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Constipated? Stop doing this.

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Hi Friend,


Alright here I am, talking about something a lot of people don't want to discuss...poop. Whether you like it or not, poop can tell you a lot about your health, which is the reason I want to address it today. Specifically, I want to discuss constipation. Constipation can be a trigger for restriction in a lot of people. For one, if you've ever been constipated, you know it is extremely uncomfortable. It's a feeling of fullness that you can't get away from and can sometimes cause nausea or cramping. However, restricting intake in the case of constipation will usually just make things worse, unless you have some sort of obstruction going on. If you are obstruction free, adequate bulk in your intestinal tract is helpful because it stimulates your smooth muscles to contract. Therefore, going too long without eating or not having large enough meals can make constipation worse, and adequate intake can regulate bowel movements.


Other factors that can trigger constipation are a change in schedule, travel, increased stress or anxiety, food choices outside of one’s normal routine, lack of adequate hydration and lack of movement. New medications can also affect bowel patterns.


chart depicting constipation and restriction cycle

There are a number of interventions that can help prevent uncomfortable back-up. I encourage you to make the following tips a part of your daily routine! Consistency is key for regular bowel movements.


Fiber

Aim for a minimum of 25-38 g of fiber per day. Pears, plums, and kiwi are great for stimulating the gut because they contain insoluble fiber. Incorporate them in smoothies, add them to yogurt or just enjoy them plain as a snack. Psyllium husk is another way to increase your fiber intake. A powder form can be found in most grocery stores. Add it to smoothies and oatmeal or mix with water and drink plain. Psyllium is more readily tolerated than some other fiber supplements on the market and is a not a stimulant laxative, so it won't cause dependency over time. If you currently consume little fiber in your diet, be sure to add fiber slowly to avoid worsening constipation. You'll want to add 1 serving of fiber every 1-2 days.


Hydration

Any time you increase fiber, you always need to increase your water intake. Many laxatives work by drawing water into the gut. Increasing your water intake helps to hydrate the colon and aids in stool transit. 2-3L of fluid per day should be adequate.


Probiotics

There are certain strains of probiotics that have been linked to regulating bowel movements. A probiotic is a microorganism that provides a benefit to its host. Ensure you are matching the right strain to the right problem when shopping for a product.

Movement

Physical activity helps to stimulate the gut. Sitting all day and lack of movement in general can worsen constipation. You do not necessarily need to engage in intense movement in order to reap the benefits of physical activity for the gut. Go for a walk in the morning or after a meal.


De-stress

Research repeatedly shows that anxiety and depression can lead to a change in bowel habits. Ever have nervous diarrhea? Well, your body can also "lock up" due to chronic anxiety and depression, resulting in constipation. Work on developing healthy coping mechanisms to handle stress.


I encourage you to rate yourself on a scale of 1-5 in each category above. Pick the category that you are lowest in and begin implementing one intervention to begin regulating your poop.


Heaps of blessings,

Mikyah, RDN, LD, CD


registered dietitian nutritionist mikyah owens

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