This week we are going to talk about your bowel movements, or specifically, the lack of.
Yes, as a health coach, it’s quite normal for me to talk about this subject. Why? Well, because regular bowel movements are essential for optimum health.
One way the body gets rid of toxins, is through your stools. If you’re constipated, then naturally those toxins remain in the body. It can leave you feeling bloated, in pain, tired and lacking energy and focus, all of which affects your mood and can lead to other health problems.
If you suffer from constipation, then it’s nothing to be embarrassed about! In fact, it’s quite common, especially as you get older and reach peri-menopause and beyond. It’s thought that during this time, changes in hormones can affect our bowel movements.
What is Constipation?
Constipation is a bowel complaint which is characterised by hard stools that can be painful to pass, and infrequent bowel movements that persist for weeks.
Signs you are constipated:
- You have less than three bowel movements a week.
- Your stools are dry, hard and/or lumpy or painful to pass
- You feel you haven’t completely emptied your bowels after a movement.
- You have tummy pain, cramps or feel nausea and bloated.
So, what’s considered normal?
A person’s bowel habits are regular if they have a bowel movement anywhere from three times a week up to one to three times a day. Personally, when working with clients, I say it is best to have one bowel movement every day.
However, as we get older our bodies change, as do their needs. You may find you develop sensitivities and intolerances to certain foods, need to change your exercise or take more rest. Our gut is an important and complex system, and effects many functions in our body, including our bowels, so we need to look after it for optimal health.
If you are suffering from constipation, then read on for some natural tips on how to treat constipation and avoid it.
What are the causes of constipation?
There are many factors that can cause constipation. Diet and lifestyle play a part. However, these are not the only causes. Here are the most common causes of constipation:
- A diet high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods and/or high in red meat and fried foods
- Not drinking enough water
- A lack of exercise
- Not eating enough fibre
- Certain medications
- Consuming too much coffee and tea.
Whatever is causing your constipation, there are things you can do to improve it. A good place to start is to cut down on processed and fried food, empty carbs, and up your vegetable intake.
Foods which can improve constipation
All fruits and vegetables can help improve constipation. If they have edible peels, then even better, because eating the skins will boost fibre intake even higher.
Berries and kiwis are also a significant source of fibre and vitamins and minerals.
Fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut are full of probiotics which will help populate your gut with good bacteria so it functions better.
You want to eat foods that contain both insoluble and soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps speed up the transit of food in the digestive tract and helps prevent constipation. Whilst soluble fibre bulks out your stools.
Excellent sources of insoluble fibre include whole grains, most vegetables, wheat bran, and legumes.
Soluble fibre includes apples, ripe bananas, barley, oats, and beans such as chickpeas, and lentils.
Nuts and seeds are good in small amounts! Too many can cause constipation, so you want to be eating only a palm full once a day.
Ground flaxseed is really great. You can buy the seeds and grind them in a high-speed blender or buy them ready grounded. You will want to consume 1 to 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed per day and can add it to porridge, into smoothies, soups or stews or sprinkled on salads and yoghurts.
Other ways to help with constipation and improve gut health
Start each day with a large glass of warm water and lemon. This is great for stimulating your digestive system and liver.
Dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation. So ensure you drink at least two litres of water a day. It helps if the water is room temperature or warm as chilled water can cause constipation.
Get into the habit of moving and exercising daily. Move your body by doing some stretching or yoga. Walk 10,000 steps a day or if that is not always possible, even a 10-minute stroll can help get your bowels moving.
Take a good probiotic daily.
Avoid laxatives unless things get really bad. Try natural herbs instead, like senna, aloe vera, dandelion, or slippery elm.
Psyllium husks are very good but you have to drink plenty of water when taking them, otherwise they will have the opposite effect.
Dealing with stress
Too much stress can cause a good deal of health problems and constipation. Find ways to lower your stress, add in yoga or breathwork as this will not only calm your body and mind, it also adds in movement, which will help your digestion.
Get your positioning right on the loo
Modern toilets are not the natural way for us to open our bowels. We are not supposed to sit upright as if on a chair; we are supposed to be squatting. However, you can position yourself on the loo to get closer to this position.
Lean forward when you are sitting on the toilet with your hands resting on your thighs and make sure that your knees are bent and are higher than your hips. It may help to use a footstool if your toilet is high.
I hope this has been useful. Passing a bowel movement every day will make you feel less bloated and give you more energy.
If you want to find more ways to lower your weight, increase your vitality and have a healthier body and mind, then get in touch.