I came to three very profound realizations this week:
- It’s the year 2018
- I haven’t published an article on constipation/bowel movements yet
- I don’t put it past myself to combine #1 and #2 in a comical yet educational way
Happy Poo Years!
The juvenile play on words aside, I want to wish all of my readers a happy and healthy 2018.
But wishes aren’t all that you will be getting from me today.
You will, as per usual, also be getting some solid dietary advice too!
For many of us, the colder winter weather months often mean a reduction in physical activity and potentially even an increase in caloric intake accompanied by a decrease in dietary quality as well ( I hope not, but it happens!).
These three things put together could, sadly, compromise your regularity on the toilet.
We all have different patterns when it comes to our bowel movements, but we can also all agree that hard to pass and/or infrequent trips to the bathroom AKA constipation, is a highly unpleasant experience.
Although a number of factors play a role in determining the regularity of an otherwise healthy person, the likelihood of experiencing constipation and the quality of your bowel movements is largely determined by your diet.
Obviously a diet that is balanced and strong overall ( meaning one that is high in fibre sourced from fruits, veggies and whole grains) is your best defense against experiencing constipation, but there are a few specific and perhaps underappreciated foods out there that may offer you that little extra boost ( no pun intended!).
Keep in mind that the foods below are suggested for otherwise healthy individuals who aren’t living with IBS or other digestive-related illnesses. If you know that any of the foods in the list below bother you, continue to avoid them!
For everyone else, let’s take a look at the top 7 foods to help you battle through your bowel blues.
Sorbitol containing fruit: Prunes, peaches, dates, apples, pears and nectarines, in addition to being a good source of fibre, also all naturally contain a compound known as sorbitol. Sorbitol is not well absorbed by your digestive system and, in essence, moves right through you. Generally speaking, it is advisable to consume a variety of fruit each day, but the modest amount of sorbitol found in these fruits could give you that extra push when you are feeling backed up.
Saurkraut/Kimchi: These varieties of fermented cabbage could go a long way to improving your regularity and digestive health because they are one of the relatively few foods that contain BOTH probiotics (healthy bacteria that help improve your gut function) AND a special type of dietary fibre known as a prebiotic, which essentially serves as food to help that healthy bacteria grow and thrive.
Water: Not technically a “food” but certainly the most overlooked constipation solution is the one sitting right in front of our very eyes. Water! Although needs vary heavily from individual to individual, aiming to consume 6-8 cups daily is a good start for most us. Our good friend H20 works together with all of the other dietary components, (especially fibre) that we’ve discussed here today to help keep things moving. If you’re feeling backed up, get your water up!
Allium Veggies ( garlic/leeks/onion): Allium veggies are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated and underused foods. Although some people living with IBS may cringe at the thought of onions & garlic, those who can eat them, should eat them. They contain a host of disease fighting compounds and also are a great source of prebiotic fibre, which helps support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut. All leafy greens ( spinach, broccoli, kale etc) are obviously a great choice, but they already get enough publicity as is.
Pumpkin Seeds: I bet you weren’t expecting this one right? Pumpkin seeds are a great source of dietary fibre but also happen to be one of the richest naturally available sources of magnesium in our food system. Magnesium is a very interesting nutrient because many of us struggle to get enough of it, but even more so because low magnesium intakes have been associated with an increased risk of constipation. You may also have noticed that many readily available constipation-fighting medications actually contain magnesium in them.
Beans ( navy, kidney, black, pinto, etc): Among the richest sources of fibre per serving among ALL foods, beans are an excellent choice for those who can tolerate them. Although they may take time to adapt to in the short-term because of all the fibre they contain, easing them into your diet will not only help keep you regular but do wonders for your health as a great plant-based protein alternative. They also happen to be a great source of magnesium as well.
Coffee: I certainly don’t recommend taking up coffee drinking as a constipation fix, but casual drinkers may be interested to know that, in some people, coffee actually helps to stimulate bowel movements. Are you one of them?
Otherwise healthy people who want a boost to their regularity and overall health in both the short and long-term will certainly get just that by incorporating these seven foods in greater quantities.
Thanks to each and every one of you for reading today’s comical but relevant article and I once again want to wish each and every one of you all the best in 2018.
I truly appreciate your support as I head into what I hope will be my biggest year yet!
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH