Constipation affects 42 million men, women and children in the United States alone1.
What is constipation?
Constipation is defined by less than 3 bowel movements a week with stool consistency that is dry, hard, and difficult or painful to pass2.
Constipation could be caused by surgery, poor diet and hydration, pelvic floor muscle incoordination, lack of activity, side effects from medicine, motility issues, inflammation, and functional disorders. As with any medical condition it is important to be properly diagnosed so you know what the proper treatment is for you.
How is it treated?
If you and your provider suspect diet might play a role in your symptoms, being properly hydrated, increasing fiber intake and avoiding irritants may provide relief.
You might also have pelvic floor muscle tightness or incoordination that might be making bowel movements sluggish, incomplete, or painful.
Some techniques to try are elevating your feet on a Squatty Potty (or stool), working with the pelvic floor muscles (lengthen or strengthen), and abdominal massage. Stool consistency is a self-assessment tool you can communicate to your provider.
Why yoga for constipation?
Yoga offers the opportunity for slow, mindful movements with breath work and inner reflection. Relaxing, developing awareness, and integrating breath into your movement increases flexibility of the body and the mind.
When constipation has a mechanical cause, musculoskeletal and myofascial restrictions play into the dysfunction. Increasing flexibility and working with the breath during yoga can promote healthy function.
Yoga helps control the release of compounds in your body: serotonin (the feel-good neurotransmitter) and cortisol (the stress hormone). The majority of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter, is produced in the gut. Strengthening the parasympathetic nervous system response via pranayama, meditation, and gentle movement can be helpful in the balance of cortisol and serotonin.
- Higgins PD, Johanson JF. Epidemiology of constipation in North America: a systematic review. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2004;99:750–759.