Are things downstairs a little backed up? Infrequent bowel motions and stools that are hard or painful to pass can be a sign that something’s not quite right in our gut. But don’t worry, there are some natural ways to get things moving again.
What causes constipation?
Constipation is a common digestive complaint that most people will experience at some point in their lives. Signs of constipation include less than 3 bowel movements a week, lumpy, hard stools, straining, or a feeling of “incomplete evacuation”. While things such as dehydration and lack of fibre can lead to a sluggish bowel, constipation can also be down to issues with digestive function and an imbalance of gut bacteria, known as gut dysbiosis.
Gut dysbiosis and constipation
Home to trillions of bacteria, our gut plays a huge role in our digestion and overall health. These bacteria work to produce a number of hormones and substances, including serotonin which regulates peristalsis (intestinal muscular contractions), as well as lactate and short-chain fatty acids that are involved in regulating the pH level of our intestines. Research has also found that our gut microflora can assist special nerve cells within the gut to help control muscle movement in the colon. Unfortunately, when our gut bacteria become disrupted, this can have a flow on effect causing issues with transit time and stool frequency leading to constipation along with associated symptoms like bloating and abdominal pain.
5 tips to help constipation:
- Foods high in soluble and insoluble fibre such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes help to soften stools and make them easier to pass.
- Even mild dehydration can lead to constipation. Make sure you are getting in enough water each day to help soften your stools.
- A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of constipation. Be sure to get in some form of moderate exercise each day to help with digestion and regular bowel movements.
- Foods such as yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi are all naturally rich sources of probiotics that can help support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Herbs such as slippery elm and marshmallow can help regulate bowel motions as well as soothe bloating and gastric inflammation.