Are you one of the 44% of people in the UK that suffers from constipation?1http://gutscharity.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/DigestingTheFactsReport.pdf It is estimated that every 1 in 3 children and 1 in 7 adults in the UK has constipation at any one time!2https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/constipation With so many people affected by this uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptom, it makes no sense to us why it’s still a taboo topic! We understand the impact these digestive symptoms can have on your daily life, so we’re here to help you identify the causes, and most importantly, the solutions.
What is constipation?
When your bowel movement frequency decreases to less than three times per week, it is considered constipation. It is also likely to be constipation if you are straining or in pain when you go to the toilet, or if you are experiencing hard, dry stools.3https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/constipation/
Potential causes of constipation
- Insufficient fibre, particularly wholegrain fibre which can help add bulk to your stools
- Dehydration or not drinking enough water
- Low levels of activity which decreases the stimulation of your gut muscles
- Ignoring the urge to go, resulting in more water being absorbed and a hard, dry stool
- Changes to your diet or daily routine
- Certain medications can cause constipation as a side effect
- Stress, anxiety or depression (altered gut-brain axis communication)
- Childhood toileting that included feeling pressured or constant interruption can lead to poor toilet habits in later life
How do you relieve constipation?
Tackling constipation isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some approaches you may like to try – we recommend you start from the top of the list and work your way down until you find the solution(s) that works for you!
1. Fibre and fluids
Are you drinking at least 2L of water per day and hitting your 30 g fibre target? The average UK adult is only eating 10-15 g of fibre per day so this is a good place to start for most people working with constipation. Remember to include enough wholegrain fibre as this can help add bulk to your stools, which gives your gut muscles more to work with. Check out everything you need to know about fibre and our 30g fibre meal plans for more guidance!
When increasing your fibre consumption, it’s recommended to take a slow and gradual approach. Going from very little fibre to a lot too soon may cause discomfort initially. It’s also important to drink plenty of water to aid digestion and allow fibre to do its job properly.
2. Get moving
Do you exercise at least 3 times per week for 30+ minutes, at a moderate-to-difficult level? If not then this is your next step! Low levels of activity lead to decreased stimulation of your gut muscles. Pick a form of exercise that you enjoy and can realistically stick to regularly. It could be power walking, a gym class, going dancing, hiking, joining a sports team, etc. Going for a walk, doing some light exercise like yoga, or stretching after a meal can also help get things moving.
Spending long periods sitting or lying down can also have the same negative effect. So if you have a sedentary job consider a standing desk, walking pad, or setting a reminder on your phone or watch to get up and move every hour.
Second-line dietary approaches
Try one of the following approaches at a time if the above recommendations have not helped:
4. Psyllium Husk
Psyllium is one of the most promising fibre supplements. This unique, prebiotic fibre, has the ability to soften hard stools (for constipation) and also thicken up looser stools (e.g. diarrhoea).
- Psyllium can be mixed with water, porridge, soups, baked oats, etc.
- As with most things, we recommend a slow and gradual approach. Begin with 1/2 tablespoon per day for the first week. Increase to 1 tbsp/day for the second week, if needed, and gradually build up to 3 tbsp/day if you find it is helping and not causing any discomfort.
- Psyllium is a soluble fibre. It works by absorbing water in the gut so have a large glass of water straight after and remember to keep hydrated throughout the day!
- Psyllium husk is also contained in our Complete Prebiotic powder along with 17 other types of prebiotic fibre!
Flaxseed is a source of soluble fibre that can both prevent and relieve constipation.5https://www.healthline.com/health/flaxseed-for-constipation Soluble fibre dissolves in water, and in doing so softens stools making them easier to pass.
- Flaxseed can be mixed with water or sprinkled on breakfasts, soups, salads, yoghurt, etc.
- When adding flaxseed to meals, include an extra 150ml of fluid for every 1 tbsp.
- As with the above approach, begin with 1/2 tablespoon per day for the first week, and build up to 2 tbsp over four weeks.
- It’s important to drink plenty of water to aid digestion and allow fibre to do its job properly so follow your flaxseed intake with a large glass of water.
- When you’re taking flaxseed specifically for constipation relief, ground flaxseed is best.6https://www.healthline.com/health/flaxseed-for-constipation#other-home-remedies
6. Chuckling Goat Synbiotic
A synbiotic is a combination of probiotics and prebiotics that work together to provide health benefits. A synbiotic is created by the combination of our Kefir and Complete Prebiotic, each of which is completely natural and the most diverse of its kind.
- Increasing consumption of lactobacillus (which Chuckling Goat Kefir contains) may help alleviate constipation.7https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100602193326.htm
- Low fibre intake is one of the major causes of constipation. Just 1 tbsp of our Complete Prebiotic provides you with 10g of prebiotic fibre and 30% of your recommended daily fibre intake.
- Increase the benefits of your synbiotic by combining it into a daily Gut-Brain Health Smoothie! Click here for the recipe.
Improving your toilet habits and creating more routine may also help combat your constipation. Consider the below strategies:
- First and foremost, listen to your body – When you get the urge to go, then go! “Holding it in” can lead to constipation.
- Check-in with your poo posture – raise your feet so that your knees are higher than your hips, lean forward and place your elbows on your knees, straighten your back, and relax your shoulders.
- Give yourself time – Try not to pressure yourself or rush, instead take 5-10 minutes to sit and relax on the toilet. Aim to sit on the toilet at the same time every day to create a routine your body can get used to.
Questions? Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays for bespoke advice on gut wellness.