Constipation is different for everyone, but it's usually defined as having three or fewer bowel movements in one week. You may also be constipated if you have hard, dry stool or if it's painful to go to the bathroom.
It occurs when the large intestine slows down too much and the stool takes too long to eliminate. The large intestine will pull too much water out of the stool, making it difficult to pass.
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Everyone's bowel movements are different. However, all bowel movements are affected by your diet and exercise habits. Stress, dehydration and medications like painkillers, water pills, calcium or iron as well as some antacids can cause issues with bowel movements.
Certain yoga poses increase blood flow to the digestive tract and stimulate the intestines to contract. This can make digestion more efficient and help relieve constipation. Aparna Pattewar, a doctor out of Malden, Massachusetts, recommends a few poses specifically for relieving constipation in her blog, Yoga for You.
Virasana, also known as the Hero's pose, is done by kneeling on the ground, knees apart, feet together with the toes pointing behind you. Keeping your back straight, slowly sink your hips down until they are resting between your feet. Place your hands on your knees and breath normally.
Next, move into Adho Mukha Virasana, or Downward-Facing Hero's pose, by bending forward and resting your forehead on the ground. Your arms should be straight out in front of your head with your palms together. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Another pose that might help is Pavanmuktasana, or the Wind-Releasing pose. Lying on your back, bring both knees up to your chest, breathing out as you pull them up. Gently add pressure, bringing your thighs into your belly. Roll your head up, touching your knees with your forehead. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds breathing normally.
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA) moderate exercise stimulates your bowels, helping your intestines do their job. The APA recommends trying walking or swimming for 20 to 30 minutes to relieve constipation.
Additionally, to help prevent constipation in the first place, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that exercising regularly helps keep your digestion system, including your intestines, healthy and active.
The NIH recommends getting about 20 to 30 minutes of exercise at least three times per week to help prevent constipation. Stress is also a risk factor for constipation, so try activities like yoga or tai chi that combine exercise and stress reduction.
Fiber is one of the best natural treatments for constipation. NIH recommends getting more in your diet through fruits, vegetables and grains. It's also recommended that you drink enough fluids. This will help soften your stools and can prevent dehydration which may cause constipation.
A 2017 study published in "Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology" found that probiotics helped relieve constipation in children. Probiotics can be taken in supplement form or can be obtained from yogurt.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.