It’s estimated that one in five people in the United States suffer from occasional constipation.1 So if you struggle with irregularity, know that you’re far from alone in your tummy troubles. But what does it even mean to be “regular” anyway? Well, the answer to that is different for everyone!
If you think you might have an issue with constipation, talk to your doctor. Typically, “regular” means no more than three bowel movements per day, and no fewer than three per week. However, depending on things like your age and how active you are, this number can fluctuate.
The following factors contribute to regularity and overall digestive health:
Fluid intake (hydration): Everyone’s likely heard the much-touted recommendation to consume eight glasses of water per day. While drinking water is never a bad idea, when it comes to improving digestion, fluids, in general, will help food move more easily through the digestive system. Thus, increasing your fluid intake, whether it’s via water or water-rich foods like fruits and veggies, may help improve regularity.
Exercise: Your daily activity level influences how efficiently your body processes food nutrients. Regular activity stimulates intestinal activity by increasing blood flow to muscles, including those in the digestive system.2 So, if you’re a highly active person, you may unknowingly be feeling the digestive and regularity benefits of exercise. If you’re struggling with digestive upset, consider increasing the amount of time you’re active each day. And be sure you up your fluid intake in turn!
Underlying health conditions: A variety of conditions and ailments may contribute to digestive disruptions. If you suspect an underlying health issue, talk to a healthcare professional about developing a plan to manage it and improve digestion.
Diet: Perhaps the most obvious player in the digestive game is the food you’re putting in your body. A healthy diet high in fiber is key to regularity. Fiber is only found in plant-based foods, which means if you’re looking to improve your regularity, you may need more asparagus, whole grains, legumes, avocados, or other fruits and vegetables in your diet!
There’s no single key to improving your digestive health. Instead, it’s important to think about your digestion as a piece in the overall wellness puzzle. Drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and eating healthy foods may improve regularity, but the benefits of these tactics are far-reaching.
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1 Higgins PD, Johanson JF. Epidemiology of constipation in North America: a systematic review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2004 Apr;99(4);750-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2004.04114.x.
2 Waters J. Why exercise is good for your digestive system. Healthspan. Published June 26, 2017. Web. Accessed February 25, 2020. https://www.healthspan.co.uk/advice/why-exercise-is-good-for-your-digestive-system.