Bowels Acting Too Cool for Stool? Here are Five Tips to Help Get Things Moving
Let’s be honest—being constipated is not only uncomfortable, but outright frustrating. Defined by the National Institute of Health (NIH) as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, feelings of incomplete evacuation, and/or hard, dry, and difficult-to-pass stools, constipation affects nearly 4 million Americans. 1
The good news? There are many strategies to help alleviate a digestive traffic jam. At Alyssa Lavy Nutrition & Wellness, we specialize in digestive health – so we know a thing or two about how to keep your bowels moving! Below are the top five we’ve deemed most effective when your bowels are acting too cool for stool.
1. Focus on Insoluble Fiber
a. Often considered a digestive champion, fiber aids in many aspects of gastrointestinal health and is a key component in keeping your bowels regular. While both kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble, play a role in better bowel movements, insoluble fiber is your BFF in easing constipation. Found in foods like whole grains, leafy greens, and nuts and seeds, insoluble fiber helps speed up the transit of food through the digestive tract and increase the water content of stool.2 This can lead to softer, easier-to-pass stools and more frequent bowel movements.
But before you start adding insoluble fiber-filled foods to your grocery list, keep in mind that increasing either kind of fiber too quickly and without proper hydration may lead to cramping, gas, and/or abdominal bloating. It is also important to know that soluble fiber is beneficial as well – and many foods contain a combination of different types of fiber. To lower your risk of these symptoms, gradually add high-fiber foods into your diet and pair them with a tall glass of water (which brings us to our next point!).
2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
a. Proper hydration is instrumental for digestive health and regular bowel movements. On the other hand, dehydration can be the main culprit of your constipation. Of its many functions, water acts as a lubricant for the intestinal wall, allowing stool to move more smoothly and swiftly throughout. Without adequate fluid present, stool can become dry, bulky, and difficult to pass.
If you struggle with drinking enough water, consider adding flavor using your favorite fruits or veggies, diluting a small amount of juice for extra flavor, or buying a water bottle you love that will give you easy access to water throughout the day (we love Hydro Flasks or Stanley cups!).
3. Stock up on Kiwis
a. Say it with us: “2 Kiwis a day keeps the constipation at bay”! But really, stock your fridge with this tasty (and low-fodmap!) fruit because research continues to prove it a powerful tool in bowel regularity. In fact, a study released earlier this month showed that daily consumption of two green kiwifruits was associated with improved laxation and GI comfort in constipated individuals. Participants specifically experienced softening of stool consistency and a reduction in straining.3 While kiwi contains fiber – which can be helpful in improving bowel regulating – there is a specific compound found in kiwi (called actinidin), which researchers believe to play a significant role in the laxation effect of kiwi. If kiwis aren’t high on your list of favorite fruits, try blending them in smoothies or pairing them with other foods you enjoy such as yogurt or cereal! Bonus points for eating the skin – it will increase your fiber intake!
4. Consider Pelvic Floor Therapy
a. While a little pushing in the bathroom can be normal, it shouldn’t take a great deal of effort to pass a bowel movement. If you’re straining or feeling like you can’t fully get everything out, it could be a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction.
The pelvic floor is a combination of muscles that run from the pubic bone to the tailbone and play a role in controlling bowel function. When these muscles are unable to relax properly during a bowel movement, this can lead to excess straining and incomplete evacuation. On the flip side, too much straining can also weaken pelvic floor muscles. Working with a pelvic floor therapist can help rehabilitate your pelvic floor muscles and/or train the muscles to be more relaxed when having a bowel movement through biofeedback training. 4 A pelvic floor PT can also provide you with an individualized assessment and other targeted strategies to improve bowel regularity.
5. Try a Bathroom Step Stool
a. Another way to help get your pelvic floor muscles in a more relaxed position during bowel movements is to focus on proper positioning. One of the most effective ways to do so is to implement the use of a toilet squat stool into your bathroom routine. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology in 2019 showed that utilizing a toilet squat stool, or defecation postural modification device, resulted in increased bowel emptiness and reduced straining patterns in individuals who had previously experienced these symptoms.5 Our favorite toilet squat stool is the good ol' Squatty Potty. It fits easily under your toilet and comes in many different styles and colors to fit your bathroom’s décor. You can also use your child’s bathroom step stool or even stack some old books on the floor – any tool that places your feet flat and allows your knees to be over hips – placing you in a squatting position – should do the trick!
Still unsure of how to get things moving? Contact us to schedule your complimentary discovery call so we can see if our practice is a good fit to work with you - we can offer an individualized approach with our 1:1 nutrition counseling and provide more targeted recommendations!
This blog post was written with the help of Lauren Pappalardo, a dietetic intern completing her MS/DI at Pace University.
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1. Constipation | NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation
2. Okawa Y, Fukudo S, Sanada H. Specific foods can reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and functional constipation: a review. Biopsychosoc Med. 2019;13:10. Published 2019 May 8. doi:10.1186/s13030-019-0152-5
3. Gearry, Richard MD, PhD*,1; Fukudo, Shin MD, PhD*,2,3; Barbara, Giovanni MD*,4; Kuhn-Sherlock, Barbara PhD5; Ansell, Juliet PhD6; Blatchford, Paul PhD6; Eady, Sarah MSc7; Wallace, Alison PhD7; Butts, Christine PhD7; Cremon, Cesare MD4; Barbaro, Maria Raffaella PhD4; Pagano, Isabella MD4; Okawa, Yohei PhD2; Muratubaki, Tomohiko PhD2; Okamoto, Tomoko PhD8; Fuda, Mikiko MS9; Endo, Yuka MD3; Kano, Michiko MD, PhD2; Kanazawa, Motoyori MD, PhD2,3; Nakaya, Naoki PhD10; Nakaya, Kumi PhD10; Drummond, Lynley BTech (Hons)11. Consumption of 2 Green Kiwifruits Daily Improves Constipation and Abdominal Comfort—Results of an International Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Gastroenterology ():10.14309/ajg.0000000000002124, January 9, 2023. | DOI: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000002124
4. Bassotti G, Chistolini F, Sietchiping-Nzepa F, de Roberto G, Morelli A, Chiarioni G. Biofeedback for pelvic floor dysfunction in constipation. BMJ. 2004;328(7436):393-396. doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7436.393
5. Modi RM, Hinton A, Pinkhas D, et al. Implementation of a Defecation Posture Modification Device: Impact on Bowel Movement Patterns in Healthy Subjects. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2019;53(3):216-219. doi:10.1097/MCG.0000000000001143