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Get the Scoop on Poop for Constipation Relief

Get the Scoop on Poop for Constipation Relief

Feel like you're spending more time in the bathroom than any other room in your house?

You're not alone. The average adult spends 8 to 16 days a year in the bathroom! That's 30 to 60 minutes a day—way too long if you're among the millions of adults doing overtime throne duty thanks to gastrointestinal (GI) troubles ranging from constipation to that mix of diarrhea, belly cramps and irregularity known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (Check out the surprising symptoms that may signal constipation.)

Getting to the Bottom of It
Bowel troubles aren't new, of course, but modern life is making things worse: Stress, debt and over-processed and fiberless foods all combine to keep you behind that closed door. On the flip side: Research has turned up new ways you can escape the bathroom sooner. Here's the scoop on poop:

  • Take a breather. Hard stools and straining could be a sign that you're stressed out. There's evidence that anxiety directly affects blood flow to areas of the intestines. Try meditating or practicing deep breathing.
  • Check your meds. Up to 40 percent of constipation may be caused by drugs ranging from simple antacids to antihistamines, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, iron supplements, opioid pain relievers and pseudoephedrine (found in many cold remedies).
  • Get moving. If you sit most of the time, get up. Hike the halls, take the dog for an extra outing and get in a 30-minute daily walk, no matter what. It makes a big difference by softening stools and increasing regularity. Make walking your daily meditation time.
  • Add more fiber to your diet. The typical American gets 10 to 15 grams of fiber, not the needed 25 grams (for men) or 35 grams (for women). Think fruit, veggies and 100 percent whole grains. While all fiber helps, large oats (steel-cut, not instant) contain beta glucan, a gelatinous type of fiber that makes bowel movements easier.
  • Up the "good bugs" in your system. Eating yogurt with live active cultures gives you two probiotics that can cut pain, intestinal muscle spasms, constipation and diarrhea in half. Or, ask your doctor about taking probiotic pills. Their beneficial bacteria are activated by traveling through your stomach.
  • Talk to your doctor. If all of this isn't enough, ask your doc about the newest IBS medications or treatment to relieve bloating and pain and have more normal bowel movements.

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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