Constipation, Nutrition, and Supplementation
The best way to improve bowel movement frequency is to have 8 to 10 cups of water per day.
We should also aim to have a diet high in fibre – for example, dark leafy greens, green vegetables, apples, carrots, and celery would be a good start. Supplementing the diet with a wide variety of nuts and seeds and healthy sources of saturated fat such as coconut oil, olive oil and avocados would also be very helpful.
Probiotic foods aid in improving digestive health. Examples of these foods, added at each meal, would be olives, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh (fermented soy).
Avoid foods that have a laxative quality such as caffeine (in black and white teas, coffee, and chocolate) and psyllium husks which can aggravate the digestive tract.
Foods that can have a negative effect on bowel health and promote a ‘leaky gut’ leading to constipation are: refined sugar, simple carbohydrates, caffeine, alcohol, genetically modified foods such as corn, wheat and soy (all GMO in Canada), foods that are processed, packaged and preserved, food colouring and food additives.
Other foods that can affect our intestinal health are sources of dairy – milk, yogurt and cheeses. It is best to completely eliminate these foods. People over the age of five years are unable to tolerate casein, a milk protein, which can cause inflammation in a mature gut.
Medications could also cause constipation especially pain medication, diuretics, antacids, and blood pressure medications. Check your medication(s) side effects thoroughly and ask your physican(s) if alternative options could be made available to you.
Medical conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, repressing the urge to defecate, pregnancy, abuse of laxatives, stroke, multiple sclerosis, low potassium stores, diabetes, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, pituitary disorders, diverticulosis and colon cancer could all cause constipation.
Supplements to Consider:
Probiotics are an excellent way of increasing the good bacteria in the gut and crowding out the bad bacteria which can collect and impact the bowel. Start with a dose of 50 to 70 billion bacteria per day and increase gradually to 100 to 150 billion. Probiotics are taken with food, a half dose in the morning, and a half dose with dinner.
Digestive enzymes can be added to help with digestion and absorption of food. These are typically taken with each meal after the first bite of food.
There are a variety of natural laxatives which are gentle on the body. These include Vitamin C), magnesium bisglycinate and ground flax seed.
High dose Vitamin C (starting at 1000 to 3000 mg) can help to stimulate the bowel. Use a high quality powdered form and mix it with water to sip throughout the day.
Magnesium bisglycinate is a natural muscle and nerve relaxant. It will calm your mind and, at the same time, relax your digestive tract.
Add freshly ground flax seed to gluten free steel cut oats, add it to smoothies and bake it into muffins and cookies. Aim to have two tablespoons of ground flax per day.
Senna tea is a natural way of gently moving the contents of the colon by stimulating peristalsis of the bowel. Enjoy a warm cup or two of this tea as a last resort before bed if the other options do not seem to begin working for you within two to three days.
Use the suggestions above gradually so that you can find out what works best for you. Here's to your better digestive health!