5 tips to tame holiday-induced constipation

Constipation is uncomfortable and embarrassing.

And around the holidays — it’s just plain inconvenient.

And even if you go with the flow most of the year, eating over the holiday season can put a big kink in the best time of the year.

For starters, it’s the season to indulge. Yes, we are going to enjoy those sweets we usually shy away from. And we are going to have plenty of big meals with family, holiday socials with friends and neighbors… and don’t forget the office cookie swap.

So, not only are you probably going to take in more than you normally eat, you’re going to be eating things your digestive system probably isn’t used to… sugary desserts, rich casseroles and bread, stuffings and dressings.

Sure, it would be easy to keep laxatives on standby. But according to Dr. Stanley Rosenberg, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, taking these types of medications can lead to dependence.

So, instead, I’ve got five Harvard approved tips to help you tame constipation so it doesn’t ruin your holidays — or any day for that matter.

#1 — Get your body moving to get your bowels moving

Lack of physical activity can cause constipation. That means that if you’re not regular, you need to start scheduling in some regular exercise. Don’t worry about the intensity of your physical activity. Instead, focus on consistency.

You might even find that simply taking a 15 minute walk after eating is enough to get you going again. And what better time to take it than after a huge holiday meal.

#2 — Add in fiber

You’ve probably heard that fiber is important for your digestive health, but it bears repeating. Without enough fiber in your daily diet, your digestive system will slow down and stool sits in your intestines for too long.

To get going again, shoot for at least 25 grams of fiber per day from the foods you eat. Good options for getting that fiber include:

  • Apples
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Figs
  • Black beans
  • Grains

Looking for something to take to the Thanksgiving luncheon at the office? How about a raw fruit and veggie tray? It’s OK to be that person!

#3 — Don’t forget the fluids

It’s also important to drink plenty of water to get relief from your constipation and keep your digestive tract moving.

Try keeping a glass of water with you at all times and sip regularly throughout your day. That doesn’t mean you have to pass up the eggnog… just don’t forget about the water.

#4 — Set a bowel schedule

This part may sound strange, but it actually helps to set a bowel movement schedule because the longer poop sits in your bowels, the harder it is to push it out.

For most people, the optimal time to have a bowel movement is after eating. So, it’s a good idea to plan on heading to the bathroom right after breakfast and see if you get the urge to go.

#5 — Take probiotics

Research has found that probiotics can provide powerful constipation relief.

In fact, a review of 14 studies by researchers at King’s College in London showed that on average probiotics can increase your number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3 and soften your stools so that they are easier to pass.

Now, you have five ways to tame your constipation, so, don’t wait to get started. Before you know it, you’ll be decorating the tree and wrapping presents. The last thing you need to let go by the wayside over the hectic holiday season is your health!