Constipation – Interventions to Consider
In the last post, I defined constipation, described optimal bowel movement frequency, discussed the reason constipation is detrimental to health and provided gut health indicators.
In this post, you will learn techniques to use, for you or your children, to minimize or prevent constipation. We are fans of taking a whole-person approach, and getting the gut in tip-top shape is often on the top of our “to-do” list with patients.
Let’s talk diet…
FIBER is a common go-to remedy for constipation. Many people simply do not consume the recommended 25-30 grams of daily fiber, which serves to feed the good bacteria in the large intestine as well as bulk up and soften the stool. Some even argue that we should be getting 50+ grams per day for optimal gut function. For reference, a slice of bread often only has 2-3 grams of fiber. Optimal sources are minimally processed fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, grains, and legumes (if they agree with you). For example, minimally processed can mean that the whole fruit is preferable as compared to a juice – This is due to the reduction in fiber (and other nutrients) that occurs with processing.
FERMENTED FOODS are often lacking from most people’s diets. Fermentation creates probiotics (the bacteria themselves) in the process, and consuming these can have beneficial effects for our gut health. Examples include lacto-fermented sauerkraut, pickles, water kefir, kombucha, kimchi; these can help re-balance bacteria and help normalize stools. When purchasing these, avoid those that use vinegar (these are pickled not fermented) and choose refrigerated products that have a short ingredient list like: “Cabbage, Water, Salt” for example. Some brands we like at Newbridge: Bubbies, Wild Brine, and Farmhouse Culture.
A good way to incorporate these is to pick one meal that you will be consistent in eating your choice of fermented foods. If you are always at home for breakfast or dinner, choose one of those meals to add a forkful of fermented colorful veggies to before you eat. Fermented veggies are also purported to increase digestive enzymes, and are eaten for this reason before meals in many parts of the world. You can easily make some at home with minimal equipment and cost.
FAT is another food that may help with constipation. Including healthy sources of fat – olives/olive oil, avocado/avocado oil, sardines and salmon – can lubricate the digestive system. Just as with fiber, you’ll want to slowly ramp up fat intake so your digestive system can adjust. As you do this, be mindful of the overall calorie increase and compensate by removing junk foods first and unneeded snacking second. You don’t need to add very large amounts of fat. Instead, use this as a reminder that fat is an essential part of a balanced meal and also is needed to help absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.
A few other tips…
- Drink enough water – Dehydration leads to water reabsorption in the large intestine, slowing down bowel movements.
- Exercise – Daily movement stimulates the bowels.
- Supplement for additional support if needed: Vitamin C, magnesium, and probiotics can all help. See your provider for dosing and brand recommendations.
In the final post in this series, we will take a look at factors that worsen constipation.
If you’re curious how your diet may be playing a role in constipation, email Rachel at for a free food and symptom log for tracking your unique system.
Our systems are complex, and constipation is often related to other underlying issues in the body. If you need further help uncovering the root cause of constipation for you or your loved ones, reach out to schedule a session with Rachel or any other provider.