It may be embarrassing to talk about, but constipation is an important issue to address. Try our tips to stay regular!
Do you struggle to go to the loo regularly or find it quite a chore? Well you’re not alone – constipation is an extremely common health complaint, affecting one in seven adults in the UK. Symptoms include trouble passing stools, passing small or hard stools and a swollen abdomen or abdominal pain. And while having a poo every day isn’t essential, it’s important that your stools are soft and easy to pass as straining can lead to painful haemorrhoids, which only makes matters worse.
Nutritionist Jeraldine Curran, who specialises in digestive health, explains that while there are a number of possible causes for constipation, including certain conditions and the side effects of medicine, it is usually triggered by our sloppy health habits such as not eating enough fibre, drinking enough water or exercising enough.
“The most effective way to prevent constipation is by eating a high-fibre diet, with plenty of fluids, and making sure that you move every day – this could be something as simple as walking or working out in the gym but to increase bowel motility (movement) we all need to move,” says Jeraldine.
She adds that getting our bowels to function properly is one of the best things we can do for our wellbeing. “A wellfunctioning gut is the root of good health. Just as a tree without strong roots will not thrive, we can’t be the best version of ourselves without a healthy digestive system.”
So what are you waiting for? Follow our healthy eating tips and you’ll be fit as a fiddle and regular as clockwork in no time!
“These provide bulk and soften the stool to allow correct formation and easy elimination,” says Jeraldine. Aim to eat eight portions of vegetables and no more than two or three portions fruits per day. Beetroot is a great choice as is cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, avocados, berries, onions, carrots, leeks, courgettes and pumpkin. Try to eat a meal with beans or lentils every other day and make sure any snacks you eat are high-fibre – for example swap biscuits for organic oatcakes and fresh or dried fruit.
These are essential for the prevention of constipation so aim to include lots of nuts, seeds, coconut oil, ghee, goose fat, butter and olive oil in your diet. This will help to prevent dry hard stools, allowing them to be passed easily. Research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate a high fat diet saw an increase in their bowel motility.
“Eating good quality protein is essential for the production of enzymes that breakdown the food we eat,” says Jeraldine. Include lots of wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, organic chicken, eggs and bone broth – a superfood when it comes to healthy digestion.
Fibre absorbs a lot of fluid (around 70 percent of the weight of bowel motions is water) so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water every day. For a double whammy make one of your daily meals a healthy veggie soup packed with fibre-rich vegetables and lots of hydrating liquid!
Don’t forget your grandmother’s favourite standby when it comes to keeping regular. These bowel-friendly fruits not only have a high fibre content but also contain the naturally occurring sugar sorbitol, which acts as a mild laxative.
Fermented foods are one of the most important choices for a healthy bowel, says Jeraldine. “The fermentation process allows beneficial bacteria to multiply and eating fermented vegetables transfers the healthy microbes to the digestive tract,” she explains. Load up on home-made sauerkraut (the shop bought versions are often pasteurised), Korean kimchi, fermented vegetables, kefir or live natural yoghurt. You can boost your good gut bacteria with a probiotic supplement – researchers at King’s College in London found that probiotics increased the number of weekly bowel movements and helped to soften stools, making them easier to pass. Probiotics that contained bifidobacterium appeared to be the most effective.
While constipation is a very common it can sometimes be a symptom of another underlying health issue so visit your GP if symptoms persist.
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