Why You Might Be Constipated & What To Do About It
Why You Might Be Constipated & What To Do About It

Why You Might Be Constipated & What To Do About It

If you regularly feel bloated, uncomfortable and weighed down, your gut may not be running as efficiently as it could be. Constipation is a surprisingly common condition – and everything from hormones to diet and stress play a part. With this in mind, we went to two gut health experts for their advice…
By Tor West

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You Should Be Going To The Loo Most Days

“Constipation is when your bowel movements are hard and lumpy, painful or difficult to pass, and you’re unable to go more than three days a week. The delay in passing stool and increase in stool bulk leads to the accumulation and trapping of gas and symptoms of bloating, as stool moves through slowly and builds up in your large intestine. Common symptoms include bloating, nausea, appetite loss and cramps, and constipation is considered chronic when it lasts longer than four weeks. Most people fall within the range of going to the loo three times a day to three times a week – this is considered normal. If you go to the loo less than this, you may be constipated.” – Rohini Bajekal, nutritionist & co-author of Living PCOS Free

Women Are More Prone To Constipation

“Constipation is around twice as common in women as in men. Studies have shown woman have a slight slower colon (large intestine) transit time (i.e. the time it takes for food to travel through the colon), resulting in a higher chance of developing constipation. Hormones also play a part, and constipation can get worse in the days leading up to menstruation. Constipation can also be a symptom of endometriosis, which affects up to 10% of women. Other contributing factors include higher levels of stress, concerns around cleanliness and hygiene, and problems with straining due to pelvic floor dysfunction. Eight out of ten sufferers with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are also women, and constipation is a common symptom of IBS. Constipation also affects 40% of pregnant women.” – Rohini 

Being Regular Keeps Hormones Balanced

“From a naturopathic perspective, going to the loo less than once a day is considered sub-optimal. When we pass a stool, we are also excreting toxins and debris from the gastrointestinal tract; if you’re not doing this daily, it can lead to longer-term hormonal imbalances. Hormones that the body has utilised are excreted via our stool, so if you’re not going to the loo frequently, these hormones can be reabsorbed in the body and affect hormone balance. This can exacerbate any issues of oestrogen and progesterone imbalance, which we know already plays a part in constipation.” – Elizabeth Cooper, technical advisor at Bio-Kult

Eating On-The-Go Isn’t Helping

“How we eat is paramount to a healthy digestive system and regular elimination of stools. One of the drawbacks of our modern lives is that we are constantly in a rush and distracted by phones, emails and a never-ending to-do list. This means we often eat in a rush without paying attention to our food. Digestion starts in the brain, setting off the release of digestive juices, which we need to properly break down and digest our food. If this process is interrupted, it can make digestion sluggish, contributing to constipation. Setting aside time for meals, and only eating sitting down and away from phones, TVs and computers, is a good start. It’s also important to chew food well, focusing on the textures and flavours. Putting your cutlery down between mouthfuls can sometimes help stop you ‘wolfing’ your food.” – Elizabeth

Chances Are You’re Not Eating Enough Fibre

“Fibre is the most important nutrient to support gut health and normal bowel function. Fibre is only found in plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. In the UK, the average fibre intake for adults is just 60% of what it should be – you should aim for 30g daily. Remember – meat, dairy and eggs have zero fibre. The energy intake from ultra-processed foods (think cakes, crisps, biscuits and ready meals) in the UK is 57% of our total energy intake from food, suggesting we need to shift more of our diet towards whole plant foods. Eat more oats, which contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, which helps to keep you regular; apples, which contain a soluble fibre called pectin that softens stools and speeds up transit times; raspberries, which have 8g of fibre per cup; chia seeds and flaxseeds; almonds; and greens like kale and spinach, which increase bulk and weight of stools, making them easier to pass. If you eat one fruit, make it kiwis – they are rich in fibre, water and a specific enzyme that improves gastric emptying.” – Rohini

If you eat one fruit, make it KIWIS – they are rich in fibre, water and a specific enzyme that IMPROVES CONSTIPATION.

You Can Find Overnight Relief

“Flaxseeds are a rich source of soluble fibre, which dissolves in water, helping to soften stools and making them easier to pass. Studies have shown that supplementing with flaxseed helps relieve constipation, increasing bowel frequency. Soaking one tablespoon of flaxseed in water overnight and consuming it before or with breakfast the next day can be particularly effective. Dried prunes or prune juice can also help. Prunes are a natural source of sorbitol, a type of carbohydrate that helps to draw water into the intestines, easing the transit of stools. Senna and aloe vera are also natural laxatives, which can help to improve bowel movements. Like conventional laxatives, natural laxatives shouldn’t be relied upon; instead, concentrating on rectifying the underlying cause of the constipation should be a priority.” – Elizabeth 

It's Important To Stay Active & Hydrated

“Without proper moisture like water or other liquids in your diet, things can back up, especially if you have increased the amount of fibre you’re eating. Aim to drink at least two litres of water daily, and more if you are exercising. An easy way to check your hydration status is to look at the colour of your urine – it should be a light straw colour. Staying active is also essential, as constipation is exacerbated by a lack of physical activity. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day will stimulate peristalsis – even just going for a brisk walk on your lunch break or getting off the bus a couple of stops early will get things moving.” – Elizabeth 

Elevating Your Feet Can Help

“Using something that elevates your feet slightly while you’re sitting on the loo creates proper anatomical alignment, allowing you to go to the loo more easily. A crouching position helps to straighten the colon, giving stools an easier passage. Many of us dread the hole in the floor toilets sometimes found abroad, but western seated toilets cause the colon to kink and bend, meaning you have to strain harder, increasing the risk of haemorrhoids and piles. Raising your feet on a small stool and leaning forward slightly can make a big difference.” – Elizabeth

TRY RESTING YOUR FEET on a low stool when GOING TO THE LOO to create proper anatomical alignment.

Magnesium Is A Natural Laxative

“Magnesium is considered an osmotic, meaning it helps pull water into the colon, which in turn softens stool and helps you go to the loo. Magnesium citrate appears to be the most effective form of magnesium for combating constipation rather than magnesium glycinate, which is often used as a sleep aid.” – Rohini 

A Probiotic Can Kickstart Gut Motility

“Studies show people prone to constipation are more likely to have imbalanced gut bacteria. It could therefore be worth taking a live bacteria supplement, which have been shown to positively affect the number and composition of gut microbes, as well as the compounds they release. They can also improve gut motility and get things moving. Take a multi-strain, live bacteria supplement for at least a month or two and monitor any improvements.” – Elizabeth 

If Symptoms Aren’t Improving, Chat To Your GP

“If you have taken steps to deal with constipation and nothing is working, or if you haven’t been to the loo in five days, speak to your GP. Low thyroid function, certain medications, hidden food intolerances, low stomach acid and digestive enzyme production, or an overgrowth of methane-producing bacteria in the large intestine can all contribute to constipation, so further investigations may be necessary. If you haven’t passed a stool in five days, there’s a risk of faecal impaction, which becomes a large, hard stool that you’re unable to clear. Signs of impaction include pain in the lower abdomen and/or back, bloating, feeling like you need to open your bowels but can’t, and lethargy or fatigue. Due to potential risks, always speak to your GP if you experience any of these symptoms.” – Elizabeth 

For more information, visit Bio-Kult.co.uk & RohiniBajekal.com


DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme

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