What is fiber?
Fiber is one good place to start. For many increasing fiber intake can help to promote healthier bowel movements.
Dietary fiber is the portion of food that comes from plants (grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds) that the body cannot digest. There are 2 types of dietary fiber – soluble and insoluble. Most foods that are good sources of fiber contain some of both insoluble and soluble fiber, though some are better sources than others. In general, fiber is beneficial for your gut and reducing constipation because it makes stool larger and softer – therefore easier to pass.
Soluble fiber is good at absorbing water. The increase in water in your gastrointestinal tract helps your stool to pass more smoothly. In addition, soluble fiber may also ferment causing an increase in healthy bacteria in your gut. Foods that are rich in soluble fiber include oats, fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive system in close to its original form, adding bulk to your stool. Bulkier stool acts like a brush sweeping through your colon to keep everything moving properly. Foods that are rich in insoluble fiber include whole wheat and other whole grains and vegetables.
Increasing dietary fiber may not be the best solution for everyone. Some foods that are high in fiber are also high in FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols). FODMAP rich foods can be fermented by gut bacteria and can make symptoms of digestive health worse for some individuals.
When addressing your symptoms make note of the foods you are eating and your symptoms and you can begin to see where problems may exist. I understand, it can sometimes be very difficult to find those answers. If you are struggling to find the right answers for you, ask for help.
Drink adequate water
Constipation can be related to dehydration in the colon so drinking adequate water is important. But you should drink water consistently rather than suddenly drinking considerably more water when you feel constipated. For many drinking water between meals works best. Aim for around eight 8 ounce glasses of water each day. Don’t overdo it, but find the right balance of water that helps you to keep your bowels moving smoothly.
Feed the good bugs
The right balance of bacteria in your gut is important for its functioning. The intestinal microbiota aids in the breakdown of food, stimulates your immune system, prevents growth of pathogenic bacteria and can help to produce important compounds like short-chain fatty acids. Studies have shown that changes in the composition of the gut bacteria in constipated individuals varies from that of healthy control subjects. Research supports the importance of a healthy gut microbiota in preventing gut dysbiosis which can include constipation. Extensive research is being done in this area.
How do you feed the good bugs? We can go back to the fiber story. Consuming foods rich in fiber can provide fuel to support the best balance of bacteria in your gut.
Heal your gut
I believe that when your life is out of balance, poor health will result. And when your gut is out of balance, poor health will result too. So what can you do to ensure that you have a healthy gut?
1. Remove foods that aren’t working well for you. Many individuals are sensitive to foods that may be damaging the GI tract. Whether that be highly processed foods that are not providing nutrients or foods that you would consider to be “healthy” but don’t work well for your body.
2. Add foods that are rich in prebiotics including apples, bananas, pears, asparagus, leeks and onions.
3. Add foods that are good sources of both soluble and insoluble fibers.
4. Add foods that provide polyphenols and vitamin C including berries, oranges and kiwi.
5. Add foods that are rich in zinc and glutamine including bone/meat broths, eggs, fish and poultry.
6. Add omega-3 rich fats including wild caught salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.
Take one step at a time to incorporate gut-nourishing foods to your meals. And continue to investigate what works best for you to end occasional or chronic constipation. If you are struggling with finding the answers for you, ask for help. It will be worth it to feel great again!