Constipation is a common problem for many people. Here, nutritionist, Illona Dagdalianidou, gives us six easy remedies to naturally soothe the digestive system and get you going again …
Among the medical world, constipation occurs when there are less than three bowel movements per week.
However, some people may experience constipation while they still have more than three – bowel habit ranges widely from three bowel movements per day to three per week.
Some people also may equate constipation with stool consistency, the feeling of incomplete emptying and urge for defecation.
Different factors, such as
- Low fibre intake
- Inadequate hydration
- Reduced mobility as a result of general functional decline
- Reduced sensation of thirst
- Electrolyte disturbances
- Psychological comorbidities (depression, distress, personality disorders)
- Recurrent medications
- Iron supplements
can all contribute to constipation and can lead to chronic constipation if left untreated.
However, we have inherited from nature, natural remedies that can aid and prevent constipation.
Natural remedies are foods and practices we can adopt and use in our everyday life, which will not only tackle the problem efficiently, but will enhance the proper function of the whole body, especially the digestive system. Regular and smooth bowel movements also ageproof our lives.
1) Do you drink enough water?
Many studies have found a link between insufficient fluid intake and constipation. Higher fluid intake, particularly two to three litres of water, in the presence of a high-fibre diet, has been shown to improve constipation.
Thus, if you have been constipated for a long time, ensure you have enough fluids throughout the day and choose a good-quality pure spring water in order to increase the electrolyte intake.
Avoid diuretic drinks, caffeine, black and green tea, and generally avoid any fizzy and sugar beverages.
2) How much fibre does your diet provide?
Dietary fibre refers to a group of substances in plant foods which cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes.
This includes waxes, lignin and polysaccharides, such as cellulose and pectin. Increasing fibre intake not only prevents constipation, but also decreases the incidence of bowel disease, appendicitis, diverticulitis, colitis and bowel cancer.
Not sure where you can find fibre? Eat whole foods such as whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds, fresh fruit and vegetables and make sure you get at least 20-35g of fibre a day.
You will especially benefit if you add psyllium husk powder to your diet, and figs and prunes too act as natural and gentle laxatives.
3) Balanced and frequent meals
Having balanced and frequent meals will boost your body’s energy and enhance the natural processes and functions, especially to the digestive system.
Skipping meals, commonly breakfast, can be the wrong start to the day as the body need nutrients and energy in order to function properly.
Many people continue their day with unhealthy snacks, and devour a big meal at the end of the day – probably not that balanced in nutrients and hence, they won’t cover all of their body’s energy requirements.
If this is practised every day, the body experiences fatigue, the digestive system will be sluggish and the regularity bowel movement will not be regular at all.
Therefore, start your day with a healthy breakfast and have a rich-in-nutrients snack between meals. Make sure you have your lunch around midday and dinner before 8-9pm. This will help your system work well, maintain regularity and as an added bonus, is anti-ageing.
4) Increase the intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods
Probiotics consist of friendly bacteria that live naturally in the gut and promote the integrity and health of the digestive system, while increasing gut mobility and eliminating constipation.
Prebiotic on the other hand, is plant fibre, and beneficially nourishes the good bacteria – the probiotics in the colon. The body does not digest this fibre, yet it uses it as a fertilizer to increase the good bacteria.
You can find probiotics in supplement form or in some foods, such a natural yogurt with live bacteria, kefir and buttermilk, sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented pickled vegetables, tempeh and miso.
Prebiotics can be found in many fruits and vegetables, particularly in the skin of apples, bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, onions, garlic and beans.
Adding prebiotic fibre to the diet can be quite challenging as ideally you should eat a great amount of the above. However, you can find supplements with prebiotic fibre also in powder and pill form, usually from inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides.
Try a natural goat’s milk yogurt or a kefir beverage along with prebiotic fibre in order to increase your beneficial bacteria and boost the function of your digestive system and your overall health.
Exercise also improves your digestive system. Exercise decreases the time the food needs to be moved through the large intestine and it decreases the amount of water absorbed from the stool in the body.
Not sure what type of exercise? Any type is beneficial, from walking to aerobic exercise, accelerating your breathing and heart rate, and in turn stimulating the natural contraction of the gut muscles.
You can also practise yoga as it promotes relaxation, and along with deep breathing and certain poses, helps ease constipation.
6) Natural squatting position
Our modern toilets can make elimination much more difficult as the elimination process is blocked. The squatting position can prevent constipation for the following reasons:
- The gentle pressure from the diaphragm along with the force of gravity naturally compresses the colon.
- The pressure to the colon creates a natural laxative effect.
- The squatting is relaxing the puborecalis muscle and make elimination much easier.
Not sure how to squat on the modern toilet? Sit on the toilet and place your feet up on a stool, enabling a 35 degrees angle squat.
So there you have it - six natural ways to ease constipation. Avoid the tempation to take one of the many expensive over-the-counter medications and go no natural instead.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a few ideas here and I look forward to you sharing any ways you’ve found beneficial.