March 16, 2015
Not only can walking around all day with fecal matter stuck up inside you put a scowl on your face from gas, bloating and that constant time-sucking nag to find a bathroom and “try to go” again, but long term constipation can create more serious complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and fecal impaction. Google any of those if you are curious. Not fun.
And you can get constipated for a variety of reasons.
For example, you can get constipated because you have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
You can get constipated because you don't produce enough digestive enzymes.
You can get constipated because you have yeast, fungus, or Candida overgrowth.
You can get constipated because you use sleeping pills, because those can decrease gastric motility.
You can get constipated because you ate too much fiber, or because you ate too little fiber.
You can get constipated simply because you didn't drink enough water the day before.
You can get constipated from an improper pooping position.
You can get even get constipated because you have a parasite (more common than you'd think).
Other causes of constipation can include hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism, heavy metal toxicity, or overanxiety. The tests and health detective work necessary to determine the reason for constipation go beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say that constipation is the most common digestive complaint in both men and women, so I figured it would be useful to give you a cheap and easy fix to help you go when you need to go.
Although treatments for constipation include drastic dietary changes such as eliminating fermentable foods like FODMAPs, laxatives, enemas (even the infamous coffee enema), biofeedback, and in some serious situations surgery, I'd recommend you try this three-step 42 cent morning routine if you're reading this and you want to get stuff moving ASAP.
Enjoy, and leave your questions and comments below the post.
Step 1: Baking Soda + Lemon Juice
Step 1 is relatively simple. When you first awake, get yourself a giant glass, and put a heaping teaspoon-ish* of baking soda and the juice of half a lemon (or 5-6 drops of lemon essential oil) into about 16 ounces of water, then drink it down. It will taste like salty, non-sweet lemon juice.
Regarding the amount of baking soda, please understand that results may vary. For some, a heaping teaspoon may induce liquid toilet explosions, while for others, a teaspoon may not be quite enough. But a teaspoon-ish amount is a good place to begin.
Why baking soda and lemon juice?
Baking soda, which I discussed in detail in podcast #311, has a variety of useful first aid and medical purposes. It can absorb and neutralize acids in the stomach and relieve intermittent and occasional heartburn and indigestion. It can be an effective odor reducer and natural deodorant because of its ability to neutralize acids and soak up moisture. And because it is a salt, it can also draw fluids into your digestive tract and increase intestinal peristalsis, tiny contractions of your gastrointestinal muscles that assist with movement of food higher up your intestinal tract and poo in the lower regions of your intestinal tract.
Lemon juice is well-known as a digestive aid and as a way to jumpstart digestive enzyme and hydrochloric acid consumption. Incidentally, the polyphenols in lemon can also increase fatty acid oxidation and a dose of lemon is also great for increasing alkalinity, a concept also discussed in podcast #311. Lemon essential oil is a bit different than lemon juice, and is a much more concentrated extract of lemon. It has an incredibly fragrant and aromatic scent, but it's uses go far beyond a nose pleasing aroma, and it is widely considered in alternative medicine as one of the best essential oils for constipation. The bile production that lemon induces can also increase intestinal peristalsis.
And let's face it: it's pretty easy to find baking soda and lemon juice just about anywhere you go.
So where did I come up with 42 cents as a daily cost for the baking soda and lemon juice?
Look at it this way: a big bag of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda weighs in at about 8 cents per ounce on Amazon. Since there's 0.2 ounces in a heaping teaspoon of baking soda, you're looking at about 1/5 of that 8 cents per serving, which comes out to roughly 1.6 cents. Just in case you decide to get crazy with your soda serving, let's round that up to 2 cents.
Next are the lemons. One dozen fresh organic lemons from Amazon come out to around $1.67 per lemon, and if you're using half the juice of that lemon each morning, you'd be spending 83 cents each morning on your lemon habit. And let's face it, I'd wager you could probably get a better deal on lemons at your local grocery store.
If you decide to go the fancy pants route and use essential oils rather than the lemon itself (which comes in handy when you're traveling and can't get your hands on a fresh lemon), you can get the Young Living lemon oil that I use and put 5-6 drops of that in with the baking soda. Lemon essential oil is about 12 bucks for a month's supply, which is approximately 40 cents a day (amazingly, less than using actual lemons!).
So ultimately, unless you factor in the cost of the giant 16 ounce glass of water you're going to put the lemon and baking soda into, you're looking at about 42 cents a day (or if you opt to use fresh lemons, slightly more than that). Everything else you're about to read in this article is…free.
Step 2: Do These Seven Yoga Poses
OK, so you've had your giant glass of water with baking soda and lemon juice or lemon essential oil. The next step is to complete the following set of yoga poses, which are fantastic for relieving constipation and for improving digestion. Hold each pose for 3-5 deep, relaxed inhales and exhales. Do not rush through these and do not do shallow chest breathing.
Knee-To-Chest: Lie down on your back on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you and your arms relaxed by your side. Bend your right knee and bring it up to your chest with both hands. Both of your hands should be placed just below your knee and on top of one another. Now pull your shin towards your stomach so that your shin pushes against your abdomen, allowing your shin to massage your stomach as you breathe. Hold for 3-5 deep breaths before slowly lowering the right leg and repeating on the other side.
