Habits That Help You "Go"
As a dietitian, part of my job is discussing gut health with my clients. This means that I talk about poop on the “regular”. But you know how it goes, having a good poop can really set the tone for your day! Being regular and having a bowel movement that is easy to pass without pain is not just relieving, it’s also a sign of good gut health.
Dealing with constipation is hard (pun intended), and although no particular food causes it, you can manipulate your diet and lifestyle to help you get regular again. There are tons of foods and supplements that can help with relieving and preventing constipation. In today’s blog, I’ll highlight my top 5 recommendations.
Number 1: Include higher fibre foods.
The most predictable of all lifestyle tips for improving constipation is to eat high fibre foods. Including them regularly throughout your day helps to build bulk and sweep your intestines for a good bowel movement. Examples of high fibre foods as well as specific foods that have proven effective for my clients are:
Flax seeds (whole or ground)
Veggies and fruits with the skin on
Nuts and seeds
The frequency at which these higher fibre foods make an appearance in your diet depends on your current habits. If you don’t have much colour in your diet, start by adding one fruit or vegetable to your day. If you already eat a fruit or veggie with every meal, try adding seeds to your salad or prunes as a snack.
Number 2 (hee hee, I really can’t help myself): Drink more water.
Water works with fibre to help keep things moving along. If you only increase your fibre without increasing water, you could potentially end up even more constipated! The recommended daily intake of fluid (not just water) for men is 3.7L and 2.7L for women. While that seems like a lot, keep in mind that all fluid would include things like coffee, tea, milk, juice, smoothies, soup, and hydrating fruits and vegetables like watermelon and cucumbers.
If the majority of your fluid intake at the moment comes from sweetened beverages like pop or juice, consider swapping a couple of cans for water instead. Not only could this help with your constipation, but it might make you feel better overall.
Number 3: Move your body.
Physical activity gets your blood pumping and circulating to stimulate your colon for good function. There is a massive amount of research extolling the benefits of exercise on both our physical and mental health. If you don’t currently include any intentional movement into your day, this could be a good goal to start with. Please keep in mind that there is no faster way to fail than to pursue a change you don’t enjoy. If you don’t like to run, don’t set an activity goal to run 5k once a week. If you like to be in a group setting, join a class if covid restrictions in your area allow it. If not, reach out to your friends and family to set up an online group exercise class to do together. If you prefer the privacy of your home, write down a schedule (a realistic one to start), and look for apps like the Nike Training Club or other YouTube videos to walk you through a routine that feels comfortable to you. Despite the common narrative, exercise doesn’t need to feel punishing.
Although it can feel challenging to find the time to be active before the evening/night time sets in and you’re too wiped from your day, remember that small changes to your day can also be very helpful. If you live in an apartment/condo building, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Live on the 30th floor? No problem, take the elevator to floor 20 and then take the stairs. Try standing for phone calls or stretching in between meetings. Go for a walk on your lunch break when the weather allows it. Exercise in increments as small as 10 minutes is still impactful on your mood and physical health!
Number 4: Drink a hot beverage.
Many people swear by the efficacy of their morning cup of coffee/tea/hot water. A warm drink can help kickstart peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move food and waste through your gastrointestinal tract so you can have a bowel movement. If you haven’t tried out this trick, experiment with it and see if it works for you!
Number 5: Manage your stress.
Evidence suggests that stress can impact blood flow to your colon or slow down digestion which can contribute to feeling “backed up” (1). Of course, it isn’t possible to say that you can rid yourself of stress, real-life deals out real challenges on a daily basis that continually add to our stress level. Knowing this then, it’s important to learn how to manage your stress so you’re not overwhelmed by it. More and more, we’re seeing how stress affects us not just mentally but is a significant risk factor for chronic disease impacting our physical health.
Take a few minutes a day for yourself to do something you enjoy. Call a friend or go for a walk. Read a few pages of that book you’ve been meaning to get to. Basically, take some ME time - you deserve it!
Constipation is something many people deal with. For some, it can be resolved by implementing lifestyle changes like the ones outlined above. However, if after making these changes you don’t see enough of an improvement, don’t hesitate to speak with your healthcare provider for additional help through supplements or medication.
Have questions or want to book an appointment? Contact us, we love to help!