Struggling to go to the toilet? Feeling a little blocked up? You’re not alone. Constipation is a really common issue and one that we often don’t talk about. But trust me, as a Nutritionist, I’ve heard it all and no, my go-to treatment option isn’t just a big bag of prunes. When it comes to constipation the goal is to help regulate bowel movements and ensure ease e.g. no straining or discomfort. As always, please keep in mind that these are general tips only and if your symptoms persist or if constipation is new for you, make sure to book in with your health practitioner.
Here are 5 of my top tips to help get things moving:
Fibre is our digestive systems best friend. Increasing fibre intake is one of the principle recommendations for people suffering with constipation. The goal is to aim for at least 25-30g of fibre per day (this goes for everyone not just those who are constipated!). The reason for this is because it stimulates the contraction of the muscles in the gastrointestinal system and also increases the bulk of the stool, helping us to pass it with ease. Focus on fibre rich foods such as beans, psyllium husk, chia and ground flaxseeds, whole grains (brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, seeded bread), nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables (aim to keep the skin on!).
Note: when increasing fibre, do this slowly and day-by-day. Too much too fast may make you a little uncomfortable. It’s also important to drink adequate water when increasing fibre! Which leads to my next point.
Did you know that fluid loss can alter water balance and result in constipation? Our colon functions to help transport our waste and when we are dehydrated, fluid absorption from our stool increases, leading to harder stools which can lead to (you guessed it!) constipation. Struggle to consume enough fluids during the day? Add some fruit slices to your water to jazz it up, keep a water bottle in your bag or on your desk and keep in mind that herbal teas count towards your water intake.
Magnesium is often used therapeutically for the management of constipation. It helps to relax the muscles and attracts water in the intestinal walls which allows for smoother and easier bowel movements. Chat to your health practitioner about supplementation and focus on including these foods: black beans, whole grains, avocado, banana, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate and dark green leafy veg (spinach).
Stress can have an impact on the function of our gastrointestinal system via the gut-brain axis and can cause symptoms such as inflammation, nausea, pain and irregular bowel movements. We understand that sometimes stress can be unavoidable. A little added stress is part of life. It’s just important that we incorporate strategies to help manage it and avoid it forming into something more serious. Take some time out and do something for you. This could be having a 20-minute bath, reading a few pages of a new book, putting your legs up the wall for 10-15 minutes or going out for a meal with loved ones. Another thing you might like to try is deep belly breathing. Implementing some breathing practices 2 times a day can help to calm the nervous system and support bowel movements.
Constipation is strongly linked with a lack of physical movement. Physical activity facilitates bowel motility and moderate exercises for just 30 minutes can improve regulation and consistency. Ensure you’re moving in a way that you enjoy. Exercise doesn’t have to be viewed as a chore. You could enjoy a walk outside, release some endorphins and do a HIIT class or practice some pilates or yoga.
Bonus tip: You can also try out our JSHealth Detox + Debloat formula. The Milk Thistle, Fennel and Turmeric contained in the vitamins have all been traditionally used in western herbal medicine to relieve digestive discomfort and to decrease, reduce, and relieve abdominal bloating and distention.
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