Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise is paramount to good digestion. However, sometimes things go awry and people need a little extra help to maintain regularity. You may be surprised to learn that you should have a bowel movement every day, and that two to three times a day is ideal. If you’re having trouble in this area, first and foremost be sure that you’re ingesting adequate water and eating good amounts of fiber in your diet.
I often hear the question: “How much water should I be drinking?” The rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces daily. So if you weigh 120 pounds, you want to try to consume at least 60 ounces of water a day.
Great sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try to eat a big salad every day, or have a “magic smoothie” in the morning consisting of a small carrot, ½ apple, ½ banana, ½ cup spinach, ½ cup parsley, 1 tablespoon flax seeds, 1 cup blueberries, 1-2 cups of filtered water and a scoop of your favorite protein powder. (I like Garden of Life Raw Protein powder which is loaded with fiber from grains, and has a whopping 30 grams of protein per serving.) I call this the “magic smoothie” because it seems to magically transform digestion when ingested on a regular basis.
If simply adjusting your water and fiber intake doesn’t do the trick, try flax seed tea. This is an old German remedy for constipation associated with dry, hard stools. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of flax seeds in 4 cups of boiling water, simmer on low heat and strain. The tea is quite thick and slippery, almost like syrup, and you can flavor it with honey or stevia (Wisdom Natural SweetLeaf Sweet Drops in Vanilla Crème flavor is my favorite). Drink a few cups a day and experience how well it supports your natural healthy digestion. This recipe may also help with other minor stomach or digestive pains. What’s great is that it’s an inexpensive, easy-to-make homemade tea that can become a regular part of your diet to help you have healthier digestion.
Probiotics, the healthy bugs found in yogurt, can also help support health digestion.* If you’ve taken certain medications like antibiotics, or when you’re under chronic stress, the populations of the good bugs can shift in your intestines. Using a probiotic supplement during these times can help maintain your digestive health and regularity.* It’s always a good idea to take probiotics with prebiotics (a type of food the healthy bugs eat) such as FOS (fructooligosaccharides). Vitacost Probiotic 15-35, with 35 billion organisms and FOS, is an excellent product to add to your daily regimen.
If you still need more help, Organic Smooth Move Tea by Traditional Medicinals is another option. This tea gently supports elimination with senna leaf, and it contains other herbs that support healthy digestion including ginger, coriander, fennel and licorice root.* You can drink up to two cups a day to support regularity. A word of caution: if you have high blood pressure, don’t use this product because licorice root can increase blood pressure in some people. Also, if you’ve done all that you can do increase your regularity and you’re still not seeing improvement with these methods, please see your healthcare provider for a thorough evaluation.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.