We all know there’s nothing appealing about constipation, and whilst it’s a fairly common occurrence for many of us, it’s not talked about nearly enough. We know just how hard it can be to navigate so the MWU Dietitians are here to break down all things constipation and what to do if you’re experiencing some digestive discomfort.
Let’s break the stigma and get into it!
What causes constipation?
It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why you’re experiencing constipation. It can be from too much fibre, too little fibre, not enough fluids, stress, hormonal changes, routine changes, being less active, not going to the toilet when you get the urge and the list goes on!
So when you do experience constipation, we recommend taking some notes on your eating and drinking habits, your activity levels, where you are in your cycle and any changes in routine. Doing this may help you pinpoint exactly what is causing this discomfort.
Constipation can also be a common symptom of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so it’s important to find the root cause to manage it appropriately and to see the right health professional if necessary.
How do you know you're experiencing constipation?
While constipation can be obvious to some, others may not piece it together as quickly and it can often prolong symptoms. It’s important to treat constipation right away without delay to prevent anything serious.
Some common symptoms can include:
- still feeling blocked after a toilet trip
- straining to pass a bowel movement
- hard, lumpy or dry stools
- having less than 3 bowel movements per week
Constipation can often cause pain and discomfort, gas, tiredness, poor appetite, nausea and in some serious cases bowel obstruction or blockage.
It’s important to aim for stools that are soft and easy to pass every 1-2 days.
What to do about it
We’ve all fallen victim to following misleading advice online, but we are here to share evidence based tips! Here are a few things research has found to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of constipation.
1. Eat 2x kiwi fruit a day
Research shows that the fibre found in kiwi fruit absorbs roughly three times its weight in water. This results in boosting the volume of the stool and making it softer by increasing the amount of water retained in bowel movement which leads to the gut contracting and moving the stool out.
2. Drink enough fluids
Without enough fluid, your stools can dry out which therefore makes it quite difficult for them to pass through the gut. For most healthy individuals, aiming to have 30-35mL of fluid per kg of body weight is ideal!
3. Continue to move your body daily
Keep active! Ensure you're moving your body daily to help stimulate the muscles and nerves in your gut to keep things moving along.
4. Monitor your fibre intake
Too much or too little fibre can really impact your bowel movements so aim to have at least 25-30g of fibre per day which is a great target to promote optimal digestion.
If you’ve been having minimal fibre, we recommend slowly increasing your fibre intake rather than increasing it drastically overnight as increasing fibre too quickly without drinking enough fluids can make constipation worse.
Please note that this is general advice and we do encourage you to discuss your symptoms with your doctor if necessary or alternatively work with an accredited dietitian to assist in individualising your fibre intake.
We hope we’ve shed some light on this taboo topic and can implement some of our great tips for when you are experiencing some bowel troubles!