tpI’ve written about research showing the effectiveness of self-massage on relieving menstrual cramps.

Well, research suggests this easy remedy can also help alleviate another common cycle-related complaint: constipation.

If you’re like most women, you probably have harder stools and/or are emptying your bowels less regularly during the second half of your cycle–your Week 3 and Week 4, which starts right after ovulation and lasts through the day before your next period.

That’s because progesterone is present on these days, and this hormone slows down movement in your digestive tract. Researchers think it’s a way for your body to absorb more nutrients from food in case you got pregnant during ovulation and now need more vitamins and minerals to sustain a pregnancy.

While there are natural ways to get things moving again down below–such as consuming more fiber along with more water and drinking a hot beverage–massaging your abdomen can also help get the results you want, according to several studies (including this one, this one and this one).

As the researchers explain it, abdominal self-massage stimulates movement in the intestines and pushes contents along faster, prompting more frequent emptying. It can also help reduce discomfort and pain associated with constipation.

So, how do you do it? Lying flat on your back, use your fingertips to apply gentle pressure with strokes and kneading from the middle of your tummy down toward your groin in the middle and on both sides of your pelvis. Experiment with the length of time and frequency you do self-massage to find out how much you need to see results.

What else you can try: Perineal self-acupressure. In a recent study out of the University of California, Los Angeles, 72% of folks with constipation who gently pressed and massage the perineum (the area between the anus and genitals) whenever they felt the urge to “go” found it helped them empty their bowels. This simple technique works by breaking up hard stools, relaxing muscles and stimulating nerves responsible for bowel movements.

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[Photo: emdot