Despite often being a ‘taboo’ conversation topic, constipation is one of the most common medical ailments in Australia. According to the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA), constipation affects approximately one in five adults and complaints increase with age, especially among those over 65 years of age.
So, when it comes to fixing constipation, it’s time we get to the ‘bottom’ of things.
While lifestyle factors such as the amount of exercise you do and the amount of water you drink can influence your likelihood of suffering from constipation. An increase in both is beneficial, and when it comes to natural solutions, most are based on your diet.
Fibre is probably the most commonly known poo-aid out there, and it’s recommended that adults eat 25–30g of it daily. There are two main types of fibre, insoluble and soluble. According to medicalnewstoday.com, insoluble fibre are those found in whole grains and wheat bran, and while these may encourage stools to move through faster and more easily, they can make constipation worse in people who have bowel problems, such as chronic idiopathic constipation or irritable bowel syndrome.
On the other hand, soluble fibres form a gel-like paste when combined with water, which softens the content of the bowels and encourages movement. Soluble fibres are found predominantly in leafy greens, fruit, oat bran, nuts, barley, beans, lentils, seeds and peas. Berries and dried fruit such as prunes may be particularly effective. Just 28g of chia seeds contain 10g of fibre, and when mixed with liquids, their jelly-like consistency helps to stimulate and facilitate bowel movement.
Healthy oils can do wonders for constipation too, as they act like a lubricant in the bowels. Just one teaspoon of Flaxseed oil contains magnesium and three grams of fibre, encouraging bowel movements. Oils are regularly prescribed by doctors to help alleviate constipation, and can be easily snuck into your daily food or drinks.
Coffee, especially caffeinated coffee, stimulates the muscles in your gut, which in some people encourages them to visit the bathroom.
Links have been found in people suffering from chronic constipation and an imbalance of bacteria in their gut, according to research. Probiotics improve the balance of gut bacteria, produce lactic acids and short chain fatty acids, and assist with the regularity and ease of bowel movements, according to this study. Greek yoghurt, being full of probiotics, is good for digestion and the gut, and helps to reset the gut microbiomes, the micro-organisms that live in the intestinal tract and play an important role in the process of digestion.
Aloe vera contains a natural laxative compound called anthraquinones as well as 75 vitamins, enzymes, sugars and minerals. It also lubricates the stool making it easier to pass, so aloe vera can help you get rid of more than just sunburn.
GESA recommend seeing a doctor if you are dependent on the regular use of laxatives to pass bowel motions, or if constipation is becoming a regular problem in your life.