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Simple constipation is most frequently caused by inadequate fibre and water intake in one’s diet. One of the simplest strategies for promoting regular, easy bowel movements is to increase water intake to at least 2L/day (for an average adult). Remember that every coffee or tea reduces internal water availability by another glass (due to caffeine and tannin content). As such regular coffee/tea drinkers need to increase their water intake by 1 extra glass of water per coffee/tea per day. Imagine someone that drinks 4-cups of coffee – they end up needing to drink at least 12 glasses of water – usually enough incentive to get people to reduce their daily caffeine hit!

It takes between 18-36 hours for the food we eat to turn into the stool we pass and the longer it stays in the digestive system, the more water is drawn out of the stool making it harder to pass. This dehydration and subsequent dry stool is a common problem for people and becomes a vicious circle. The drier the stool, the more pain and discomfort they experience and the more chance they have of developing haemorrhoids or pain when passing the stool. This in turn makes them go to the toilet less frequently (or even avoid the toilet), which further contributes to the problem.

As such, a few simple tips to keep one’s bowels regular:

  • Try to encourage regular bowel habits by going to the toilet at the same time each day and don’t rush bowel movements (stress and anxiety are common constipation triggers)
  • Encourage plenty of fibre in the diet such as whole-grains, leafy greens and other vegetables
  • Reduce coffee and tea and ensure you meet your water requirements
  • Encourage movement and exercise to literally ‘move’ stool through the body
  • Supplements such as Slippery elm powder, fibre supplements and probiotics can help to regulate bowels
  • Stress relieving strategies such as abdominal massage with essential oils, meditation and relaxation can also help