Constipation – A Western Complaint!

After reading Pelvic Health Physio Katy Winter’s excellent article about chronic constipation the other week, I thought I might contribute some ideas for how to alleviate this troubling and common complaint.

It may surprise you to hear, but in an ideal world, we should “have a poo” after every meal. That’s because the consumption of food triggers what’s known as Peristalsis, which is a wave-like movement in the gastrointestinal tract. These mild contractions propel food through the small and large intestine, and trigger the urge to defaecate. In Western society, however, because of our diet and lifestyle, these contractions become compromised, and most people are lucky if they have one “number two” a day.

Have you heard of the SAD diet (Standard American/Western Diet)? Well, it’s not only SAD because it’s generally bad for your health, but it also makes you feel SAD after you eat it, when you feel terrible because you can’t go to the toilet properly.

What’s the big deal you might think? I only go every few days and I’m absolutely fine. Well, having at least one daily bowel movement is the best way of eliminating waste and toxins from the body. If we don’t eliminate, toxins, spent hormones, and pathogens end up sitting in our bodies and being re-circulated in the bloodstream, making it more likely that we will suffer with ill-health in the long term, including common skin conditions like acne (I bet you weren’t aware that your skin is another organ of elimination?) If waste doesn’t come out one way, it will come out another!

Another factor to consider with chronic constipation is that our bowels become impacted with a gradual build up of matter that may eventually lead to nutrients not being absorbed properly. This also adds weight to the colon, placing a greater amount of stress on the uterus and bladder.

So, you can now see why regular bowel movements are crucial to a person’s health, let’s move on to what contributes to slow moving bowels, and what can help to get them moving again!

What Dietary Aspects Contribute to Constipation?

  • A low fibre diet – your body needs plenty of fibre to soften stools and stimulate your digestive tract to pass waste through the digestive tract easily. The UK recommendation for fibre is 30g per day. Most people sadly eat far less than this. The daily recommendation for fruits and veg is 5 per day, but I’d be looking at that as a minimum.

  • Dehydration – 1.5-2 litres of water is required for the correct function of every process in the body. Without enough water any fibre you eat in your diet can’t do its job properly as it soaks up water to soften the stools. Make sure you drink water (or herbal teas) regularly through the day.

  • Too much animal protein and not enough whole-foods: animal products, especially red meats, have a long transit time through the bowel and so should only be eaten in moderation. If peristalsis is slow, animal proteins can end up putrefying in the gut, the gases of which may lead to more slowing down of the bowel.

  • Refined sugars – similar to animal proteins in their negative impact, refined carbs ferment in the gut causing unhealthy bacteria to proliferate. They then release gases that impair bowel function. Processed flours also bung up the bowel as they turn into a glue-like paste in transit.

  • Food intolerance – wheat and dairy are the most common food drivers, but if you suspect this is an issue, it’s important to get professional advice before giving up common food groups.

And Just to Reiterate What Katy’s Already Said:

  • Sedentary lifestyle – regular exercise (including walking) can help. A short walk after every meal aids digestion and helps promote healthy bowel movements.

  • Stress – stress is a huge factor in functional bowel disorders due to the gut-brain connection. Any anxiety or stress you feel can have a major impact and lead to slowing down of your bowel function. Practising relaxation-promoting exercises such as yoga, meditation and mindful breathing (especially taking three deep breaths before meals) can help promote healthier digestive function.

  • Don’t avoid the urge to go – if you avoid the urge, the drier and harder your poo is likely to become, which will make it far more difficult to pass.

  • Sit in a position that complements healthy and easier elimination by placing a stool beneath your feet when you’re on the toilet.

  • Try not to strain – you don’t want to create another problem such as haemorrhoids or a hernia.

Bowel-Boosting Breakfast Smoothie Recipe

This smoothie recipe is a great boost for softening up stools and increasing intestinal peristalsis. The enzymes in kiwi help improve regularity and reduce bloating and flatulence; as does the soluble and insoluble fibre in flax. Finally, spinach contains a nice dose of magnesium that helps to ease anxiety, and also draws water into the intestines, making stools easier to pass. I promise, you won’t taste the spinach in this recipe. It’s a fruity delight. The kids will love it too, and though it’s best at breakfast to set you off to a good start, it can also be a snack at any time of the day.

Prep time: 5 Mins

Blend time: Up to a minute

Ingredients

  • 2 kiwis peeled and halved

  • 1/2 banana, , peeled

  • 1 cup baby spinach

  • 1/2 cup plant-based milk or plain coconut yoghurt

  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed, (optional)

  • 1/2 cup apple or orange juice (not concentrate)

  • 10-12 ice cubes

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients into a blender.

  2. Blend until smooth

So I hope this advice helps take some of the ‘strain’ out of your day. If you’ve tried everything here and it doesn’t help, please be aware that other gut issues can contribute to constipation, so if you require further investigation to get to the root cause of your health problems, you can find more information about my services on my website:

www.truetoyourhealthuk.org

You can also book a 30 minute health review to discuss your needs and my services in greater depth. Call 01706 819 464 for further details.

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