Constipation. Not a fun or sexy topic, but a pretty common complaint for those of us with Hashimoto’s or other thyroid conditions.
Even the healthiest of us can suffer constipation on occasion as a result of stress, bad food choices and traveling.
Did you know . . .
- Having fewer than three bowel movements per week means you’re considered to be suffering from constipation?
- The estimated annual expenditure on over-the-counter laxatives in the U.S. is now $800 million?
- The most commonly used laxatives available are actually gut irritants and can directly damage the lining of the gut?
6 factors that can cause constipation:
Lack of Fibre | Diets high in processed foods, sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, unhealthy fats and synthetic additives can disrupt and even stop the body producing normal bowel movements.
Lack of Water | Dehydration - one of the most common causes. Not enough water in your body and your large intestine will soak up the water from your food waste, inhibiting it’s removal. Tea and coffee do not count people!
Food intolerances | Dairy and gluten are common culprits causing constipation.
Magnesium deficiency | A very common cause of constipation - too little in your diet can contribute to muscle tension and increased emotional stress – all factors of constipation.
Poor Gut Bacteria | Stomach acid is the first step in helping to break down the food we consume, preparing for absorption, and our bile, mixes with fat to help move things along the digestive track. So having low stomach acid and/or low bile can cause food stagnation. Voila..constipation!
Emotional triggers | Stress. Seriously, need I say more!
5 things you can eat/drink to help:
Plant Foods (Soluble and Insoluble Fibre) | Fruit and vegetables are high in fibre, which improves digestion, moves food along the digestive tract and stabilises blood glucose levels (which stabilise insulin levels) all helping to reduce constipation. There are two main forms of fibre, and it is good to eat both at each meal:
Insoluble Fibre: Found in many vegetables (particularly the skin), nuts and gluten free whole grains, like buckwheat and quinoa. This fibre works like a broom through the bowel –helping prevent constipation and encourage regular bowel habits. Foods to include are: tomatoes, avocado, broccoli, carrots, peas and beans (remember – skin on!).
Soluble Fibre: This contains plant cells such as pectin and gums and forms a gel-like substance when combined with fluid (hence the need to up your water intake!). This gel-like substance acts like a natural lubricant to soften your stool. Foods to include are: lentils, asparagus, avocado, apples, oats, peas, sweet potato, carrots and root veggies.
Water | Your body weight is made up of 60% fluid so water is essential for digestion, metabolism and muscle contraction. Warm watery drinks help stimulate bowel movements, so it is wonderful to start each day with a glass of warm water and add 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Flaxseed | Helps to add bulk to your stool, helping speed up its transit time through the bowel. Don’t use all the time, just when needed. Take 2 tablespoons of whole flaxseed (not ground) in a glass of filtered water before bed. The seeds will plump up and due to their slimy nature, they will evacuate things nicely.
Olive or coconut oil | A flat tablespoon can act like a natural lubricant, to help foods more easily pass through your digestive system.
Herbal Tea | To help alleviate discomfort from constipation and relax the gut muscles:
Peppermint: anti-spasmodic affects which allow better emptying of the bowel.
Chamomile: stimulates the production of glycine, which relaxes nerves and muscle spasm in the bowel.
4 Natural remedies you can try (non-food related):
Magnesium | A muscle relaxant, which in the intestines can help to calm spasms so that the muscle contractions that move food along are smoother. It also attracts water, drawing it into the bowels, which helps soften your stool, ease progress and assist in faster elimination. I personally use a powdered form of magnesium citrate as prescribed by my naturopath.
Movement | Exercise helps increase blood flow within the digestive tract (and help to control stress!)
Abdominal Massage | This can help to get things moving along. To encourage your stool to move in the right direction, massage your tummy in a circle motion from your right side to your left.
De-Stress | Stress interferes with your natural peristaltic motion. Adrenal fatigue and cortisol issues from chronic stress can also lead your gut to be deprived of the nourishment it needs to function properly. Walk, yoga, meditate, Epsom salt baths, reading…whatever works for you, do it.
Constipation can usually be managed on your own, however in some severe cases it’s best to call your doctor.