasm, it can block stool from exiting. Resting your feet on a Squatty Potty, sideways trash bin or your kids step stool can increase the puborectal angle and can help to unkink the hose. The goal is to have your knees above your hips to allow the puborectalis to stretch and promote full elimination.
Breathing from the diaphragm not only massages our organs, but helps us to tap into that parasympathetic, relaxed state of mind. The diaphragm is the breathing muscle that sits like an umbrella underneath the ribcage. If we lose our connection to the diaphragm we often use our shoulders and neck to do the work, which can cause a lot of pain or even headaches. Not sure if you’re breathing with your diaphragm? Put one hand on your chest and one on your belly; try to make the hand on your belly move first and move most on the inhale. It is very common for people to suck in through their abdomen as they breathe in, but you should be looking for expansion. .Think of a balloon inflating - it inflates on all sides. The same should occur when we take a breath in, you should feel your lower ribcage expand laterally and from front to back. Not as easy as it sounds, but can make a big difference with this elimination game!
- GI massage
The gastrointestinal massage is a great tool that you can do yourself if you feel constipated or naturally have slower transit. Start at your right hip bone and move in tiny little circles up towards your ribs. Once you hit your lowest rib move across your stomach, above your belly button. Finally massage down the left side of your abdomen. Repeat 10 times. See the picture below for a visual. Keep in mind, this should not be painful!
Movement is medicine! Even 20 minutes of brisk walking can help get those bowels moving. Still stuck? Try a glass of warm water with lemon in the morning to coax that colon.
Questions? Send them our way - we love to hear from you. Happy August, beautiful people!
To greater community and self love,
Dr. Katie & Dr. Carly