From diet changes to proper positioning, I’ve tried it all.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of pooping. It’s one of the first things I think about when I wake up in the morning, and I won’t lie: I enjoy it.

Being regular makes me feel healthy, happy, and, you know, lighter.

Letting go of the waste from the previous day sets me up to feel fresh and ready to go. When I don’t feel the urge first thing when I wake up, I notice I’m a little bit grumpy and uncomfortable.

That said, I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with hacking my digestion to keep me on schedule.

From diet changes to proper positioning, I’ve tried it all. Below is what works for me to keep my bowels happy and my step a little lighter.

Hot water

One of the simplest ways to flush out the digestive tract is to drink hot water first thing on waking. Cold water doesn’t hurt, but it won’t get things going quite as fast.

When I step out of bed, I switch on the kettle and fill a large thermos before I do anything else.

In a perfect world, my shower is step number two after my number two. Of course, we all have those days where we’re backed up.

In that case, I just keep sipping until the magic happens.

Fresh ginger

If you’re drinking lots of hot water but not feeling any rumblings, try adding some fresh ginger. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and may help the stomach contract.

You can finely chop, grate, or use a food processor and keep a batch of ginger in the fridge just for this purpose. It doesn’t hurt to throw a bit into sauces or curries, either.

When you get up to make your hot water, try using a saucepan instead of the kettle. Let it simmer for a minimum of 10 minutes before you drink.

If you’re short on time, it can work to simply add some ginger to your hot water. In that case, it’s best to chew the ginger to get all the juices out.

Plus, chewing sends signals to your brain to get the digestive process flowing. In some cases, this can be enough to trigger elimination.

Squat it out

An often overlooked aspect of pooping is the fact that our body position matters. Why?

Our digestive system contains a series of sphincters, which are rings of muscle serving to guard or close various openings.

Take the pyloric sphincter, which acts as a gateway between the stomach and small intestine. It moves food into the small intestine and prevents it from reentering the stomach.

Further down is the anal sphincter, which expels waste from the body. Gravity helps this sphincter do its job. Squatting helps separate the sit bones, making space for the sphincter to fully expand and waste to move through.

Similarly, women are sometimes advised to squat during labor and delivery to open the pelvis and let baby pass through the birth canal more easily.

As someone who has given birth, I can attest to the fact that squatting brings a lot of relief when you have to push something large out of your body.

You can also try a Squatty Potty or one of the many variations. They’re essentially stools for your stool, if you will. They help you get into an optimum position to let it all go.

If I’m honest, I usually forego the stool altogether and get set up on the seat. Of course, when you’re not at home, this isn’t a great option.

Shop for toilet footstools online.

Try an evening fast

Another simple way to keep your digestion running smoothly is to avoid eating late into the evening.

Most foods take several hours to digest, with some taking up to 2 days. During sleep, the digestion process slows down. This means that undigested food spends more time in the digestive tract.

One 2018 study suggests that meal timing has a significant impact on:

  • weight regulation
  • metabolism
  • circadian rhythm

This means that when we eat may be as important as what we eat.

Eating close to bedtime also increases the risk of acid reflux or GERD.

I make an effort to eat dinner and close my kitchen by 7 p.m., which still gives me a few hours of active digestion before I hit the pillow.

If I get the urge for a snack later in the evening, I go for something liquid, high in fat, and preferably hot, like warm milk or bone broth.

Protein shakes, nuts, or leafy green smoothies are a good option too.

High fiber foods

Foods that are high in fiber help push food and waste products through the body. They leave the stomach without being digested and end up in your colon, where they feed good bacteria and help relieve constipation.

If your diet is low in fiber, it’s best to start adding high fiber foods slowly. Otherwise, it may have the opposite effect and cause constipation at the outset.

Depending on what’s causing your backup, fiber may not be the best solution for you. Do your research and talk to your doctor to find the best solution if constipation is persistent.

Stewed apples are a great high fiber breakfast option. I heat up ghee in a pan and add chopped apples with raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves to add some color and flavor. It’s sweet, high fiber, and very comforting, especially on a cold fall morning.

Another go-to is chia porridge.

I soak my chia seeds in water an hour before I want to eat, then add plant-based protein powder (also high in fiber and comes in chocolate flavor!). Then I add ground flax meal to give my porridge extra texture, fiber, and a nutty taste.

Lastly, I add goji berries, raisins, nuts, and seeds to spruce it up and add some crunch.

