Constipation is a painful condition that most people will experience at some point in their lifetime. Struggling to poo can leave you with a stomach ache, bloating, and sickness. But don’t worry, it is easily treated at home by changing your diet and lifestyle. Express.co.uk chatted to Hannah Richards, nutritionist and founder of The Gut Clinic to find out how you can get your bowels moving properly again.
What is constipation?
If you struggle to poo at least three times in a week, you are likely to be constipated.
Hannah said: “If you do not pass a bowel movement every day you are constipated.”
If you have any of the following symptoms, you are constipated:
- hard stools
- incomplete emptying
- constipation-predominant IBS
Hannah added: “If you are experiencing any of the above, then it’s time to get to the root cause.”
Constipation is caused by a number of habits, but these can easily be reversed.
Hannah said: “Constipation can be learnt and perfected from childhood through to adulthood.”
Read on to find out how to relieve constipation.
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What causes constipation?
According to the NHS site, sometimes there is no obvious reason for constipation.
The most common causes include a lack of fibre, not drinking enough fluids, and not moving enough, ignoring the urge to go to toilet.
You could also be temporarily constipated due to a change in diet or routine, a side effect of medicine, or stress, anxiety or depression.
Hannah agreed that you could be constipated both emotionally and physically.
If you are feeling stressed and anxious — both common feelings during the pandemic — then look no further for the reasons why you are constipated.
Hannah said: “The brain and the gut are intrinsically linked, so the brain is often referred to as the second brain.
“It is linked via the tenth cranial nerve, also known as the vagus nerve.
“The digestive system only works in a parasympathetic state. So if you are always on the go and wired, but tired from staying up late, that’s why you are constipated.”
Try to get rid of negativity every single day, with meditation, breathing techniques, or yoga.
Hannah said: “You will also be constipated if you have ireggular meal times, and lack fibre and hydration.
“Make these changes before doing anything else and worrying that something else is wrong.
“Constipation is not always the fault of the food but more about the health and optimal functioning of the digestive system.
“I find that the change in the bowel comes when the changes come from lifestyle, habits and a dominance in the parasympathetic nervous system.”
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How to relieve constipation
Eat in a relaxed state
Make sure you don’t stress eat, otherwise you will continue to be constipated.
Hannah said: “The one reliable way of ensuing costively is moving your bowel after each meal which would require you to eat in a relaxed state at a table with out your phone or computer so you are burning up cortisol (the stress hormone).”
You should also avoid eating in the car or walking, and be sure to chew your food until it turns to a liquid.
Hannah explained: “Remember a stressed state equals constipation! The very act of eating food creates peristalsis along the tract- a series wave-like muscle contractions that move food to different processing stations in the digestive tract.
“This will stimulates defecation. The process of removing faces from your bowels.
“For this movement to occur, the gastrocolic reflex should be unconscious.”
The gastrocolic reflex is a physiological reflex that controls the movement of the gastrointestinal tract after a meal.
Never avoid going
When you feel the urge to go to the toilet, just go!
Hannah said: “Your gut is wired to nature. The more you suppress the need, the harder and drier the stool becomes.
“This in turn can cause the internal bleeding of the tract, and you don’t want this.”
Although this would normally be a minor issue if the digestive tract is severely bleeding it could be life-threatening.
Hannah said: “As Annie said: when a girl/boy’s gotta go! So remember to never suppress the need!”
In fact, you could try to go to the toilet twice a day.
Hannah suggested: “Raise your standards to two bowels movements everyday, I dare you.
“You will feel emotionally and physically free. You can’t beat a good full, clean bowel movement!”
Change your lifestyle
Hannah said: “Constipation is not a symptom of a poor diet, it’s a sign that the entire digestive system is sub optimal.
“Making sure you are hydrated and have adequate fibre in your diet, which would mean having vegetables at every meal, is an absolute requirement for a healthy bowel.
“If you add to the problem, by smoking, and drinking alcohol and coffee in excess amounts, then it will be even harder to solve the problem.
“Look at your habits and lifestyle traits and make positive changes.”
Foods to relieve constipation
The following foods will help the motility of the bowels, allowing you to go to the toilet with ease:
Grated carrots add fibre, water and vitamin A. They are an allrounder for digestive system health.
Magnesium creates movement in the bowel. If you take supplements, be careful not to overdose, though, or you will get the opposite effect.
A lot of people are dehydrated and coffee and alcohol add to this state. Dehydration will leave you constipated, so try to drink six to eight glasses of fluid a day.
Kefir is great for the digestive system because probiotics promote good digestive health and movement.
An apple a day keeps the constipation away! Apples contain pectin which helps with digestion in the small intestines, but also has a laxative effect.
Rhubarb is not only delicious and in season, it is also great for aiding bowel movement. It contains a compound called sennoside A, which has a laxative effect in the body.
Prunes contain Sorbitol, which is a type of sugar alcohol that is poorly digested in the body. It helps alleviate constipation by drawing water into the intestines, spurring a bowel movement.
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