From the Magazine

Backed Up? These 3 Easy Tricks Will Get Your System Moving

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Autumn’s shifting schedules can trigger constipation for 40 percent of us. Luckily, you can ease that backed-up feeling fast with science-proven tricks.

Walk to the library.

Taking a brisk 20-minute walk does more than just get your blood pumping — it gets sluggish bowels moving too! “Walking causes the abdominal and pelvic muscles to contract and gently compress the bowel, which advances stool,” explains gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD, an assistant clinical professor at Touro College of Medicine in New York City. In fact, a Harvard University study of more than 6,000 women found those who did a physical activity daily were 44 percent less likely to experience constipation.

Slice up watermelon or kiwi.

A whopping 77 percent of women don’t drink enough water, according to research, making them prime targets for dehydration-triggered GI backups. “The colon’s main job is to regulate water,” explains Rabia de Latour, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. “If you’re dehydrated, the colon will absorb more water from stool, making stool harder and resulting in constipation.” The fix: Load up on water-rich, fiber-rich fruit. Because water in fruit is bound up with fiber, it sticks around in your GI tract longer and hydrates the body better. Indeed, researchers found that eating two kiwis a day for a month reversed bowel problems in folks with constipation.

Prop up your feet.

Placing feet on a low stool in front of the toilet gets things moving for 90 percent of people, according to a new Ohio State University study. The surprising reason: “For much of history, humans squatted to defecate,” explains Dr.de Latour. “Placing your feet on a small stool simulates that, helping the pelvic floor muscles relax.” Simply put your feet on a stool that elevates your knees a little higher than your hips. 

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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