Ask SK “How do I prevent constipation?”
This is a very common question that I get from my patients as well as our online community and on Instagram. Constipation is incredibly common but it doesn’t have to be! There are many ways to prevent constipation – or at least relieve symptoms of constipation to some degree – by making a few lifestyle and food changes.
Below lists the best ways to prevent constipation:
Increase fiber gradually
The more fiber the better because fiber is what adds bulk to your stool so that gravity can pull it down and out. That being said, you want to increase the amount of fiber you consume gradually, because going from nearly zero fiber to overloading your body with fiber can actually lead to constipation. Start by adding on 5 grams of fiber every few days or even weekly until you are consuming around 30 grams of fiber per day.
Great sources of fiber include seeds and berries – read more about the benefits of fiber here.
You know you need to drink more water if your stools are hard to push out, or you are getting chunks of stool coming out. Water helps to mix with your stool so that it can more easily slide right out.
Aim to get at least 64 ounces of fluids per day.
Cardio exercise helps to get your digestive system moving and uses gravity to help pull things down. Any type of cardio exercise is good, but especially effective exercises include anything with jumping such as running and jumping rope.
Coffee has many health benefits, and one of them includes stimulating your bowels. Drink a cup of coffee in the morning to get a good dose of antioxidants and to get your bowels moving. Read more about the benefits of coffee here.
Consider taking magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that can be taken to relieve constipation and to stimulate bowel movements. I recommend you take it at night time so that you will wake up in the morning ready to have a bowel movement, and also because magnesium can help you sleep and relax tense muscles.
Consider taking a probiotic
Taking probiotics can be helpful if you suffer from constipation because probiotics are good bacteria that you are adding to your gut. Getting an extra dose of good bacteria means these guys can help to digest your food and help to get your bowels moving.
Read about how to choose a probiotic here.
Meditation is a great way to bring awareness to the present and to relieve stress and anxiety, which are often the root cause of upset stomach. Meditation does not even have to be that long or that serious. Just taking five minutes out of your day to sit quietly and to breath deeply is beneficial. You could also take a more active approach to meditation by doing mindful – read more about the benefits of coloring here.
Eat some prunes
You’ve probably heard that eating prunes or drinking prune juice helps with constipation, and this is actually true! Prunes contain certain compounds that have a laxative effect and will get your bowels moving. Read more about this here.
Note: Check nutrition labels before consuming an entire bag of prunes because prunes often have a ton of sugar added to them. Stick to just a handful of prunes to prevent overloading your body with sugar.
Go for low-lactose dairy
Choose dairy that has the lowest amounts of lactose to prevent constipation and other unpleasant side effects. Low-lactose dairy includes aged and hard cheeses. Dairy with highest amounts of lactose include cow’s milk, ice cream, cream, and soft cheeses.
Main take aways…
Constipation is a sign that something in your digestive system is off, whether it be with food or other lifestyle factors. All of the above will greatly help to prevent constipation.
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy-league trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner licensed in California with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab
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