Feeling constipated? This healthy habit can help you go to the bathroom ASAP.
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Poop is not always the preferred topic of discussion—or even something that all of us feel comfortable talking about. But even though there's so much sensitivity surrounding this subject, pooping is a completely normal bodily function. In fact, poop can also be an important indicator of your overall health. Not only does a healthy gut contribute to your body's wellbeing, but it can also contribute to your mental state. Constipation and other bowel disorders can have an effect on your mood, which is why it's important to keep an eye on your bowel activity and alert your healthcare provider if you notice anything abnormal.

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While some bowel disorders might be more severe than others and require extensive medical treatments, there are several activities that can help relieve bowel discomfort and occasional constipation. We talked with Dr. Amanda Morelli, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Ontario and Dr. Elena A. Ivanina, DO, MPH, Director of Neurogastroenterology and Motility at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, to tell us a little bit more about bowel regularity and the best activities to help you poop.

But First, What Does It Mean to Have a "Normal" Poop?

According to Dr. Morelli, a normal bowel movement depends on the individual. Normal frequency can be anywhere from three times a day to three times a week. A regular bowel movement should be easy to pass, and the stools should be soft and formed. There shouldn't be any straining or pain associated with passing a bowel movement. Morelli also states that constipation is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.

What Causes Constipation?

Dr. Ivanina suggests that the primary cause of constipation is often associated with slow transit (motility), irritable bowel syndrome or dyssynergic defecation. Dyssynergic defecation is a condition that affects the pelvic floor muscles. These are muscles located in the lower abdomen that allow bowel movements to pass normally. In some cases, the pelvic floor muscles are unable to function properly, which can lead to constipation.

Ivanina says that other causes of constipation can also include endocrine or metabolic disorders, neurologic disorders such as Parkinson's disease and stroke, muscular disorders, side effects from medications, diet or lifestyle.

While there are variety of ways that can help to alleviate constipation, here's the best activity to help you poop.

The #1 Activity to Help You Poop

Engaging in regular physical activity can make it easier to pass stools and promote regularity. Morelli suggests focusing on aerobic exercise such as walking, cycling, swimming or playing your favorite sport. In addition to aerobic exercise, Morelli recommends engaging in activities such as yoga, deep breathing and meditation to help activate our parasympathetic nervous system. "When our bodies are in a parasympathetic state, they have the ability to relax and focus on digesting food. This can help promote regular bowel movements."

If you're wanting instant constipation relief, Ivanina suggests using a step stool or squatty potty.

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She says, "The anorectal angle is a way to keep us continent—specifically the puborectalis muscle, which pulls the rectum forward creating a 90-degree angle that kinks your colon when you're sitting or standing. When you squat, the muscle fully relaxes, straightening the angle and letting things flow forward."

Other Things That Can Help You Poop

Diet plays a big role in helping to promote bowel regularity. Morelli suggests consuming foods that are high in fiber, such as oatmeal, chia seeds, avocado, apples, kiwi, almonds, beans, flaxseed, lentils, broccoli and prunes. Remember, whenever you eat more fiber, you need to drink more water—otherwise you're at risk of becoming even more constipated.

If you're wanting quick relief, Ivanina suggests drinking coffee and eating prunes, which contain significant amounts of sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol found in fruits and plants that produces a laxative effect on the body. It's best to try and get adequate fiber from foods, but if you're still not finding relief, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about possible supplementation. Ivanina mentions that taking a daily natural probiotic, such as psyllium husk, is a great way to support your microbiome health and your pooping practice.

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Increasing your water intake is also a great way to promote bowel activity. It can help to soften stools and stimulate bowel movements. The amount of water you need on a daily basis depends on several factors, but most health experts typically recommend eight, 8-ounce glasses (or half a gallon) each day.

The Bottom Line

It's no fun feeling backed up. Thankfully, moving your body more can help crank up the movement in your GI system. Try walking, running, biking or yoga and see if that helps. Eating fiber-rich foods and drinking plenty of water can also help. If you're still struggling to find relief, be sure to talk to your doctor or a dietitian about the best solution for you.