Deep Squat: This is also known as “The Garland Pose”, but I like to call it the “dump-in-the-woods” pose. Squat down with your feet about 1-2 feet apart, and slightly duck-footed (pointing outwards). Your heels should be on the floor and you can place a folded towel under your heels if you can't get your heels down. Now separate your thighs so that they are slightly wider than your body, and then lean forward between your thighs. Next, put your elbows on the inside of your knees with your palms together (in a “prayer” position) and gently push against your knees. You'll feel a stretch in your crotch and you'll feel your low back elongate. The same time length, breathing and relaxation rules apply to this one.
Cat Cow: Get on your hands and knees on the floor in a crawl position. Inhale, making sure your back is flat and your abs engaged. Exhale, drop your head and round up your spine so you look like a cat arching it's back. On the inhale, arch your back, lifting your head and butt and looking forward for cow pose. Switch back and forth between the two poses, connecting your inhale with cow pose and exhale with the cat pose. Slowly repeat 5 times.
Standing Forward Bend: Stand with your legs slightly apart, and bend forward from the waist. Keeping your back straight, place your hands on the floor or get them as close as you can to the floor. Every time you exhale, try to get your hands just a little but further towards your feet or the floor.
Open Triangle: Stand and take a big step back with your right foot, turning it out to about a 45 degree angle. Spread out your arms. Keep your spine long as you hinge forward at the hip. Float your left hand down to the floor. Raise your right arm, keeping your arms spread out. Look up to your right hand. Take your 3-5 deep breaths. Then repeat on the other side.
Spinal Twist: Lie down, hug your knees and inhale. As you exhale, drop your knees to the left, using your left hand to push them down gently. Then, turn your head and stretch your arm out to the right. Stay for 3-5 breaths. Inhale, and return your hands and knees to center. Then repeat on the other side.
Inverted Pose: Place two folded blankets about three inches from the wall and sit on them so your right hip and side touch the wall. Swivel your body around and raise your legs onto the wall. Keep your buttocks close to or against the wall. Lie down so your lower back and ribs remain on your support, your tailbone descends toward the floor, and your neck and shoulders rest on the floor. Settle deeper into the pose by allowing the arms to rest above the head, with elbows comfortably bent and open to the side, and open your chest. Rest in the pose with your eyes closed for 3 to 5 minutes.
Why do these poses work so well? Yoga has a strong ayurvedic medicine component and one state that your body can be in is referred to in ayurvedic medicine as “vata”. Ayurvedic medicine classifies constipation as a vatic disorder, because vata governs movement and elimination, and excess vata can cause spasms, especially in your colon and pelvis. Interestingly, very narrow stools or stools shaped like small pellets or balls signal the presence of a spasm in the smooth muscles that make up the wall of the colon.
If you suffer from chronic constipation, you need to learn to relax deeply enough so those muscles will let go, and these poses are a perfect way to do that. Every time you perform this yoga routine, your constipation can get just a little bit better. This is because habitual muscle tightness in the pelvic often stems from long-term chronic anxiety, stress, or trauma that takes regular practice to resolve, so this yoga routine both relaxes the muscles that tend to get tight, and helps you relax mentally too – relieving the anxiety that can often make morning bowel movements difficult.
The inverted pose above is especially useful if your constipation is due to anxiety, stress and tightness in the hips and pelvic muscles because vata excess disrupts the the downward energy that supports elimination, so when vata is out of balance, things go up instead of down. The solution is to turn yourself upside down, and an inverted pose (or if you want to bring out the big guns, an inversion table) can help settle the organs in your pelvis that may have been out of place or “stuck.”
Incidentally, I simply complete each of the yoga poses described above while my cup of coffee is brewing.
Step 3: Move
This last step is simple. Once you finish your yoga, move for 1-2 minutes. Vibration, bouncing, or any type of impact-based movement work quite well.
Some people stand on a vibration platform. That's an expensive option, in my opinion.
Other people bounce on a mini-trampoline.
Me? I just do jumping jacks. About 50-100 will suffice. If you want to be a true pooping ninja, do warrior breathing while you do the jumping jacks. That really gets stuff moving.
After a bit of hopping around, grab a cup of coffee and proceed to the toilet to take a squat, hit the john, listen to the call of nature, grow a tail, prairie dog it…you get the idea.
Do I do this routine every day?
But it comes in quite handy when I'm traveling (traveler's constipation is quite common) or when I have a busy morning, I need to get my bathroom business over with quickly, and I'm willing to substitute the constipation yoga routine described above as a replacement for my normal morning yoga routine.
So that's it! Leave your questions, comments, thoughts, or your own personal constipation fixes below.
Next, remember: even though the routine that you've just discovered will indeed get you a good poop ASAP, it would still be wise to figure out why you're constipated in the first place. I'd be happy to help you via a personal, one-on-one consult, or to point you in the direction of the right blood test or poop test if you comment below.
Finally if you dig stuff like this, you'll probably really like to read about my entire step-by-step morning routine (in teeth-grittingly specific detail).