4 Things You Can Do to Improve Digestion and Relieve Bowels

in Overall Health by

Have you ever had that feeling where you know you have to use the bathroom, but you just can’t get the job done in the time you have available. Have you ever had to leave for a function knowing you’re going to have to “Go”, and you don’t want to use the public facilities. Whatever your needs, there are a few things you can do to help yourself poop when you don’t have much time.

Runners like to go before a race, fitness aficionados try to go before an intense workout, and most people just like to wake up, have breakfast, and “Git Er DONE”, so they are feeling great, and not worrying if they will have to stop somewhere for an emergency Number 2.

A lot of people who are already on a routine may have issues when they travel to a different time zone, when their diet gets off track during a vacation, or just when they have a nervous stomach. Some mornings, you just can’t go, no matter how much you know it’s essential. So what do you do now?

After looking at the latest research, here’s what science says about how to get yourself to go.

Drinking Coffee & Warm Liquids In The Morning

Many runners swear by their morning cup of coffee as the thing that gets their bowels moving and although scientists aren’t sure exactly why coffee works this way, at least one study has found that it does seem to induce the urge! Many believe it is the caffeine, but that is unlikely, because even decaf coffee had this effect.

Others say that any warm beverage can help stimulate a bowel movement, including a cup of tea or even hot water, as the warm liquid acts as a vasodilator, widening the blood vessels in the digestive system and helping to increase blood flow and GI activity.

It has also been advised to drink a hot beverage in the morning, then sit on the toilet for a while. Just the act of sitting there for few minutes can bring on the urge to go, even if you don’t feel like you have to.

Physical Activity

Physical activity is another way to prod the elimination process, and is one reason a warm-up can be so important before a race or workout. Before you head out the door, exercise lightly to help stimulate a bowel movement. Try some jumping jacks, walking, jogging up and down the stairs, pacing around the house or dynamic stretches. If you are already at the race or event, warm up with some strides while you’re still near the porta-potties.

Wake Up Earlier

Be sure you’re getting up early enough to go through your morning routine, including time for the bathroom. People racing on different time zones, should try to stay as close to their body’s natural schedule as they can. If you’re from New York and you’re racing in Portland, that might mean getting up and having your breakfast on East-Coast time—even if it’s a few hours before your race or event.

Self Acupressure

Some people feel that gently massaging the perineum (the space between the genitals and the anus) may help relax the muscles and facilitate a bowel movement. A UCLA study did show promising results for a technique called self-acupressure. The study’s participants had chronic constipation, but it seems it would be helpful for someone who just needs to speed things along since the study showed that the acupressure “broke up hard stools, relaxed muscles and stimulated nerves responsible for bowel movements.” The study also noted that the participants received a few minutes of instruction in the technique, so it’s best to consult a physician or acupressure specialist.

Long-Term Solution

When this situation is a daily problem, there are a couple of particularly good methods. First, you may need to change your lifestyle, by starting to eat ha healthier diet that includes more fiber. You can get plenty of fiber by consuming fruit, veggies, whole grains, nuts & seeds.

The average adult needs between 25 and 30 grams of fiber per day to ward off constipation, however, most people eat far less. Please be advised that it is very possible to become bloated and experience some cramping, if you dramatically add loads of fiber to your diet. Also, when you add more fiber-filled foods to your diet, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, as this helps the fiber flow properly through your digestive tract. Constipation occurs when the stool is too dry to move through the body, so drinking plenty of water can always help. Foods that you should eat to get more fiber into your day and to help you “Go” are:

  • Beans & Lentils
  • Broccoli, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts
  • Bran
  • Berries
  • Plums, Prunes, Pears & Apples
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Nuts & Seeds

Things to Avoid

Taking a glycerin suppository can help people poop, but this is not really a good idea if you are in a hurry. The glycerin suppository may work right away, or may not work for a few hours, so it could backfire if you are trying to have a movement at a particular time.

Laxatives are also unpredictable and not usually good for your health. You can also become dependent on them.
You should also never try to delay a bowel movement, even if you hate to use public facilities, because holding it can cause or worsen constipation.

And finally, while sitting on the toilet for a few minutes can help push things along, never sit and strain for long periods. Swollen hemorrhoids are usually a result of applying too much pressure to the lower rectum. This may happen if you’re straining to have a bowel movement, which can occur during chronic diarrhea and constipation, according to the Mayo Clinic. It may also happen if you sit on the toilet too long because when you sit on the toilet, your anus relaxes, allowing the veins around to fill with blood, which then puts pressure on those veins.

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