Constipation. The 12-letter word that comes up more in reference to the seemingly constipated rather than the really constipated. However, it is one of the most common complaints doctors and physical therapists hear about.
If you Google “constipation” and “exercise,” you find a lot of talk about long walks, yoga, and cycling, among other aerobics. And then there’s a whole section on eating the right kinds of foods with high fiber content.
All of these methods are along the right track: increasing circulation and movement. However, while these exercises and healthy eating habits would help guide a regular person down a healthier path, it does not address constipation as directly as the inclusion of one singular, proven-effective exercise.
Growing up, my mom remembered that there was a time when her father, my grandfather, had chronic constipation issues. It was so severe he actually had surgery performed to relieve his pain…and to no avail! After his surgery stint, however, he had the fortune to hear about a simple exercise that would not only improve his discomfort, but actually cure his chronic constipation!
Because I have a sense of humor, I’m going to call it what it is: “Sphincter Breathing.” You thought you didn’t like to bring up the C-word; let’s see you try saying that in polite company!
Now, I am going to list the steps by introduction of the same advice my parents shared with one of their long-time clients. The client, whom we will name Mr. Edwards, approached my mom and, with his heavy British accent, tried to explain to her his problem, without using the 12-letter word (smile). He wanted to know what to include in his diet to help him relieve his severe constipation. When my mom finally understood, she advised him on eating less meat and more seeds, beans, and greens, and then asked Dad to explain the Sphincter Breathing exercise:
Sphincter Breathing is just like what it sounds. Your sphincter has two rings of muscles around it – an internal sphincter and an external sphincter. The external sphincter, or outer ring, is a voluntary muscle which you can tighten and release at will. In order to relieve constipation (and even cure chronic constipation), what it comes down to is the daily clenching and releasing of that external sphincter muscle.
1) Tighten and pull up the sphincter muscles – you should feel those muscles lifting or squeezing upwards.
Repeat. You do not need to tighten and hold for a set amount of time, but if it helps with rhythm, maybe you can count “One Mississippi (in), Two Mississippi (release).”
There is really no right or wrong way to do it. You can do it standing up or sitting down. Dad explained to him that a majority of people sit in an office chair all day – which may also lead to constipation – and what a perfect opportunity to exercise Sphincter Breathing. Plus, if you’re doing it right, no one will notice! (smile)
Finally, you can do this exercise five minutes a day, but at first, you may want to do it as frequently as it comes to mind. It may also be helpful to schedule a set time in the beginning – before it becomes a regular habit like brushing your teeth.
Back to Mr. Edwards, who returned – cured – less than a month later to thank my parents profusely for their introduction to Sphincter Breathing. After a week, he had immediately felt relief and comfort. He mentioned that his friend also had had surgery to relieve constipation, to no avail, and that a specialist in New York had recommended that he undergo surgery for severe constipation as well. He was so relieved that he found this other, healthy, natural way to cure him of…the 12-letter word.