Has Isolation Caused You To Struggle With A Case Of Unwanted Constipation?
Constipation in Isolation, is it a real thing?
All of a sudden you find yourself unable to finish emptying your bowels or maybe your constipation has all of a sudden gone out of control and is 10 x worse than normal.
While many people do not go to the bathroom daily in normal circumstances, this whole isolation, quarantine thing may just have you going to the bathroom and pooping even less.
Could you be one of the many people struggling from a case of isolation constipation?
As our day to day routines and habits have changed dramatically over the last few months, its not unusual to find yourself suffering with a case of constipation.
Its exactly like when you go on a holiday and your daily routine is different to usual, quite often you see a change in bowel motions. Quite often this means less pooping.
According to the BMC Journal of Gastroenterology, in Australia it is estimated that 24% of people experience chronic constipation. That is HUGE.
While 24% makes up the intense constipation cases, many other people also suffer from some form of constipation. Many of these people are not even aware that they are constipated. Constipation can also often cause the common bloating complaint that many of us frequently experience to the point that it has just become normal.
So how do you know if your constipated?
The definition of constipation is going to the bathroom and pooping anything less than once a day. Actually going to the bathroom anywhere between 1-3 x day can be perfectly healthy providing they are solid stools.
Constipation is not always a simple as if you go to the bathroom or not. Some people go to the bathroom daily, yet are still backed up full of toxic waste due to inadequate defecation.
So not only does the frequency of your bowel motions determine if you are constipated or not but the amount, colour and stool type can also be great indicators of how healthy your gut is and if you are suffering of constipation.
The most common reasons for constipation in isolation:
- Change in routine
- Lack of movement and exercise
- Comfort eating and snacking on refined sugar and empty carbs.
- Not drinking enough water
- Stress and Anxiety
So what helps constipation and bloating?
Constipation and Movement: Its important that we make a conscious effort to move daily. Don’t let not having a gym open up to go, let you get stuck in a rut. Going for a daily walk is a great way to escape the house, get some fresh air, soak up some vitamin D and is great for a change in scenery.
Go on your own for a walk, while listening to a podcast or your favourite tunes or organise a meet up with a friend for a bit of extra motivation. For days when the weather is a bit crappy you may like to check out youtube and social media for some of the amazing at home workouts available for free at the moment.
The exercises of choice for constipation sufferers are yoga and squats. There are many fantastic yoga poses to help with improving digestion, constipation and the uncomfortable bloating that may come with constipation. You may like to check out Yoga with Adriene on Youtube. She has some great videos specifically on yoga for digestion.
Avoid Comfort Eating and Snacking: Many packaged snacks and comfort foods are highly processed full of ingredients your body is going to struggle to process. These foods tend to be what we call empty carbs meaning they are lacking in fibre and do not offer any nutritional value.
If you are choosing healthy snacks, is snacking okay?
I don’t recommend doing to much snacking as this can play havoc on your digestion. The migrating motor complex is a cleaning house for the gastrointestinal tract. It comes along and cleans up any unwanted left over food particles and bacteria that may be left behind after a meal, pushing them out of the small intestine.
This process can only occur in a state of fasting and cannot be completed if food is put back in before this process is complete. It usually takes about 3 hours so its best that you leave a minimum of 3 hours in between eating for this process to do its job. If eat again within this time window or you are snacking and grazing throughout the day, you cannot allow the migrating motor complex to do its job as it automatically shuts off. When food particles and bacteria are not cleaned out, they can a breeding ground for these food particles to ferment and petrify leaving bad bacteria to grow. This can lead to bloating and gas.
Avoid inflammatory foods that mess with your gut: When panic buying started and we were all advised to go into self isolation, not knowing what was to come going forward, the need for non perishable food items started. With restrictions on pasta and rice on the shelves due to high demand, people buying more processed packaged foods, the nutritional value of the food we have been consuming has gone down.
The Isolation Diet containing a high amount of nutrient poor processed packaged foods are full of refined sugar, nasty preservatives and chemicals that are highly inflammatory and play havoc on our guts, along with gluten and dairy being common culprits foods that mess with the gut.
Eat a rainbow: Eating a fibre rich diet made up of a diverse variety of fruits and vegetables helps promote the growth of short chain fatty acids including buytric acid which provides fuel to your colon cells, has the ability to influence good bacteria in the gut, promote bowel regularity and is essential for gut motility. Aim for fruit and vegetables in every meal.
My breakfast recommendation for those busy mum mornings are a smoothie. This is a great way to get added fruit and vegetables into your day, is easy to digest and doesn’t require too much preparation.
You can check out my gut healing smoothie here for some inspiration.
While eating a fibre rich diet is commonly recommended for constipation, fibre is not always the simple answer. In some circumstances for some individuals fibre can make a person feel worse.
If this resonates with you, you may like to do a food diary to work out what foods in particular may be making you feel worse. The most common being vegetables from the cruciferous family like cabbage, cauliflower. As these foods are more fermented, they can be hard to digest for individuals with poor gut health. They can sit and ferment in the gut causing gas and uncomfortable gut symptoms.
Eat more healthy fats: We are now starting to see the importance that dietary fats have on inducing favourable changes in the gut microbiome. While not all fats are equal, eating the wrong types of fats can have the opposite effect and can be bad for your gut. Healthy fats to include more of are nuts, seeds, avocado, fatty fish, sardines, olives, olive oil and unrefined coconut oil.
Keep up your fluid intake and avoid dehydration: Not drinking enough water can cause dehydration which can lead to constipation. Water helps keep your stools soft, making them easier to pass.
