What is constipation?
If you are experiencing problems passing stools it usually indicates that you are suffering from constipation. Most researchers define constipation as fewer than 3 bowel movements per week. Ideally, it takes 12-24 hours for food to pass through from your mouth to your toilet. If you transit time is too slow, you may have increased likelihood of gut infections such as from yeast and bacteria, leading to poor nutrient absorption and greater chance of food intolerances.
Bloating, cramps, abdominal pain, the feeling of still needing to go, straining to eliminate, low energy, feeling cranky, lower backache, feeling heavy, haemorrhoids and lack of appetite.
The digestive system can be slowed down for example, by not eating enough fibre found in fruit and vegetables, being dehydrated, lack of exercise, chronic stress, food intolerances such as gluten, egg and dairy, ignoring the urge to go and from certain medications such as anti-depressants, antacids, blood pressure medication, iron supplements and antibiotics. Sluggish muscle contractions of the lower colon can also contribute to constipation.
What to do:
- Increase fibre intake from fresh vegetables. Soluble fibre increases water in stool reducing the risk of constipation. Fibre removes toxins and gives you a sense of satiety and fullness. Aim to get to 30g fibre a day- gradually.
- Increase water intake to 8 glasses a day. Keeping your body hydrated may help reduce the amount of water absorbed from your stools.
- Have 2 tbs of flax meal in a large glass of water/smoothie in the morning
- Essential fatty acids from flaxseeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, etc. also promote a healthy bowel function by assisting your hormones (Herbold, 2013).
- Probiotics may help people who suffer from constipation who don’t have enough beneficial bacteria in the gut and boosting beneficial bacteria with probiotics or fermented and cultured foods may support healthy elimination (Quigley, 2011; Herbold, 2013).
- Exercise may also help the muscles in the gut-lining move to push the waste along the gut (Fernandez-Banares, 2006).
- Vitamin D and magnesium has been shown effective against constipation, (Herbold, 2013).
Five fibre sources:
- Black beans, cooked- 1 cup-15g of fibre
- Lentils, cooked, 1 cup- 16g of fibre
- Frozen peas, 1 cup- 14 g of fibre
- Raspberries- 1 cup- 8 g fibre
- Collard greens- 1 cup-5g fibre
- Fernandez-Banares F (2006) Nutritional care of the patient with constipation. Best Practice & Research. 3: 575-587. [Online] Science Direct. Accessed: 30th April 2015
- Dr. Richard Herbold, (2013) What can cause constipation and what to do Capital District Vitality Center about it. http://capitaldistrictvitalitycenter.com/blog/2013/02/what-can-cause-constipation-and-what-to-do-about-it/).
- Nicolle L, Bailey C (2013) The Functional Nutrition Cookbook. London, Singing Dragon
- NHS (2015) Constipation Symptoms. Accessed: (http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Constipation/Pages/Symptoms.aspx), 1st May 2015.
- Quigley E (2011) The enteric microbiota in the pathogenesis and management of constipation. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, 1: 119-126.
- Sinclair M (2011) The use of abdominal massage to treat chronic constipation. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 15:436-45