Can Rubbing Your Fists Together Relieve Constipation?

We asked gastroenterologists about constipation cures.

In 2021, a TikTok user made a catchy video that explains a supposed quick fix for constipation. The user, Anita Tadavarthy, is an acupuncturist, per her website, and has close to one million followers.

"Did you poop today?" asked Tadavarthy in the video, before claiming that a fifth of people are constipated.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), 16% of U.S. adults of all ages suffer from constipation.) Constipation is medically defined as having three or fewer bowel movements a week, per the NIDDK.

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In her video, Tadavarthy shared with viewers a trick for getting things moving in the bowels. "All you've got to do is just do this a couple of minutes a couple times a day or while sitting on the toilet, and you'll have a bowel movement." What's she talking about? In the video, Tadavarthy rubs her fists together, creating friction between her thumbs.

Can something so simple and so seemingly unconnected to the digestive system actually get you to poop? And what's the science behind it, if any? Health spoke with gastroenterologists to find out.

Will Rubbing Fists Cure Constipation?

Unfortunately, this trick falls into the "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is" category. "No, this is not recommended regularly. I have actually never heard of it before," Rabia De Latour, MD, a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone, told Health. "There is no proven link to rubbing your fists together that would stimulate a [bowel movement]," said Dr. De Latour.

Why Does the TikTok Video Claim It Will Work?

In her video, Tadavarthy said that rubbing your fists together "innervates" the large intestine, which unclogs your pipes, so to speak. To innervate means to supply something with nerves, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, and it's unclear how fist rubbing would do this.

But there is some truth to the fact that moving around can help alleviate constipation, said Dr. De Latour. However, these moves would have to connect back to the digestive system. "There are certain abdominal massage maneuvers and techniques and yoga poses that are thought to help," said Dr. De Latour.

Physical therapy can also teach your body how to pass bowel movements more easily, Jessica Philpott, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Health, explaining that a physical therapist can show patients certain exercises to improve coordination of the lower back, pelvic floor, and pelvis.

What Are Some Proven Ways To Relieve Constipation?

While physical therapy might be beneficial for those who suffer from chronic constipation, having trouble making a bowel movement every now and then doesn't necessitate that kind of treatment.

According to NIDDK, you can most often treat your constipation at home by drinking plenty of water, eating more high-fiber foods, staying active, and trying an occasional over-the-counter laxative.

"Two things that often go without credit are adequate hydration and movement; simple movement of the body can stimulate gut motility," said Dr. De Latour. Adding fiber to your diet (or fiber supplements) might also help you stay regular, added Dr. Philpott.

Additionally, stool softeners in pill or liquid forms) are available over-the-counter and work by making stool easier to pass. According to the National Library of Medicine, stool softeners can be used on a short-term basis to relieve constipation by people who should avoid straining during bowel movements because of heart conditions, hemorrhoids, and other problems.

How Often Should You Be Pooping?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this one, said Dr. De Latour, as it's highly individual. "Normal for you may be three bowel movements a day or three a week," explained Dr. De Latour. Since there's no right or wrong number, it's important to monitor your bowel movements and seek help if you think something's off.

When To See a Healthcare Provider

"If a person is feeling frequent discomfort or has to schedule their life around bowel movements, then that is a sign that they should get medical attention," said Dr. Philpotts. She added that any change in bowel habits, bleeding, or weight loss should also prompt a visit to your healthcare provider.

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