How to Relieve Holiday Constipation
When we think of the holiday season, we often think of joyful times gathered around the table with family and friends. But holiday meals are famous for rich food, and the season can also come with added stress. Because stress and anxiety have a direct impact on digestion and because we tend to eat foods our systems aren’t used to, the holidays can spell disaster for our bowel function. It is no wonder that so many suffer with uncomfortable constipation and bloating.
Our Ochsner Therapy & Wellness pelvic health physical therapists have the tips and tricks to help calm those weary nervous systems and get things moving in no time!
Breathe deep: When our bodies sense danger or are under stress, their last priority is to stop and poop. Instead, our bodies are focused on keeping us safe and alive. Try deep breathing to help calm the body and relieve constipation. Regular slow breathing is OK, but best results come from deep belly breathing that engages the diaphragm. Our breath orchestrates the body and nervous system. When we take slow, deep breaths it sends a message to the brain that all is well. In turn, our digestive system gets the hint that it is once again safe to get things moving.
Assume the position: Take a tip from our ancestors and pop a squat. Our forefathers were onto something when they squatted while going number two. When we are squatting, the rectum is in a more open position to void which decreases straining. There are many types of “squatty pottys” on the market now that help you achieve a squatting position while using a traditional toilet: Even travel editions and aesthetically pleasing bamboo to match your bathroom décor. For a DIY option, even a few books placed below each foot would work. The goal is to get the knees above the hips and lean forward a bit. This is also a great time to practice a few deep breaths from the diaphragm to avoid straining.
Hydrate: I know, I know – you’ve heard it before – but there is no way around the paramount importance of proper hydration. Our bowels need water to keep things moving along. According to The National Library of Medicine even mild dehydration can cause constipation. It’s a good rule of thumb to shoot for about half your weight in ounces of H2O each day. Don’t like the taste of water? Try adding lemon, lime, mint, cucumber or fruit to appeal to your taste buds. Your body and belly will thank you!
- Pro tip: Try to avoid drinking water with meals as it can cause bloating. Drinking beverages during mealtime can decrease the levels of important stomach acids that help to break down and process food.
Get your greens in: Last, but certainly not least, eat those veggies! Vegetables contain high levels of fiber, which is significant to the health of our bowel function and digestive system. Remember, it’s important to slowly increase fiber intake; find the level that works best for you and maintain your intake for best results and bowel regularity. For an added bonus, choose fiber-filled fruits and veggies that also contain prebiotics. Prebiotics are found in foods like garlic and apples, and feed the probiotics in our gut to balance our belly bacteria. A healthy gut not only helps with constipation: It can also contribute to a strong immune system and better sleep.
Try these steps this holiday season to keep constipation at bay. If you need more relief, Ochsner’s pelvic health physical therapists are here to help. Call 504-842-4348 to schedule a consultation.