What is Constipation
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become hard or dry, difficult or painful to pass, or occur less frequently (less than two bowel movements per week). Where constipation is present, and a prolonged amount of time passes between bowel movements, stools may become more difficult to pass. This may cause pain, inflammation, toxic build-up of wastes and disruption to the quality of the intestinal environment. In severe cases where constipation has not been relieved, stools can become impacted, or impossible to pass naturally, and will require urgent medical intervention.
Aim for 2L good quality water every day, adding an additional 1L of water with every hour of exercise. Avoid caffeinated or sweetened beverages
Eat your Fibre
Eat a range of colourful fruits and vegetables with their skin on where possible, along with wholegrain cereals, nuts, seeds and legumes daily. These foods contain soluble and insoluble fibre for gut health. Remember if you are increasing fibre in the diet to also increase water intake.
Chew Your Food
Digestion starts before we start eating, when we think about, smell, taste or see food, but it really gets cracking when we put food our mouth. Saliva contains enzymes that start the breakdown of food, and our tongue and teeth help to grind and mix the food ready for the next step.
Herbal teas are a great way to help manage constipation. Teas can provide added hydration, soothing warmth, a moment away from your stressful day, and different herbs can have medicinal properties that can help calm cramping, aid digestion and calm muscles. Try peppermint, dandelion, lemon balm, chamomile, fennel and marshmallow.
Bitter foods such as grapefruit, bitter green leafy vegetables such as kale, rocket, endive and dandelion leaves can help stimulate bile flow, helping to ease constipation and promote digestion. Stewed fruits such as pears, plums, apples and prunes and kiwi fruit are well tolerated and easier to digest. Enjoy with a little yoghurt, for added probiotic goodness.
Try gently increasing prebiotic foods (globe artichokes, garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, legumes, peas, fruit, okra) and probiotic foods (sauerkraut, kefir, yoghurt, kombucha).
Consider speaking to your natural health practitioner about possible food intolerances such as dairy, gluten or fructose that may be contributing to your symptoms. It is important to seek guidance before omitting large food groups from the diet, to ensure you are replacing food items with other foods that can provide essential nutrients.
Move your Body
Regular exercise helps to strengthen muscles and promote movement through the bowel. Exercise also helps to nourish the balance of bacteria in the gut, promoting a happy digestive environment.
Stress can impact digestion in many ways that can lead to constipation, including
· Avoidance – physically putting off going to the toilet while busy, avoiding public rest rooms, avoiding discomfort.
· Your food choices and eating habits may change when your stressed – eating on the run, choosing processed foods, not chewing correctly, caffeinated drinks can all affect the digestive process leading to constipation.
Get your Hormones Sorted
Certain hormones can lead to constipation, such as progesterone, as it acts as a muscle relaxant, slowing digestion down. Hormonal imbalance can also have a knock-on effect, as when you are constipated, excess hormones can’t be eliminated, and can hang around the body continuing their effects, leading to symptoms such as PMS, acne and weight gain.
Check your Meds
Some types of medication and supplements such as codeine, and certain types of iron supplements can affect constipation in different ways. Speak to your naturopath about other iron supplement that works for you, and won’t cause constipation, or digestive support that can be safely taken alongside medication to support digestive function.
Thanks to Bree Jenner from the Health & Wellbeing Studio for her contribution to our blog today!
Bree Jenner – Naturopath
BHSc (Nat) ANTA