Regular and consistent, daily bowel movements are generally representative of good digestive health. The regularity and consistency of our bowel movements will vary based on diet, hydration, lifestyle, and stress; however, there are certain steps that we can take to improve our elimination regularity. Having a nutritious dietary regimen starts by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and staying well hydrated. Creating lifestyle habits that include proper exercise and stress reduction will also contribute to healthy bowels. In addition to these factors, consider adding the following habits into your routine:
Abdominal massage: Sometimes our bowels respond well to a little self-love. For best results, abdominal massage should be performed before getting out of bed in the morning, but can be practiced at any point throughout the day, or even just before bed.
For an added benefit, before performing the abdominal massage, lay on your back and pull both your knees to your chest and hold for one minute. Then pull your right knee to your chest with your left left out straight for one minute, then switch. These positions put your bowels in a comfortable position, and can help stimulate movement.
Tips to remember while performing abdominal massage:
- You may feel pressure as you press into your abdomen, but there should never be pain.
- You may notice internal rumbling sensations during or after the massage. This is completely normal, and is a sign that your intestines are responding with peristalsis.
- Your colon ascends on the right side of your abdomen, runs horizontally above your umbilicus, and then descends on the left. If you were looking at your own body, your colon would be traversing your abdomen in a clockwise fashion. One key tip to remembering the flow of your bowels is the following: “food Leaves through the Left side of your body.”
To Perform an Abdominal Massage:
- Lay on your back with your knees bent.
- Starting on the lower right portion, slowly press into your abdomen using a circular, kneading motion, working vertically up the ascending colon, toward your ribs.
- Continue along your transverse colon, horizontally, just below your ribcage.
- Work down your descending colon along the left side of your abdomen.
- The entire circuit should take 15 to 30 seconds, depending on your personal preference.
- I recommend completing the circuit five times, but feel free to repeat it more, so long as you remain comfortable throughout the entire process.
Set Your Descending Colon up for Success!
When seated on a typical American toilet, the puborectalis muscle puts pressure on the descending colon, which can make stool passage difficult. When in a squatting position, however, the colon is positioned for a smooth transport of its contents. With this knowledge, you can add these habits to your routine:
- If it doesn’t put pressure on your knees or back, try squatting down for five or ten minutes in the morning. If you want to be doubly productive, you can hold this position while peeling an orange or checking your e-mail on your phone. You may notice internal rumblings or the passage of gas while in this position. Rest assured that this is completely normal.
- To up the ante, use your left hand to massage your descending colon while squatting.
- If squatting isn’t a possibility for you, no problem! While sitting on the toilet, take the bag out of your trashcan, flip the can over, and place your left foot on top. You can then incorporate the abdominal massage while in this position as well.
For more information on your digestive track, check out this post.