The Ins and Outs of Feeling Constipated
Constipated? Many people ask me if their bowel habits are “normal.”
Aside from some pretty extreme cases, I usually tell people not to focus on a number, but rather on whether or not they feel good.
In other words, whatever is normal for you, is normal for you.
But many people don’t feel good, and complain of bloating, nausea, and belly pain, along with hard or hard to pass stools, or a sense of incomplete evacuation.
Being constipated can be bad enough to warrant a laxative or a daily medication, and it’s something worth discussing with your doctor if you think you would benefit. But for many people, all it takes are a few lifestyle changes to kick-start the system and get things moving.
Toronto nutritionist Natalie Bean-Sole from Nutrition Forever Inc. has this list of DOs and DON’Ts.
• Fibre. Increase it gradually by 2 to 3 grams per day to a total of 20-35 grams per day, with foods such as whole grain bread, cereals like wheat bran, beans, fruits and veggies.
• Psyllium. This is another dietary fibre, but it’s hard to find in foods. You can buy it as a seed or as a husk from the health food store, or in the form of Metamucil or Citrucel (which is hard to find in Canada, but is sometimes better tolerated in people with bloating).
• Certain Sugars. Consume foods that have high amounts of sorbitol and fructose, such as dried plums and prunes, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, raisins, grapes, and nuts.
• Water. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day – this is especially important, otherwise the fiber can have the opposite effect.
• Move Move Move. 30 minutes a day of brisk walking to get everything moving.
• Processed Foods. Avoid refined breads and cereals, chips, cookies, and cakes. Here’s a good list.
• Certain Drinks. Such as carbonated drinks and alcohol. Coffee can go either way – try to cut it out and see what happens.
• High Protein Diets. These can often be very low in high-fibre foods, and those with fructose and sorbitol.
• Dairy Products. Unless you’re lactose intolerant, in which case dairy can actually cause diarrhea, bloating and gas, certain dairy products like cheese can make constipation worse and are worth a trial off of them.