Constipation is a pain both literally and figuratively and something that most of us experience at some point in our lives. When constipation becomes chronic or if you’ve been plagued by it for most of your life, there are three pieces of advice that you need stop listening to in order to feel better:
Myth #1: You’re only constipated if you don’t have a bowel movement every day
You can have a bowel movement every day and still be constipated. Constipation is when stool sits too long in the colon; so if you are passing a little bit each day but not having a full evacuation, you are constipated. How do you know if you are constipated if you have a bowel movement every day? The most common symptom is bloating that never goes away but there are two ways to check:
- Get an x-ray from your doctor. This will show any backed-up stool in the colon.
- Do a transit test at home. To get an idea of how long it takes food to pass through your digestive tract, eat some corn on the cob or a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds and purposely don’t chew well. Record the time of consumption and watch carefully for them in your stool. Write down when the corn or seeds first appear and when you stop seeing it (sometimes it is visible over a few bowel movements). 24 to 48 hours is a normal transit time. Anything over 48 hours is too slow and anything under 24 hours is too fast.
Myth #2: You Need More Fibre if You Are Constipated
Fiber is important to keeping the bowels moving but you might not actually need to eat more of it; you may need to eat different types of it. Eating a lot of the wrong types of fiber can actually make you more constipated.
There are two main types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. They each have a different effect on your stool. Soluble fiber, found in foods like chia seed, oats and oranges, creates a gel in the gastrointestinal tract. This makes your stool soft and easy to pass. Insoluble fiber, found in foods like brown rice, almonds and kale, adds bulk to your stool which triggers the urge to have a bowel movement.
We need both types of fiber to have an ideal bowel movement. If you are emphasizing one type over the other, eating a lot of salads for example, you may actually be inadvertently making your constipation worse.
Myth #3: Drink More Water To Get Stool Moving
Water gets all the attention for getting stool moving but what you may not know is that healthy fat consumption is just as important if you are constipated.
Dietary fats like avocado, oils and nut butters lubricate the stool, allowing it to pass more easily through the gastrointestinal tract.
So if you’ve been trying to drink a big ‘ol three liter jug of water every day, stick with a normal 8 glasses and add a touch of fat to your meals.
If you’ve been prone to constipation for most of your life the typical advice of “eat more fibre and drink more water” isn’t necessarily going to help you. Join my 1:1 Coaching Program to get to the root cause of your constipation, once and for all.