This TikTok User Claims Constipation Can Be Cured by Rubbing Your Fists Together—Here's What Experts Say
Earlier this month, 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 more than 727K followers.
"Did you poop today?" she says in the video, before claiming that a fifth of people are constipated. (According to the National Institutes of Health, 16% of US adults of all ages suffer from constipation.) Constipation is medically defined as having three or fewer bowel movements a week.
Tadavarthy goes on to let viewers in on a trick for getting things moving. "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, tells Health. "There is no proven link to rubbing your fists together that would stimulate a [bowel movement]," she explains.
Why does the TikTok video claim it will work?
In her video, Tadavarthy says 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, Dr. De Latour says. But 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," she explains.
Physical therapy can also teach your body how to pass bowel movements more easily, Jessica Philpott, MD, PhD, a gastroenterologist at Cleveland Clinic, tells 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 going number two every now and then doesn't necessitate that kind of treatment. Drinking more water, staying active, and trying an occasional over-the-counter medication might be more beneficial if you don't suffer from constipation regularly enough to warrant more intense treatment options.
"Two things that often go without credit are adequate hydration and movement; simple movement of the body can stimulate gut motility," Dr. De Latour says. Adding fiber to your diet (or fiber supplements) might also help you stay regular, Dr. Philpott adds.
Additionally, stool softeners in pill or liquid forms) are available over-the-counter and work by making stool easier to pass. A word of warning: You shouldn't use OTC stool softeners or laxatives for longer than one week unless your doctor recommends doing so.
How often should you be pooping?
There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this one, Dr. De Latour says, as it's highly individual. "Normal for you may be three bowel movements a day or three a week," she explains. 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 should you see a doctor for constipation?
"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," Dr. Philpott says. She adds that any change in bowel habits, bleeding, or weight loss should also prompt a visit to your doctor.
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