Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints. Bowel habits vary from person to person. Some people go more than once a day, others every other day, and either scenario is perfectly normal if that’s normal for you. Constipation really means going less often than is normal for you. But if we were to quantify a healthy number for our number twos, then most people in the know would agree that constipation can be defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week.
Symptoms of constipation
Other signs you may be constipated include straining when trying to poo, feeling as though you haven’t emptied your bowels fully, and passing hard or dry stools or stools that are larger or smaller than normal.
Causes of constipation
The most common cause of constipation is poor diet. Sufficient fibre and sufficient water to push that fibre along, should be enough to keep you regular. That said, your lifestyle does also have its part to play. Lack of physical movement and exercise, stress and changes to your routine, can slow muscle contractions of the colon or delay your urge to go. Pregnancy can also cause constipation as can some medicines and prescription drugs.
And sometimes it’s just our age. A lot of bodily functions slow down with age including the digestive system.
Foods to help with constipation
Happily, there’s plenty you can do to help relieve constipation and a high-fibre diet is definitely at the top of the list.
One thing to note about fibre: there are two main types. Soluble fibre, found in oat bran, legumes, nuts and seeds, absorbs water and helps to bulk your stool, whereas insoluble fibre, found in fresh vegetables and wholegrains, helps to keep everything moving.
When increasing your fibre intake, it’s important to also drink enough fluids as too much fibre and insufficient water will just make the problem worse. Try to drink between 1.5 to 2 litres water a day, but not with your meal as this can dilute your stomach acid.
Probiotic foods, like yoghurt and kefir, which contain live active cultures, may also help with constipation.
Natural relief from constipation
In addition to high-fibre foods there are a number of natural fibre supplements that can help to get things moving again.
Lepicol Powder is a multi-fibre product containing inulin, gentle psyllium husk and five strains of live bacteria to help maintain normal bowel transit. Take one to two heaped teaspoons, as directed, 30 minutes before a meal.
Another favourite product for constipation is Pukka’s Triphala Plus. Each capsule provides Triphala, a blend of Amalaki, Bibhitaki and Haritaki fruits from India, as well as psyllium husk and linseed. This particular blend has long been used in traditional medicine to regulate digestion and cleanse the digestive system. Take two capsules three times a day with warm water approximately 20 minutes before food.
Get moving to keep things moving
Exercise! If you don’t get enough exercise your whole body tends to slow down including the muscles in the colon responsible for the contractions that propel waste through the digestive tract. Aim for 30 minutes a day for five days a week to help speed things up.
If constipation persists, consult your GP or healthcare provider.