Most of us know that unpleasant feeling of “being blocked up”, or as more formally known as constipation. In fact, 1 in 5 Australians are said to experience this problem. So what can you do about it?
What is constipation?
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less regular and often stools can become harder and more difficult to pass. Normal bowel function is a regular defecation, with stools that are soft and easy to pass. The term ‘regular’ can be different from person to person, ranging from twice a week to twice a day! But if you’re finding it difficult to pass, or not your ‘usual rhythm, or you have small amounts of hard faeces – your own regularity is probably off.
Why is it important to stay regular?
Regularity is a good indicator that your digestive system is working normally. That means, efficient absorption of the water and minerals you need from the intestine, and efficient evacuation of ‘waste’ material. It also usually means you feel light and comfortable in your abdominal region, with less gas, bloating and wind.
What causes constipation?
Constipation can be caused by the following factors:
- Not eating enough fibre
- Not drinking enough water
- Not exercising enough
- Increasing age
Thankfully, a simple change to your diet maybe all it takes to help restore regularity.
How fibre helps you stay regular
Dietary Fibre is the part of plants that cannot be fully digested in the small intestine, passing instead to the bowel where some of it may be broken down by bacteria. Thus, fibre can help to move waste out of the body by increasing faecal bulk in the colon.
Dietary fibre consists of both insoluble and soluble fibre.
- Soluble fibre helps to slow down the digestion process and can slow absorption of food, making you feel fuller.
- Insoluble fibre helps to regulate bowel function by absorbing the water in the gut. This helps to form softer, bulkier stools, which helps to promote regular bowel movement and keep the bowel environment healthy.
A healthy diet contains a good balance of insoluble and soluble fibres.
How much fibre do I need?
Most Australians don’t consume sufficient fibre. See how much you ideally should be getting. But remember, if you don’t already eat very much fibre, you’ll need to increase your intake slowly to help your body adjust.
30 g /day
25 g/ day
According to Nutrition Australia, that’s the equivalent to roughly:
〜4 servings of wholegrain or wholemeal foods
〜2 servings of fruit
〜5 servings of vegetables (including legumes or ‘pulses’)
Foods high in fibre that may help with constipation
Sources of SOLUBLE FIBRE
Sources of INSOLUBLE FIBRE
Wholegrain breads & cereals
Skin of fruit & veg
Help banish that ‘blocked up’ feeling fast
When you are feeling constipated, there are also a few other handy tips and natural remedies you can take advantage of to help relive constipation:
- Check that your regular diet is healthy and balanced (this will help you in the long run!)
- Add a fibre supplement - to help boost your fibre intake
- Drink plenty of water and other fluids – insoluble fibre will absorb this in the bowel softening and bulking up your stools
- Exercise regularly – and help food move more quickly through your colon
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