Constipation is an issue I see frequently amongst my clients. Whether it is a chronic complaint, or transitory, either way it can cause pain, bloating, gas and a profound sense of discomfort. It may manifest as a lack of ‘needing to go’ from one day to the next, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation; stools are commonly described as being like rabbit droppings. Often there are underlying reasons for the constipation that warrant further investigation, but I wanted to share with you four things to try that often help ease symptoms.
Fibre is key when it comes to promoting healthy bowel movements. It comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble, both of which play an important role in optimal digestion. For constipation, my first focus is on increasing soluble fibre. Found in oats, flaxseeds, apples, dried pulses and beans amongst others, it absorbs water either during cooking or within the digestive tract and helps to soften and bulk out stools. Bulkier stools then trigger nerve endings in the lining of the gut and help to stimulate the muscles of the colon to clear them from the body.
An easy way to increase your daily intake of soluble fibre is to soak flaxseeds (aka linseeds) in a small glass of water overnight and drink them first thing in the morning. Alternatively you could add them to porridge, a smoothie or overnight oats for breakfast. They will have absorbed some of the water, becoming swollen and gelatinous. Start with a teaspoon of seeds and build up gradually to two tablespoons a day, maintaining the quantity when you see an improvement.
Ensuring a good level of water consumption is always something to focus on if you suffer with constipation. However, substituting a couple of glasses of water for some ginger tea could help matters further. Ginger has been shown to support the migrating motor complex (MMC), the process of ‘sweeping’ undigested food through your small intestine as well as being beneficial to overall digestive health.
To make ginger tea, simply put three or four slices of ginger in a large mug or small teapot and add boiling water. Allow to steep for a few minutes, then enjoy. You may want to peel the ginger first if it’s not organic.
The position in which you sit on the loo can also make a difference. Assuming a squatting position helps to straighten the bowel and may make things easier. This sounds more complicated than it actually is. Rest your feet on a low stool (or bathroom bin, pile of books etc.), making sure that your knees are above your hips. Lean forwards and place your elbows on your knees. Then relax, take a deep breath and give yourself time.
Gentle exercise throughout the day
Last, but by no means least, try to introduce some exercise throughout your day. This could be a stroll around the block during your lunch hour, taking the stairs rather than the lift or simply standing up from your desk every hour or so and walking on the spot for a couple of minutes. While your digestive tract has its own muscular action, we can give it a helping hand by moving our bodies as a whole. Getting outside regularly also has the added benefit of relieving stress – often a key factor in constipation.
If you try all of these and are still not seeing signs of improvement then it might be time to delve a little deeper to see what might be causing your constipation. I offer a free, no-obligation health review to everyone, so book a time that suits you; I’d love to discuss it with you further.