My 5 best tips for kicking constipation
Constipation sucks. At some point in your life, it's likely you've encountered the dreaded poo drought. For some people, it's once or twice a year after a long plane ride or camping trip. For others, it can be a regular part of life. You all know by now that as a naturopath I frequently quiz my clients on their bowel movements. I'm often surprised at the amount of times I encounter people who are only dropping soldiers every 2 to 3 days, if not longer.
So what's the big deal? Some people don't poo everyday and that's ok right? Well, no. Our body's are designed to eliminate toxins regularly. Part of that elimination and detoxification process involves our digestive system turning all those things our body no longer needs (like metabolic waste, bacteria and dead cells) into stools and evacuating them out of the body. The thing is, when that process really slows down, that whole detoxification/elimination process is really effected. Having stools hanging around for days on end in our gut increases the chances of reabsorption of some of those toxins back into the colon.
1. Eat your vegetables
Yeah, mum was right. Turns out the earth knows what it's doing. Not only has it loaded up fruit and vegetables with amazing phytonutrients and antioxidants our body needs, they are also great sources of fibre. Fibre helps bulk the stool and encourage movement of our stool through the gut. Many fibres in fruit and vegetables also help feed the beneficial bacteria in our gut - giving them food to grow. This is true of vegetables such as garlic, onion, Jerusalem artichoke and dandelion greens.
Plant Based high fibre Foods:
- Red cabbage
- Black beans
2. NEVER SUPPRESS an urge to use the bathroom
This is an important lifestyle habit to embrace for those who struggle with constipation. When your body starts signally to you it's go time, listen to your body and embrace evacuation time! Obviously there are instances where a toilet may not always be available, in which case I wouldn't recommend dropping your pants regardless. However getting into the habit of regularly following your body's lead when it's time to go can often avoid constipation in the future. The longer a stool is held in the body for, the more water it absorbs and the harder it becomes. Additionally, holding in a stool for a long period can cause the muscles within your rectum to stretch and send the signal to your brain to stop acknowledging the urge to go.
3. Focus on Bitter Foods, specially before meals
Anything that supports liver function supports digestive function. This is because the release of bile from the liver plays a very important role in helping us break down our food and optimise digestion. Eating bitter foods, particularly before meals, helps stimulate the vagus nerve. This in turn, helps activate digestion and peristalsis (the wave like movements, the bowel uses to move a stool through) and encourages the release of digestive juices such as stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes.
Great bitter foods to consume before meals:
- Roasted dandelion tea (bitter tea, link to buy here)
- Square of dark chocolate (we're talking 75-80% dark)
- Lemon in water
- 1/2 tspn of apple cider vinegar
4. Move your body
This sounds pretty basic. And it is, but it's important. Inactivity is a frequent cause of constipation. Sitting at an office desk for long periods of time does not encourage blood flow to the digestive tract. Intentionally moving your body daily encourages blood flow to our digestive organs and better intestinal contractions. Moving may be a lunchtime walk, stretching or strengthening core muscles though pilates or yoga - it all helps. Even some yoga positions may help to get those stools moving.
5. Avoid incompatible foods
There's also a chance you may be eating foods that aren't compatible with your body. There may be foods you are regularly consuming in your diet that your body is struggling to digest. If you notice links to food you eat and ensuing constipation, there is a possibility the two are linked. The Hair Bio-compatibility test can be useful in these situations. It looks at 500 different foods and measures your compatibility to these foods on a cellular level.
You can find more info and purchase the Hair Bio-compatability test HERE.
There's a whole host of things that can cause chronic constipation. A sluggish thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and even intestinal parasites can contribute to constipation. If you're concerned about yours, listen to your body and investigate it further.