Wednesday 9 July 2014

21 ways to relieve constipation

First, an update - I am creating a new website for my business. Woo hoo! As part of this, I will be merging my blog onto my website I am hoping to have this up by next week, which means there may be a couple of days when my website is down. If you would like to contact me for a consultation, please send me an email - 

Now back to the topic at hand….

Poop. Its something that no-one really likes to talk about. I talk about it daily – it’s my bread and butter. Why? Because it is such as great indicator of what is going on inside your body. Seriously – you could go and spend loads of money on blood tests, saliva tests or scans (which all have their use and can be valuable), or you could simply check out what comes out your derriere every once in a while. It is certainly easier, isn’t it?

I would say ~90% of my clients are constipated. And I mean really constipated – no pooping for up to 5 days, sometimes longer! Not only is this bad for your health and a sign that your health is not ideal, mentally and emotionally this can be quite distressing. As the bowels fill up, there is likely to be more bloating, gas, cramping and general discomfort. Not nice at all.

Admit it. You've been there. 

Let’s talk bowels….

And by bowels, I mean your large intestine (AKA colon). Most nutrients (vitamins, minerals, sugars, amino acids and fatty acids) and absorbed in the small intestine. As food moves through the large intestine, water is absorbed from the digested food matter to form waste products/your stool (fancy term for poop). Peristalsis (nerd speak for muscle contractions) pushes the poop toward the rectum at which stage it is solid, because most of the water has been absorbed.

Constipation can be a result of your large intestine absorbing too much water, or if the muscle contractions are slow/sluggish, which can cause the stool to move through too slowly, resulting in dry, hard-to-pass stools.

Not only is constipation uncomfortable and distressing, but it can cause health problems as products which should be eliminated on a regular basis (such as hormones and by-products of medications) may be reabsorbed by the colon, leading to hormonal imbalance and general toxicity.

So what can be done? Well, quite a few things are worth a whirl. Give these a try and let me know how you go –

Image by Happy Zombie via Pinterest
  1. Drink more water! I know this sounds very obvious and not sexy at all, but if you are dehydrated, chances are your poop will be, too. The general guidelines are ~33mL/kg of body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 60kg, your water intake should be ~2L/day, maybe more if you’re sweating your little butt off
  2. Exercise – go for a walk early in the morning. Physical activity helps to encourage peristalsis of the bowels and get things moving
  3. Deep belly breathing – start your day (still lying in bed) by taking 10 breaths deep into your belly. With your hands on your tummy, feel your abdomen rise and fall with your breath. This will help to activate your parasympathetic nervous system (AKA your “rest and digest” system)
  4. Consume fermented foods – foods such as sauerkraut, beet kvass, kefir, full fat yoghurt and kombucha are fantastic sources of probiotics and can improve gut function, especially constipation, by repopulating your gut with beneficial bacteria – start with small amounts and build up. If you’re not keen on fermented foods, consider a high quality probiotic supplement
  5. Make sure you eat enough carbohydrates. This one is two-fold. 1) Your thyroid gland requires carbohydrates/insulin to convert the inactive to the active form of thyroid hormone. Without sufficient thyroid hormone, metabolism slows. Constipation is a common symptom of a sluggish thyroid. Get it checked out, if you are concerned; 2) Carbohydrates are food for your gut bacteria (prebiotic) – insufficient carbs and you are essentially starving these little babies in your belly that make up quite a large proportion of your stool weight
  6. Get your fibre right. Again – pretty obvious, but there are a few different things you should consider here. 1) Soluble fibre (found in starchy veggies, such as sweet potato, potato, parsnip etc, as well as beans/legumes and some fruit) is helpful for providing bulk to the stool and serves as a pre-biotic; 2) Insoluble fibre (found in non-starchy veggies, such as broccoli, leafy greens, cauliflower etc) can help push things through, however too much insoluble fibre can have the reverse effect. So, if you are constipated and having lots of green smoothies, maybe time to back off a little; 3) Resistant starch – this is all the rage right now. Resistance starch is found in potatoes and white rice that have been cooked and cooled for ~24hrs (or potato starch) and green, unripe bananas. This stuff is great fuel for nourishing the beneficial bacteria in your gut (another prebiotic)
  7. Drink chamomile tea – this floral delight can help to relax the smooth muscles of your large intestines, making passing a bowel motion easier
  8. Don’t hold on! When you need to go, go! If you hold on, your body gets the message to not go (stating the obvious, I know), but this can have consequences when you the convenient time for you rolls around
  9. Try not to rely on colonics. If you’re really blocked up, 1-2 rounds of colon hydrotherapy may be beneficial to unblock everything and get the ball rolling. However, too many and you may become reliant on them to poop. Plus they completely wipe out your beneficial bacteria. Personally, I’m not a fan, but each to their own
  10. Squat. And I don’t mean with weights (although you should do that anyway). The ideal position to be in when we are evacuating our bowels (that sounded professional, didn’t it?) is the squat position. If you’re all blocked up, you could consider getting a squatty potty. We aren’t really designed to sit on toilets to poop – it’s just another one of those conveniences that have turned out to be not-so-convenient
  11. Avoid sugar and processed junk which feeds the pathogenic (bad) bacteria in your gut, leading to “gut dysbiosis” – a common symptom of which is constipation
  12. Consume adequate fats – so many of my clients see resolution in their constipation symptoms once they ditch their low fat diet and start including nourishing fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and butter. Speaking of butter, it can help with the production of butyric acid, which is beneficial for gut health
  13. Don’t overdo the nuts – these can clog you up if you have too many (including baked goods containing nut flours)
  14. Have 1tsp of apple cider vinegar 30mins before meals to help stimulate digestion. Bitters, such as dandelion, mustard greens and endive can do the same. I like to have a dandelion tea an hour or so before meals to help get the juices (digestive) flowing
  15. Chew. Your. Food. Seriously. Don’t eat on the run. Sit down and really chew your food – digestion starts in the mouth – don’t skip this vital step
  16. Avoid drinking liquids with meals (about 30mins either side of meals, too) – this can dilute stomach acid, which inhibits optimal digestion and can contribute to constipation
  17. Yoga twists can help massage your internal organs and encourage peristalsis
  18. Minimise stress – yoga, meditation, deep belly breathing, not too hard-core on the training side of things
  19. Vitamin C and magnesium can be helpful for poop problems. I find magnesium especially helpful as it helps to relax the smooth muscle (and helps with sleep!)
  20. Senna tea. I remember the first time I had senna tea (“Ballerina Tea”). Holy shit! (no pun intended). This stuff works, but it’s not exactly the nicest experience. It is a natural laxative – use only if really necessary and only for short-term. And be sure you have access to a bathroom for ~24hrs following consumption
  21. Remove foods that you think you may be intolerant too – this might be dairy, gluten, grains, legumes, eggs, nuts, FODMAPS….something to think about but don’t do it all at once, or alone for that matter – get help from a health professional to make sure you are still consuming adequate nutrition
Image by Sonja McDaniel via Pinterest

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