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Self-care Tips for Tackling Constipation

Updated: May 14

Written by Gabi Meltzer, Registered Dietician, May 2024



Looking to ease those uncomfortable gut symptoms and foster a more positive relationship with your body? Constipation can throw a wrench in our day-to-day, but there are gentle, self-care strategies you can try. As a registered dietitian with a special interest in gut health, I'm here to offer some simple self-care strategies to help you feel more comfortable and at ease.


What is Constipation?


Constipation refers to a decrease in your usual bowel movements, accompanied by stools that are hard or difficult to pass.


What Might Be Causing Constipation?


  • Low Fibre Intake:

    • Fibre helps bulk up and soften stools, making them easier to pass.

  • Dehydration:

    • Not drinking enough water can lead to harder stools, as your body retains water from the digestive tract.

  • Ignoring Nature's call:

    • In our busy and stressful lives, it's easy to ignore the urge to use the toilet, but doing so can exacerbate constipation. Delaying the need to go can desensitise the body's natural signals and draw water out of the stool, making it harder to pass.

  • Medication Side Effects:

    • Some medications can increase the risk of constipation.

  • Lack of Physical Activity:

    • Inactivity can slow down the digestive process.

  • Routine Changes:

    • Travel or changes in daily habits can disrupt regular bowel movements.

  • Overuse of Laxatives:

    • Frequent use can weaken the bowel's natural ability to contract.

  • Specific Medical Conditions:

    • Certain health issues can predispose one to constipation.


Gentle, self-care practices to help prevent and ease constipation


1. Meal Pattern

I like to think of each meal or snack as an opportunity for nutrition, especially fibre :) Skipping meals makes it more challenging to get enough fibre and other nutrients in the day. Eating breakfast is a particularly important opportunity in preventing constipation, due to the gastro-colonic reflex, which stimulates bowel movements in the morning.


2. Stay Hydrated

Water is crucial for softening the stool and facilitating smooth passage through the digestive tract. Signs of dehydration to watch for include dark urine, dry mouth, and dry skin. If you aren't so aware of your thirst, starting slow may be helpful and pairing the habit of drinking with something else. For example, a glass of water with each meal and snack, or with each coffee?


3. Increase Fibre Intake

Aim to include high-fibre foods in your diet from a variety of plant sources, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. For an easy fibre boost, consider adding a tablespoon of chia seeds or linseeds to your oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie—just be sure to accompany it with adequate water. The key with fibre is to start slow for digestive comfort. Too much, too soon, can worsen constipation.


4. Incorporate enjoyable movement

Physical activity can greatly enhance digestive health by encouraging the movement of food through the digestive system. Consider the form and frequency of movement that feels good mentally and physically and feels sustainable in your lifestyle.


5. Optimise Toilet Position

Try to sit on the toilet with your knees higher than hips (using a footstool if necessary), leaning forward, placing your elbows on your knees. This position helps encourage a more complete evacuation.


6. Create a toilet time routine

If you find you are too busy to attend to signals during the day, or you avoid using public toilets, it may help to establish a morning routine to help regulate your bowel movements and prevent constipation.


Conclusion


Constipation is a manageable condition with the right approaches focused on diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. As a dietician, my aim is to assist you in fostering lasting, positive health behaviours that enhance your digestive health and overall well-being. By understanding the basics of good gut health and making informed choices about how we treat our bodies, we can all lead happier, more comfortable lives.


Remember, each person’s body is different and reacts uniquely. If you find that your symptoms persist despite making these changes, it might be useful to consult with a healthcare provider or a dietician specialised in gut health to further personalise your approach.


For personalised guidance on making nutritious, satisfying food choices that suit your individual needs, book a consultation here: https://www.gabimeltzerdietician.com/book-online.


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