Other high fiber foods include:

  • carrots
  • broccoli
  • brussels sprouts
  • lentils
  • kidney beans
  • chickpeas
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • sweet potatoes

Shop for chia seeds and goji berries online.

Eat your liquids

You can continue to keep things moving by including liquids in your diet.

Thick smoothies made with leafy greens contain a lot of fiber and give your body necessary liquid to help flush things out.

I also swear by bone broth. I try to mix some in with my hot water each morning and continue drinking periodically throughout the day to keep my hydration levels high. Bone broth is chock full of vitamins and minerals as well as amino acids that may help reduce inflammation.

Eating soups and stews is another great way to increase hydration in your diet, and bone both can be added to increase flavor and nutrient content.

Soups and stews make a great base for some of my favorite foods like beef, dark leafy greens, root vegetables, and seaweeds. This way I can still enjoy meat without getting backed up.

Think pho and you’re on the right track.

You can also add flavorings like miso for added probiotics, which aid digestion.

Psyllium husks

When I’m feeling really stuck and ready to get out the big guns, I go for psyllium husks.

These bad boys are made up of the husks from the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. They are a prebiotic that creates bulk in the digestive system, soaking up extra water and ushering things in the right direction.

I typically use them as a one-off when I really need to get my bowels moving, but you can also incorporate them into your everyday diet for maintenance and regularity.

If you choose to take psyllium husks, follow the product label precisely. If you don’t consume them with the right ratio of water, it can cause cramping, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even nausea and vomiting.

Though it’s rare, you should also look out for allergic reactions.

Shop for psyllium husks online.

Apple cider vinegar

One very simple hack to fire up my tummy in the morning is to take a swig of apple cider vinegar. The moment I do, I feel a fiery sensation in my belly.

While there isn’t much research on the topic, apple cider vinegar is believed to increase stomach acid and pepsin, the enzyme that breaks down protein. It’s also proven to kill harmful bacteria.

It’s also believed to make the stomach more alkaline, balancing pH by neutralizing stomach acid. This means it may help with acid reflux.

Apple cider vinegar may aid weight loss, heart health, and skin health. It can also help regulate blood sugar.

My personal favorite is BRAGG Organic Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar.

Magnesium

Magnesium citrate is another option that can help you “go.” It relaxes the bowels and pulls water into the intestines, which softens and bulks up the stool. This makes it easier to pass waste.

I began taking magnesium to help me sleep, but I soon noticed it also helped me eliminate.

I find that Natural Vitality Calm provides the strongest laxative effect, while some brands of magnesium are specifically designed so that they don’t loosen the bowels.

Though it’s safe for most people, magnesium can have side effects.

Follow the dosage on the packaging and check with your doctor if you experience symptoms like:

  • sweating
  • weakness
  • severe cramping
  • severe diarrhea
Be supplement smart

Vitamin and mineral supplements are subject to fairly limited regulation by the FDA. To ensure the safety and accuracy of a product, look for supplements that have been certified by a third-party testing organization.

If you can’t wait, stimulate

When I’m really desperate, a little caffeine can go a long way. That’s because caffeine is a stimulant.

I usually only need a couple of sips of coffee to kick-start my system. According to one study, 29 percent of participants needed to use the bathroom 20 minutes after drinking a cup.

After my coffee, I make sure to hydrate to replace the lost liquid. I also opt for decaf when I can. It’s been shown to help stimulate the bowels, though not as well as caffeine.

At first I thought this was a psychological phenomenon, but it seems that it isn’t just the stimulant properties of coffee that gets things going.

Another option besides coffee is a little dark chocolate. This is because dark chocolate contains both caffeine and magnesium and may increase fiber intake.

Personally, dark chocolate activates my digestion a bit like coffee, though this may not be the case for everyone. All I know is I’ll take any excuse to add a little more chocolate to my diet.

While a little bit of irregularity is common, you should talk to your doctor if you experience significant constipation. Signs include:

  • less than three bowel movements per week
  • stools that are hard and dry
  • straining or pain when you go
  • feeling full, even after you go

Your doctor can share treatment and prevention options to get you back on track.

As you try out these solutions, go slowly and take it easy on yourself. A little bit goes a long way, especially when it comes to sensitive body functions. Don’t overdo it and don’t force it.

Your body may just need a little coaxing to help you get regular again.

With a little bit of body awareness, healthy habits, and experimentation, you too can poo like nobody’s business.


Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms, and in one-on-one settings in Los Angeles, Thailand, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful strategies for self-care through online courses. You can find her on Instagram.