Constipation and Gut Health

An imbalance in our gut can lead to symptoms of reflux, cramping, wind, constipation or diarrhoea. If these symptoms occur more than occasionally, take time to improve gut health, reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

Constipation is when you produce a bowel motion less often than usual. If this causes discomfort or hard stools are difficult to pass, try changing your diet, fibre and fluid intake. Constipation is commonly caused by a low fibre diet not adding enough bulk to the stools, insufficient water to plump, reduced activity or a change of routine. It may also be caused by stress, unfamiliar surroundings, age, pregnancy and some medications.

Swap high for low GI carbohydrates, increase protein and fruit and vegetables. Add fibre gradually, to 25g for women and 30g daily for men. Try eating some at each meal, including both insoluble (legumes, skin of fruits/vegetables, wholegrain foods) and soluble sources (oats, pulses, fruits and vegetables). It may take 3-5 days to see an improvement and a month for maximum benefit from this diet. Fibre will also feed good bacteria in the gut to maintain the gut lining, thought to help immune function and lower inflammation. Limit caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee, opting for water instead and increase activity levels to stimulate regularity.

If these measures don’t relieve constipation, talk to your pharmacist about treatments available. Softeners (Lactulose, Movicol) increase the liquid retained in the bowel to soften the stool. Stimulant laxatives (Coloxyl & Senna, Dulcolax) activate the bowel to move to relieve the constipation. Probiotics have been found to speed up food transit time and improve stool consistency. They may also help to support normal bowel function by restoring, balancing and maintaining a healthy gut flora. Good bacteria can be found in yoghurt, fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, sour dough) or in large doses in supplements.

See your doctor if you experience diarrhoea with constipation, blood or mucous in stools, severe abdominal pain, weight loss or black bowel motions.



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