Constipation is the opposite of diarrhoea – it’s when your stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it’s drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s also very common in people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
If you have chronic constipation it can cause fatigue and inflammation in the body as toxins recirculate.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated.
So what to eat if you get constipated?
You’ve probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fibre.
Dietary fibre is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fibre is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fibre helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fibre is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fibre that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fibre is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fibre from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It’s the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fibre per day.
If you are going to increase your fibre intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically changing your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fibre intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fibre affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fibre may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.
Since your stools are hard and dry when you’re constipated, drinking more fluids can help keep everything hydrated and moist. This is especially true when trying to maintain a healthy gut every day, rather than when trying to deal with the problem of constipation after it has started.
And it doesn’t only have to be water – watery foods like soups, and some fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your fluid intake.
Always ensure you’re well hydrated, and drinking according to thirst; this is recommended for gut health as well as overall health.
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They have a number of effects on gut health and constipation. They affect gut transit time (how fast food goes through us), increase the number of bowel movements per week, and help to soften stools to make them easier to pass.
Probiotic foods (and drinks) include fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), miso, kefir, and kombucha.
More research is needed when it comes to recommending a specific probiotic supplement or strain. If you’re going to take supplements, make sure to read the label to ensure that it’s safe for you. And take it as directed.
Some studies show that the gut benefits from regular exercise.
Ideally, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days.
In terms of stress, when we’re stressed, it often affects our digestive system. The connection between our gut and our brain is so strong, researchers have coined the term “gut-brain axis.”
By better managing stress, we can help to reduce emotional and physical issues (like gut issues) that may result from stress. Try things like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
And last but not least – make sure to go when you need to go! Don’t hold it in because that can make things worse.
Optimal digestion is so important for overall health. Constipation is a common problem.
Increasing our fibre and water intake and boosting our friendly gut microbes are key things we can do to help things move along.
And don’t forget how lifestyle habits can affect our physical health! Exercise, stress management, and going to the bathroom regularly can also help us maintain great gut health.
Have you found that fibre, water, or probiotics affect your gut health? What about exercise, stress, and regular bathroom trips? I’d love to know in the comments below!
150g oats, gluten-free
Pinch sea salt
300ml almond milk, unsweetened
2 medium pears, sliced
4 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Toast oats by placing them in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for 2-4 minutes. Make sure to stir them frequently to prevent burning. Add salt, water, and almond milk to the saucepan of toasted oats. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-30 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached. Divide into four bowls and top with pears, walnuts, maple syrup, and cinnamon.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: If you want to roast your pears first, place them in a baking dish at 200C for about 10 minutes while you’re cooking the oats.
Which diet is better for CFS recovery? Is a vegetarian or stone-age diet better when recovering from CFS? There are so many diets out there, how do you know which one is right for you?
Everybody is unique and no one diet fits all. Some people have food intolerances or allergies to certain foods.
When I was recovering from my CFS, I was eating meats such as lamb, pork and also fish such as rainbow trout or seabass 2-3x per week. I was also eating carbs such as gluten-free bread, wild rice, gluten-free pasta and dried apricots. I ate plenty of broccoli, peas and carrots. So I was on a moderate protein, moderate carbohydrate, low refined sugar diet.
When I visited a Nutritionist, she detected that I had intolerances to beef, sugar, yeast and cow’s milk. So being an all-or-nothing kind of person, I immediately cut out these foods. Within a few weeks I felt a lot better. After 5 months of following her nutrition and supplement plan I had my energy back. Basically she put me on an anti-candida diet as my body was overrun with Candida and my immune system was weak.
A stone-age diet is high in meat and animal protein, low in carbohydrates and high in fat. Dr Myhill recommends a stone-age/paleo diet for people with CFS, as meat is rich in amino acids and protein which boost the immune system and heal tissue damage in the body. People with blood type O do better on a stone-age diet as they have high levels of stomach acid and can easily digest meat.
A vegetarian diet done correctly is full of vegetables, lentils, legumes and beans and is rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants. People with blood type A do better on a vegetarian diet, possibly with some fish. For people who have low stomach acid and find meat difficult to digest, or those on PPIs such as omeprazole or lansoprazole which block stomach acid production, may do better on a vegetarian diet. Also meat can be constipating so eliminating meat eases constipation and improves your detoxification abilities.
So which diet is better for CFS recovery? Personally I would recommend a low sugar, anti-candida diet for healing CFS. Avoiding refined sugar, sugary fruits like bananas, grapes and dried fruits, also avoiding yeast found in bread, mushrooms, fermented foods, cheese, peanuts and cashew nuts.
Also you need to avoid your food intolerances which deplete your body’s energy. The most common food intolerances are to gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley and rolled oats) and cow’s milk.
