Don’t worry…it’s okay to talk about poo! As a dietitian, it is probably one of the key questions I ask my clients when discussing their health. More often than not, it seems like people are suffering. It’s kind of like the classic Goldilocks and the 3 Bears porridge scene…sometimes we go too much, sometimes we don’t go enough, and sometimes things are working just right!
First of all, what exactly is constipation? Constipation is a change in bowel habits that includes less frequent elimination, difficulty passing bowel movements, and/or straining during a bowel movement.
It’s important to know that constipation occurs due to many reasons including:
|· Dehydration||· Stress|
|· Lack of Fiber in the Diet||· Travel|
|· Lack of Exercise||· Holding in Bowel Movements|
|· Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)||· Pregnancy|
|· Depression||· Metabolic Disorders|
|· Underactive Thyroid||· Cystic Fibrosis|
|· Certain Medications (pain medications, antacids, anticonvulsants, analgesics, antihistamines, some anti-depressants)||· Other digestive disorders|
Fortunately, there are many natural ways to prevent or alleviate constipation when it occurs. Try out some of my tips & tricks to get things moving right along:
Consume 20-35 grams of fiber per day to prevent and alleviate constipation. Do this by eating MORE PLANT MATERIAL:
|Increase whole grain intake||Consume cooked whole grains, including amaranth, barley, brown rice, bulgur, oats, quinoa, rye, and whole wheat daily|
|Increase fruit intake||Consume at least 2 servings per day of fresh or frozen fruit, including apricots, blueberries, cherries, grapes, kiwi, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, raspberries, and strawberries daily. Also, avoid juices and canned fruit because they do not contain as much fiber.|
|Increase vegetable intake||Consume at least 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day including artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, green beans, kale, lettuce, okra, peas, red potatoes with skin, squash, spinach, swiss chard, zucchini daily. Veggies may be raw, cooked or pureed, but keep the skin on for extra bulk!|
|Increase nut and seed intake||Consume ¼ cup of almonds, brazil nuts, pecans, and walnuts daily. Consume 2-3 tablespoons of chia, fennel, flax, and psyllium daily and add these to smoothies or top your morning cereal. Nuts and seeds may be whole, chopped or ground.|
|Increase legume intake||Consume 1 cup of beans, peas and lentils daily by adding them to a salad, soup, or stew. Additionally, pureeing also makes for a tasty dip.|
Drink a minimum of 8-10 cups of fluid (or ½ body weight in ounces) daily through water, carbonated water, coconut water, teas, and other low calorie fluids.
For tips on drinking more fluid, check out this article.
Participate in regular exercise.
Because physical activity increases muscle activity in the intestines, it results in improved bowel movements. Participate in 150 minutes of aerobic activity weekly and strength training activity twice weekly. Consider either jogging, hiking, biking, dancing, swimming, or any other form of movement you enjoy! For more tips on exercise, check out this article.
Additional Lifestyle and Supplement Recommendations For Constipation Relief:
|· Adequate and Restful Sleep||Morning IBS symptoms are closely associated with prior night’s sleep quality||Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night and incorporate sleep hygiene techniques to ensure restful sleep.|
|· Stress Reduction through yoga, deep breathing, meditation, etc.||Promotes relaxation and reduces anxiety, which can affect bowel movements||Incorporate at least 30-60 minutes of stress reduction methods daily.|
|· Magnesium Citrate||Soothes and relaxes the muscles and attracts water into the bowel, which increases the flow in the colon and keeps things moving||Avoid magnesium supplements that contain calcium. Take magnesium starting at 300mg 30-min before bedtime and increasing if necessary by 100mg until you reach the point of loose stool. Also, add 1000mg vitamin C for a more potent intervention.|
|· Anise Tea||Helps to regulate digestion||Drink one cup daily|
|· Fennel Seed Powder||The roughage helps clear the bowels. Its stimulating effect helps maintain the proper peristaltic motion of the intestines while promoting proper excretion||Add 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds to 1 glass of warm water and leave the mix overnight. Drink the glass of water on an empty stomach in the morning.|
|· Aloe Juice or Aloe Latex||Powerful laxative||100-200 mg aloe or 50 mg aloe latex in the evening *consult a specialist prior to use as it may cause damage of the colon over time*.|
|· Probiotics||Probiotics may improve whole gut transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency||Talk with your practitioner about dosing and products. Aim for B. lactis as well as a blend of different live and active bacterial strains.|
|· Senna||Stimulates bowel movements by irritating the colon wall and causing the muscle to contract *for short term use only*||300 mg daily or bring one quart of water to a boil and turn off the heat. Add ½ teaspoon of each of the following: caraway seeds, fennel seeds, peppermint leaves, and senna leaves. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes and then filter the residue using a cheesecloth or other method. Drink one cup in the morning and one cup at night. Or, just buy the tea bags!|
|· Glucomannan||A type of fiber from the konjac plant that helps relieve constipation by bulking the stool and making it easier to pass||Take 3-4 grams per day mixed in a large glass of water.|
If you need help with constipation or any other annoying digestive issue, let’s talk! I’m here to help you optimize your digestion and feel your best with natural remedies. Get started now.