Constipation Got Your Good Gut Down? We’ve Got Your Back (and Bootie)!
There are various reasons why one may experience regular constipation or slow or incomplete emptying of the bowels. Constipation can be caused by dehydration, too much or too little fiber intake, hypothyroidism, food allergy or intolerance, gut imbalance (AKA dysbiosis), certain medications, and even a slow digestive system (also called dysmotility). We all understand how frustrating constipation can be. But don’t worry - there are plenty of home remedies that can reduce your frustration in no time!
Constipation-Reducing Whole Foods
To encourage bowel movement, you should consume at least 5-9 servings of foods high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. This includes foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Additionally, try consuming less fermentable, low FODMAP foods if you experience gas and bloating with fermentable carbohydrates. The gas produced by the fermentation process can slow the bowels down, cause uncomfortable bloat & gas, and lead to constipation. Unsure if your gut is reactive to high FODMAP foods? Try eliminating high FODMAP foods from your diet and observe if there are noticeable changes in constipation, bloating, diarrhea, and intestinal pain. Examples of low FODMAP foods include gluten-free whole grains; certain legumes like lentils, chickpeas, firm soy, and mung beans; low natural sugar fruits like citrus, kiwi and greener bananas; and less fermentable veggies like carrots, zucchini, and greens. For more detailed information on FODMAP foods, check out this article! A helpful food we like to recommend adding is beets as they help increase production of nitric oxide, which helps vasodilate blood vessels in the digestive tract, bringing more blood flow in and helping with motility. A recent study also showed that eating 2 kiwis per day helped reduce constipation.
What is the difference between chronic and occasional constipation?
Occasional or acute constipation can be caused by temporary situations, such as travel, dehydration, or low fiber intake. Chronic constipation can be more difficult to treat and may require more time and effort to remedy. Addressing gut balance to ensure there is no overgrowth or low abundance of certain microbes in the gut. Ruling out Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)/ Intestinal Methanogenic Overgrowth (IMO)/ Small Intestinal Fungal Overgrowth (SIFO), can help ensure that an excess of gasses that slow the bowels such as methane gas or hydrogen sulfide gas are not over-produced. Ruling out and supporting other underlying causes such as pelvic floor dysfunction, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Neurodegenerative Disease such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, and other diseases of the autonomic nervous system, is important to create an action plan around the constipation. A knowledgeable care team can help you identify if you have chronic or acute constipation.
These remedies are great for chronic or occasional constipation, however if you have chronic constipation, we suggest you confer with your care team, including your gut health Registered Dietitian to ensure you do not have a major underlying cause that needs special attention!
Hydration is always essential to a healthy gut! Ensure you are properly hydrated, drinking at least ½ of your body weight in ounces of non-caffeinated beverages daily. We love coconut water, infused waters, and herbal teas! Use electrolytes if necessary to support you after illness, while sweating, or if you have autonomic nerve dysfunction.
Interested in improving your toilet posture? Foot stools and squatty potties can encourage bowel movement by improving the rectal canal angle, easing passage of stool.
What about a massage? Massaging your colon before bedtime or meals can help move stools out of your colon, reducing discomfort. For an easier massage experience, we suggest massaging with oil or lotion!
What about medications and dietary supplements? Certain medications and dietary supplements can help constipation while others may worsen constipation. Those which may be helpful include magnesium citrate or magnesium oxide; fiber powder, including psyllium, acacia, or partially Hydrolyzed Guar Gum (PHGG); ginger, and 5-HTP, a pre-cursor to serotonin production as serotonin can help with gut motility. Those that can worsen constipation include: antacids containing aluminum and calcium, anticonvulsants (used to prevent seizures), diuretics, iron supplements, narcotics, antidepressants, and medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease. We highly recommend meeting with your care team before starting any new supplements!
Recipes to Alleviate constipation!
Check out some of our favorite #GoodGut recipes below to relieve and prevent constipation!
#GoodGut Smoothie Recipe Ingredients:
½ less ripe banana
1 cup spinach
½ cup mint
2 cups water
1 tbsp aloe
Those with a sweet tooth who are not sensitive to FODMAPs can try this recipe for fig preserves:
Fig Preserves - Slow boil for 15 minutes, then blend!
1 cup fresh figs or ¼ cup dried figs
½ cup water
½ cup fresh blended oranges
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp minced ginger
Modi, R., Hinton, A., Pinkhas, D., Groce, R., Meyer, M., Balasubramanian, G., Levine, E., & Stanich P. (2019). Implementation of a Defecation Posture Modification Device: Impact on Bowel Movement Patterns in Healthy Subjects. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 53(3), 216-219. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6382038/
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases [NIDDK]. (2022). Symptoms & Causes of Constipation. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/symptoms-causes