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Constipation occurs when the muscle contractions in your intestines are too slow to push the stool out of your body, or when there isn’t enough water in your stool to soften it and move it through your intestines. This can cause a condition wherein you have less than three bowel movements a week, or otherwise have hard, dry bowel movements that are painful and difficult to pass.] There are a number of things you can do to relieve your constipation, from adjusting your diet to trying a few over-the-counter medications. If you want to know how to relieve constipation and stop feeling uncomfortable, just follow these steps.

Add more fiber-rich foods to your diet. Fiber-rich foods are known to help stimulate your bowels. Unfortunately, these foods, such as many fruits and vegetables, often get overlooked in a person’s daily diet. Don’t think of veggies or fruits as optional side dishes, but as crucial parts of every balanced meal. Not only will these foods relieve constipation, but they will also promote digestive health by improving your diet. Recommended fiber intake varies greatly by age, sex, and other factors, so talk with your doctor or use an online tool to help you figure out how much you should be getting. Here are some foods to add to your diet:

  • Avocado, split peas, broccoli, kale, green peas, and lentils
  • Bran cereal, oatmeal, brown rice, and flax seeds
  • Black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and soybeans
  • Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and oranges
  • Cabbage and cauliflower
  • Almonds, dried figs, and olives
  • Papaya and peaches

Increase the intensity of fiber. If adding a few fiber-rich foods to your diet doesn’t improve your problem, you can try a three-day fast of a high-fiber vegetable, or substituting one or two of your meals for foods that are entirely fiber-rich. This is not a good long-term solution because a balanced diet does require proteins and carbohydrates as well, but the three-day method can work in a pinch.

  • Cabbage is particularly good because it’s not only high in fiber, but it has enzymes which encourage the entire digestive tract to “flush.”
  • Cabbage can be prepared in a number of ways, including skillet frying, if the oil used is grape-seed oil or olive oil. You should vary your recipes so the three-day fast becomes enjoyable.

Hydrate well. Constipation can also be caused by insufficient hydration. Generally drink a minimum of 33-66 ounces (1.5-2 liters) per day, or more depending on your size, the weather, or amount of exercise. Constipation results from a lack of liquid in your stools, and hydrating can help this problem.

  • If you’re having a bout of constipation, increase your water consumption for 3-4 days, starting with a big glass in the morning and drinking regularly throughout the day.
  • Water may not help with all forms of constipation, but can help relieve constipation caused by dehydration. Likewise, drinking water before and during meals may help prevent future constipation.[5]
  • Other drinks, such as juice and soda, cannot compare regardless of how healthy or natural they are, because they tend to contain excessive sugar that could actually exacerbate constipation.

Add prunes or prune juice to your diet. Prunes are especially high in fiber and contain sorbitol, a stool-loosening sugar that naturally helps relieve constipation. Sorbitol is a mild colonic stimulant that helps reduce transit time of stool and thus decrease the risk of constipation.If you don’t like the wrinkly texture or unique taste of prunes, prune juice may be a more palatable alternative.

  • Prunes can be more effective for relieving constipation than prune juice. Prunes have 14.7g of sorbitol per 100g, whereas prune juice has 6.1g per 100g. You will have to drink more prune juice to achieve the same health benefits because the prunes are processed, and you will have to take in additional sugars.

Try the banana cure for mild constipation. This requires that you eat a banana by thoroughly chewing it. Make sure that the banana is very ripe, not unripe, or it can have the opposite effect.

Avoid foods that may cause constipation. Constipation can result from over consumption of refined sugar, and dairy in comparison to fiber from whole grains, bran, fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods that are high in sugar, like candy or cookies, as well as too much cheese, red meat, white bread, white rice, and hard boiled eggs. You don’t have to cut these foods out of your diet completely, but you should cut down on these foods if you’re having trouble evacuating your bowels. Here are some other foods to avoid:

  • Chips and crackers
  • Frozen dinners, which are often high in fat and low in fiber
  • Cookies
  • Fried foods like fries, doughnuts, and onion rings
  • Heavily breaded foods
  • Dairy products like butter, ice cream, and cheese
  • Red meat

Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can dehydrate you and make you more constipated.Limiting or stopping your intake of alcohol can help you relieve your bowels.

Heed the call. If your body is telling you that it’s time to have a movement, don’t put it off. Even if it’s only a mild suggestion, you should spend some time in the bathroom, even if you’re in the middle of a busy day. If you ignore your body when it’s telling you to have a movement, this can cause constipation later in the day. You may be ready to have a movement later, but your body won’t be.

Schedule time each day for a bowel movement. Scheduling a time to have a bowel movement promotes regularity and can trigger your body to have a bowel movement. Make time for a bowel movement, whether it’s in the morning, after your afternoon meal, or several times a day that are convenient for you. If you don’t have a regular schedule, your body can be confused and unready to have a movement.

Stay active. When you’re going through a bout of constipation, try some light exercise instead of sitting down. Just taking a 20 to 30 minute walk can help stimulate your digestive tract. Any form of exercise can help your body promote healthy bowel movements.

Do yoga. Yoga has been known to relieve stress and improve overall digestive health. There are also a few yoga poses that can stimulate the bowels, and holding these poses alone may be effective in relieving your constipation. Here are some poses to try:

  • The wind-relieving pose. Lie flat on your back. Bend one knee and extend it to your chest, holding it for ten seconds. Then switch and do this with the other knee. Alternate between knees at least five to ten times.
  • Kapalbhati Pranayam. Try Kapalbhati Pranayam yoga. Many people say it is very effective in relieving constipation. It should be done on an empty stomach or 5 hours after a full meal.

Squat on the toilet. When you sit on the toilet, don’t put your feet on the ground. Instead, lift them up so you’re squatting into the toilet a bit more, or place them on a footstool. This position is ideal for moving your bowels. If you want to try squatting, get a child’s step stool or stack of phone books and prop up your feet while you’re sitting on the toilet. If you don’t feel comfortable squatting, pull your legs in as close as you can get to the toilet bowl and raise your heels so you are doing “tippie-toes” with your feet. Then lean as far forward as you can without losing your balance, this will get your body into a “squatting position” without actually squatting. This will let stools out easier.

Know when to talk to your doctor. Though constipation is a common problem , if your constipation lingers for two weeks or more, you should see a doctor because it could be a sign of more serious digestive conditions. Here are some other reasons to see your doctor:

  • You have severe constipation and have never been constipated before
  • You have blood in your stools
  • You’re bleeding frequently from straining
  • You’ve lost weight without trying
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