Keeping the water intake up has been a big downfall for me at the moment. It doesn’t really help when the weather gets colder either, as we tend to lean towards drinking more hot drinks. A great way to keep up your water intake here I have found is drinking your water hot or boiled, instead of room temperature.
Be aware that caffeine is also very dehydrating, so for every cup of coffee you have, you want to add an extra 2-4 glasses of water to your daily water intake (how much extra depends on the strength of your coffee).
Manage stress and anxiety: In recent years the link between the brain and the gut has become more recognised. While stress and anxiety can affect your bowels, they are more often known for causing the runs, but can also do the opposite and cause constipation.
While these uncertain times have caused many of us to experience some form of stress and anxiety, whether it be due to financial, loss of daily routine, isolation or due to concerns of the virus itself, stress can not always be avoided in these situations but we can learn to better manage stress.
So what are some ways we can better manage stress?
- practise yoga and meditation
- deep breathing exercises
- get support, open up and talk to someone about how you are feeling
- check in with yourself and journal your thoughts
- work on your mindset and look to a positive over a negative.
- drink calming and relaxing herbal teas including chamomile, lemon balm, rosehip, lavender.
- burn some relaxing essential oils (lavender, rose, bergamont, melissa, frankincense) and relax in a bubble bath.
- get creative, use an adult colouring book.
Nutrient Deficiencies and Constipation:
Nutrients are so important to our overall health, yet are so often underrated. Constipation can be a symptom of one or more nutrient deficiencies.
So what are the most common nutrient deficiencies seen with constipation?
Magnesium: Low magnesium intake has been shown to correlate with higher rates of constipation. Supplementing with magnesium is my no. 1 saviour when it comes to constipation. Magnesium in the right form and dose can be very effective at getting those bowels moving. Not only does it help with constipation but it also has a great calming effect which is great to reduce stress and anxiety.
When our body’s are under stress, we excrete excess magnesium from the body making stressful times requiring a need for more magnesium. When we are stressed our bowels can also be affected. We may poop more frequent or in this case less.
What form of magnesium is best?
Magnesium draws water into the intestine, acting as an osmotic laxative. The best form of magnesium to supplement for constipation is magnesium citrate as this has more of a laxative effect over other forms of magnesium. Just make sure you drink additional water when supplementing with magnesium as it can cause dehydration.
Vitamin B12: If vitamin B12 is deficient, the ability to make red blood cells for energy to the cells is negatively impacted, while nerve signals to the cells are also affected. This can cause constipation along with a number of other frustrating health conditions.
While taking a supplement may be of help, if you are not on any medication that depletes B12 and your diet is adequate in B12 sources yet you are still deficient, this could be due to low stomach acid and an inability to absorb nutrients properly.
Vitamin C: Studies have shown that many people suffering from constipation do not get enough Vitamin C into their diet. Taking a high quality Vitamin C supplement can help to induce a bowel motion and can be taken at doses as high as can go to bowel tolerance. If you take too much and end up with loose stools, just pull back on your dose.
Other Supplements for Constipation:
Probiotics: While probiotics can be very beneficial for promoting good gut health, for some they may find that taking probiotics can make them more bloated and feel worse. This is generally due to the gut being in too much of an inflamed state to handle anything that is fermented, that includes probiotics.
Probiotics are not as simple as black and white. There are many things to consider when supplementing with probiotics including the dose, the specific strains used in a particular probiotic and if the gut is in a state that will benefit from them right now. If you find that probiotics make you feel worse that good, you may need to take a step back and focus on improving the health of the gut first before introducing probiotics.
So what is the best probiotic for constipation, bloating and its associated gut symptoms?
One of the best well researched probiotic strains for constipation is lactobacillus plantarum. To find the right probiotic strain and dose for you, get in touch with your natural healthcare practitioner.
Prebiotics: these are the food for the probiotics, which are needed to feed the friendly bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics can easily be obtained in the diet by uping our fibre intake. Some good sources to include in your diet are garlic, onion, leek, asparagus, artichoke, radishes, dandelion greens, apples, green bananas, flaxseeds, and chicory root.
While prebiotics can be obtained through the diet, you may like to supplement if do not eat enough of these foods. While many probiotic supplement formulas do contain prebiotics as well, one prebiotic fibre that is thought to work particularly well with constipation sufferers is partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG).
Digestive Enzymes: Enzymes are needed for proper digestion to occur, absorption of nutrients from foods and to help deliver these nutrients to the cells where needed. While we do naturally produce digestive enzymes in our gut to help us digest our food, many of us do not have adequate amounts available to do their job properly. The older we get the more our stomach acid decreases. This can then also affect elimination of toxic waste from the colon. Taking digestive enzymes with every meal can help improve the digestion of our macro nutrients, which can sometimes be hard to digest.
What happens if you still don’t poop? How long is too long to be constipated?
When should you seek help?
Good gut health is absolutely essential to feel good and thrive in all aspects of health. We should always be aiming to have at least one solid bowel motion a day.
Anything less than this is not adequate and anything longer than 3 days without pooping can be detrimental to health.
When we don’t empty our bowels regularly, we get a build up of toxic waste that would normally get excreted in the stool but instead gets reabsorbed back into the colon and can cause hormonal imbalances, fatigue, poor immunity, anxiety, inflammatory skin conditions, weight gain, fecal impaction, cancer and in very severe cases occasionally death.
If you try all of this and still find yourself constipated, blocked up on the regular, or not pooping daily its time you seek help from your natural healthcare practitioner.
Don’t let bad gut health define you and your health.
Remember a Healthy Happy Gut= a Healthy Happy You
Take action today and book your complimentary discovery call to find out how I can help you get your bowels moving and help you achieve a healthy gut.
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