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You feel that familiar pressure down below. Nature is calling, so you head to the toilet. You sit, you push, you wait. And… nothing. You just can’t seem to make yourself poop. If several hours have passed and you still haven’t gone No. 2, you just might be constipated.
You’re considered constipated if you have:
- fewer than 3 poops a week
- hard, lumpy, or dry poop
- difficulty or pain while pooping
- a sensation that the whole stool hasn’t passed
Don’t fear just yet: If you feel like the poop gods have cursed your bowels, there are steps you can take to get some relief.
Here’s how to make yourself poop from the comfort of your home (erm, toilet).
1. Work it out
Understandably, heading to the gym super constipated might not be your jam. Just going for a brisk walk or run can increase blood flow to your abdomen and help you go.
2. Pop a fiber supplement
A low-fiber diet is one of the top constipation culprits. An OTC fiber supplement works by adding some extra volume to your stool, helping things move through your intestines and out the other side. A few common fiber supplements include:
- psyllium (Metamucil, Konsyl)
- methylcellulose (Citrucel)
- calcium polycarbophil (FiberCon)
3. Nom on some fiber-rich food
You don’t have to head to the drugstore to get your daily dose of fiber. Eating these foods may help you work through your poop probs:
Pro tip: Drink lots of water when you eat these foods to really get your stool moving.
4. Sip on some H2O
While everyone’s daily water quota is a little different, drinking plenty of water is necessary to keep bowel movements healthy.
If you’re feeling a little backed up, try keeping your trusty Hydro Flask by your side.
5. Down a cup of joe
Sometimes, a cup of coffee is all it takes to send you rushing to the bathroom. Though the link between coffee and the bowels remains unclear, caffeine is known to get things moving (and coffee has a lot of it).
One study from 2004 found that strong coffee created more stimulation compared to drinking warm water.
Is it the coffee beans or the caffeine that does the trick? The kick-start to your bowels is most likely thanks to the high caffeine levels in coffee.
So, if you have to go, it definitely can’t hurt to break out the French press.
6. Put some flaxseed oil in your oatmeal
A 2015 study found that flaxseed oil worked as a laxative to boost regularity and also helped prevent diarrhea in mice. While more research is needed to prove its effectiveness, it can’t hurt to work a little into your diet.
Pro tip: Sneak a tablespoon of the ground stuff into your oatmeal (extra fiber!), breakfast cereal, yogurt, or even your sandwich’s mayo or mustard. Flaxseed also works well baked into some banana bread or muffins.
7. Try a laxative stimulant
OTC stimulant laxatives work to push out bowel movements by squeezing the intestines. Common options include:
- bisacodyl (Dulcolax, Ducodyl, Correctol)
- castor oil
8. Pop an osmotic laxative
Being backed up is tricky. Sometimes your stool needs more solid material (aka fiber). Other times, it’s the liquids that need help moving through. That’s where osmotic laxatives come in.
Here are a few common types:
- magnesium hydroxide (Phillips Milk of Magnesia)
- magnesium citrate
- polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX)
9. Try a senna laxative
Senna is an OTC laxative derived from an herb. Since senna is a stimulant laxative, it should do the trick in a pinch.
Still, many doctors advise against using senna-based laxatives regularly. Doing so could cause you to become reliant on them to go.
10. Try a stool softener
Dehydration often leads to constipation, which hardens the stool. A stool softener will moisten (*shudder*) your poo by using water from your intestines. Two common types include:
- docusate sodium (Colace)
- docusate calcium (Surfak)
11. Use a suppository
Rectal suppositories are another useful stool softener to give a whirl — if you’re prepared to insert medication where the sun don’t shine. You can find a bisacodyl or glycerin suppository at your local pharmacy.
12. Consider an enema
This probably isn’t first on your list of poo solutions, but injecting fluid into the lower bowel via enemas may work to loosen up the stool. You can use an enema at home or visit a medical facility. Common enemas include:
- sodium phosphate (Fleet)
- tap water enemas
13. Massage it out with a perineal massage
You probably never thought about massaging the area between your b-hole and genitals (aka your perineum), but here you are.
A 2015 study found participants who used perineal self-acupressure reported better bowel function and less constipation. While the research on the effect of perineal massages on constipation remains inconclusive, it’s a low-risk method that might lend some much-needed relief.
Ideally, this should be done when you have the urge to go but can’t.
Here’s what to do:
- Wash your hands and get comfy.
- Press your index and middle finger against your perineal skin. FYI: That’s the skin between the anus and the vagina or scrotum.
- Gently push upward on the skin toward your anus.
- Continue pressing in pulses of about 5 seconds.
14. Give an abdominal massage a go
If you want a less invasive self-massage, you can also go the abdominal massage route. Studies show abdominal massage can help get things moving and relieve discomfort if you have chronic constipation.
Here’s what to do:
- Lie on your back. Using both hands gently press on your stomach.
- Slowly work your hands in clockwise circles on the right lower side of your stomach.
- Gently apply pressure with the palm of your right hand inside your right hip bone.
- Move your hand right under the right side of your ribs and apply pressure. Move to under the center of your ribs, and then to the left side under your ribs.
- Use your left hand to gently apply pressure with the palm of your hand inside your left hip bone.
- Using both hands, press your fingertips into your stomach and pull up to your ribs.
- Repeat on the bottom right side and move clockwise.
15. Make like a caveman and squat
The Continence Foundation of Australia recommends sitting with your knees higher than your hips for optimal pooping. To do so, you might need to use a footstool. Here are a few other ways to strike the perfect poop pose:
- Place your elbows on your knees and lean forward.
- Relax your stomach.
- Straighten your spine.
A 2019 study also found that defecation posture medication devices (footstools FTW) helped participants reduce straining and better evacuate their bowels over a 6-week period. Put that Squatty Potty you got in a gift exchange to good use.
While these tips might provide a short-term solution, chronic constipation typically demands at least a few lifestyle changes. Here are a few places to start for healthy pooping:
- Practice proper form. There’s significant evidence to suggest that a squat position aids in healthier pooping. If you need, use a footstool to get your knees above your hips.
- Avoid straining. Sorry: No more scrolling through Insta while you try to go. Sitting on the toilet for prolonged periods can make matters worse by weakening the pelvic muscles that help you poop.
- Drink lots of water. Keep your water bottle by your side at all times. You’re going to need it if you want to stay regular.
- Eat more fiber. Oats, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, and other fiber-rich foods can help keep things moving.
- Exercise on most days. Even if it’s just for 20 minutes, getting some exercise in most days will up your circulation and keep your bowels healthy.
- Never hold back. It might be tempting to put off pooping until you wrap up your work assignment or make it to your favorite public toilet (department store bathroom, anyone?), but resist the urge whenever possible. Going as soon as possible will help your bowels stay healthy.
- Avoid certain foods. For healthy poop, cut back on your fave junk foods. Red meat, fried foods, processed grains, dairy, and alcohol can also make constipation worse or cause it in the first place.
Constipation happens for lots of reasons: being dehydrated, slacking on your fiber intake, or even being stressed. If you’re backed up for more than 3 weeks and lifestyle changes don’t do the trick, talk to your doctor.
You should also call up your doc if you experience any of the following:
- prolonged stomach pain
- blood in stool
- rapid weight loss
While these tips provide short-term fixes, chronic constipation requires more serious lifestyle changes. If drinking more water, practicing proper poop form, exercising regularly, and eating more fiber doesn’t help, talk to your doc about your options.