By Dr. Mark Wiley

Do you feel bloated, groggy, fatigued or achy? Do you empty your bowels less than twice per day? Do you continually get an upset stomach or cramps in your bowels? Simple measures can restore your digestive health and re-energize your life.

Digestive dysfunction is no joke. If you engage in the typical Western lifestyle of consuming fast food, eating as you work, not drinking enough water, not exercising, taking medications, drinking coffee or alcohol, and getting stressed out, chances are you know how bad you feel when your digestive health is in peril.

The good news is that there are quite a few easy things you can do to promote and maintain proper digestion and elimination. The trick is to first remove the constipated material from the body while changing habits and choices to prevent constipation in the future. The problem is: Most advice is single-focused on prevention (take fiber) or elimination (take a laxative). While both have their place in the continuum of digestive health, neither addresses correction.

Let’s look at ways you can restore your digestive health naturally.

Stop Making Yourself Constipated

This concept may seem simple and obvious, but many people don’t like to take personal responsibility for diminishing their own health; it’s easier to blame another. With digestion there are several things people do that can lead to sluggish bowels and constipation. One is poor diet. Another is a sedentary lifestyle. Others include the taking of medications that slow the bowels, so check your prescription labels to see if this is the case. If you suffer chronic pain and chronic constipation, examining your lifestyle and daily activities may provide great insight into a self-induced cause.

If You’re Constipated, Remove The Blockage

While changing lifestyle is necessary for prevention, it will take a while for those changes to take effect. If you are currently constipated, this will not provide quick-enough relief. In this case, it is best to remove the obstruction to free the bowels and stop the toxic cycle. There are several ways to do this, such as taking castor oil or citrate of magnesia. The two solutions work but have less-than-ideal side effects. Castor oil is a toxin, which is why the body moves it (along with your bowel blockage) through you quickly. Citrate of magnesia pulls water into your intestines to create movement, but can be painful to the stomach, cause sharp cramps, and is contraindicated with certain medications and supplements.

The easiest and most pain-free method for relieving the bowels in a matter of minutes is the use of a simple saline enema. It works much the same way as the citrate of magnesia in terms of pulling water into the bowels, but focuses on the lower bowel and has an effect within minutes. A simple abdominal massage will also help move things along, and a quick Internet search will provide any number of videos that explain the method.

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Correct Your Digestive System

By the time we reach adulthood, the negative effects of poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, psychological and emotional stress and the ongoing use of medications have taken their toll on the body. Diet is a great way to rebuild digestive health, but takes some time and discipline. So along with diet, you can look into the different digestive enzymes that address your eating habits.

There are enzymes to help break down fats, protein, carbohydrates and various combinations thereof. As we age, we produce fewer and fewer digestive enzymes, so supplementation may be a good idea, along with probiotics for the intestines. Doing digestive cleanses as well as liver and gall bladder cleanses can also help restore better digestion to help normalize digestive health. I like The Colorado Cleanse, but there are many others you can look into online.

Adjust Your Daily Consumption

While we are told certain foods are good for us, they do much to slow digestion and block us up. These include the obvious ones like alcohol, beer, soda, sugar drinks, tea and coffee. All of these beverages are known as diuretics, meaning they cause the body to promote fluid loss through sweat and urination. They dehydrate and cause less fluid to be available for removing toxins and moving bowel obstructions out of the body. Those small, hard stools that look like pebbles are the result. Other foods like pork and cheese, for example, block the body by taking a long time to breakdown and digest. Thus, they have longer transit time out of the body.

Good things to consume that aid digestion and bowel motility include plenty of filtered water, whole grain fiber and fiber-rich fruits like blackberries and raspberries. Dark-green, leafy vegetables are high in fiber and help moisten the intestinal tract, thus quickening the speed at which the digested food leaves the bowels. Raw foods have plenty of digestive enzymes, but too many uncooked vegetables can be difficult on the stomach. A balance is needed. When your schedule or life does not allow for ample whole grains, fruits and vegetables, then taking one or two servings of a bulking agent, like psyllium husk fiber in water, is a great natural way to balance the difference.

Getting enough magnesium in your system is also a factor; low levels can contribute to constipation. Magnesium is found in such foods as halibut, tuna, artichokes, bananas and figs. It is especially high in buckwheat flower, wheat flower, oat bran, barley, cashews and almonds. If you can’t seem to get enough in your diet, then taking a good quality supplement of about 400 mg per day will help get you to optimal levels and get the bowels moving.

Move Your Body Every Day

Exercise is one of the cheapest and easiest things one can do to maintain proper digestive and bowel health. Daily movement by walking, jogging, engaging in yoga or swimming moves the blood, increases energy, stimulates digestion and boosts metabolism. All of these impact in a positive way the speed at which the food you consume is broken down, absorbed and moved through your digestive tract. The faster the better, so keep moving to keep things moving.

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Reduce The Stress In Your Life

Stress is one of the most damaging forces in our pursuit of health. Stress comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. We harbor negative emotions, hold grudges, feel bad for others, put up with negative bosses, shoulder more responsibility than we should and constantly worry. All of these things, each related to or a form of stress, change our physical chemistry and can cause digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, metabolic syndrome, diarrhea, stomach ulcers and more.

Finding a way to decrease the stressors in your life is essential to all aspects of optimal health, including digestive health. If stress is an issue for you, have an open mind toward looking into energy work like qigong, reiki, acupuncture, herbal therapies, relaxation response, meditation training, biofeedback and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) reframing techniques. Other methods include EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and practicing gratitude. Getting in touch with our thoughts and emotions can help us let go in more ways than one.

Other Considerations

If you already eat well, get plenty of exercise and rest, and have little stress in your life yet are still chronically constipated or have digestive issues, please speak with your healthcare provider. In a few cases, constipation and bowel issues can be the result of potentially serious health issues like Crohn’s disease, ovarian cysts and nerve dysfunction. Although these are not the common causes of digestive disorders, they should not be overlooked if you feel you have tried the natural routes. If these are not the case, achieving proper digestion and bowel elimination is as easy as making some simple changes. And the results will be boundless energy, less pain and renewed vigor for life!

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