You need to eat plenty of protein when recovering from CFS to boost your immune system and to heal tissue damage. So a Stone-age diet is very beneficial. If you are vegetarian and can’t face eating meat, I would recommend a high protein vegetarian diet eating plenty of beans, chickpeas, lentils, non-GMO tofu and eggs.
If you don’t eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines or herring regularly, which I didn’t when recovering from my CFS, you need to take an omega 3 supplement e.g. a fish oil or a vegan algal omega 3 supplement. I took igennus Vegepa supplement.
For more information on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), contact Kate and book a free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call.
Do you feel tired all the time? Are you unable get up in the morning? You may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS). Below I talk more about the illness and what causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Firstly to get a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you will undergo multiple testing. After all avenues have been ruled out then you can be diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. When you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you have a group of symptoms including:
Currently around 250,000 people suffer with the illness in the UK. Women more commonly get this chronic illness, especially between the ages of 20-45.
There are many root causes of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is a complex condition. It is caused by a combination of factors that over time have weakened your body. Furthermore many people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome find that a very stressful event triggered their illness. Below I have listed some of the common triggers to chronic fatigue syndrome:
However in my experience with ME/CFS patients, the main root cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a high sugar diet. This leads to a suppressed immune system, viruses and a Candida overgrowth. In my new 12 Week Fatigue-Fighting Programme we tackle the root cause of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with 12 week low sugar meal plans.
For more information on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), book your free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call.
Nutrition is a powerful allie when recovering from ME/CFS. A question I get asked a lot as a Nutritionist is “What should I eat?” In this article I will explain the best foods to eat for healing ME/CFS.
Firstly, let me tell you what I ate when I was ill with my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Step 1: Junk Food
When I was a university student living away from home and first became ill with ME/CFS I used to eat a diet of junk food such as:
By eating all these junk foods in excess I destroyed my health.
I now know that when you microwave meals it denatures the structure of the food so it is not the same food that went into the microwave!
Step 2: Gluten-Free in Recovery
After a positive Coeliac IgA blood test result from my Doctor in May 2009 I removed wheat from my diet and cooked things such as:
These are the foods that I was eating during my recovery from 2010-2011. then helped me to regain my health.
If you would like to find out more about diet for healing ME/CFS, book your free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call.
When you have leaky gut syndrome, holes appear in the gut and large molecules of food can leak into the blood stream. This can cause an immune reaction to the molecules of foods in the blood causing chronic fatigue. Below I will explain how to heal leaky gut.
People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) often have systemic candida. Candida Albicans is a yeast infection most commonly present in the gut. Candida grows roots through the gut wall reaching into the blood stream to suck up nutrients. When the candida grows roots this causes holes in the gut wall leading to leaky gut syndrome. Also when you eat difficult to digest foods such as wheat, the gluten can scratch the gut lining causing further damage.
If you have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) then check out my post on tips for recovering from ME/CFS.
When you undertake this gut healing protocol, it can take 3-6 months to fully heal the gut.
One other thing to mention is that people often have a leaky energy as well as a leaky gut. The mind, body, spirit and energy are all linked so if your gut is leaky, then so are all the other areas of your life!
Where else in your life is your energy being drained? Are there energy vampires in your family or at work who drain your energy? Does your mind focus on negative things that cause you stress and drain your energy? Do you waste your money and time on pointless things that do not nourish your energy? It is worth asking yourself these questions and taking action to remove these drains from your life.
Around 250,000 people in Britain are recognised as having M.E or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Many more are undiagnosed. I suffered with severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for 3 years. It was after visiting a Nutritionist and following her plan for a few months that I began to get my energy back. After a year I was fully recovered and back working again. Below you can read my tips for recovering from ME/CFS.
Having experienced myself what it is like to go through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), I know how important nutrition is for recovering health. I have gained a wealth of knowledge on my nutrition course to support CFS. Below I have listed my nutrition for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome tips:
If you have CFS you may have aches and pains in your muscles after minor exertion. When you take magnesium it can help to relieve muscular pains and it is know as nature’s tranquilliser. Good sources of magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate and nuts and seeds.
People with CFS often have a lot of toxins in their body. Drinking at least 2 litres of filtered water every day helps to flush out the toxins and keep you hydrated. Having a water filter clears the water of toxic chemicals, as well as chlorine and fluoride which can harm the thyroid gland.
The average adult needs to eat 2-3 portions of protein per day or their weight in kilos x 0.8. If you are ill with CFS you need to eat an extra portion of protein to support you body building immune cells and for tissue repair. People with CFS need to eat an amount of protein in grams equal to their weight in kilos x 1. For example 50kg x 1 = 50g of protein per day. Good sources of protein include meat, chicken, fish, eggs and tofu.
Often people with CFS have multiple viruses and infections that the body is constantly trying to fight off. This can deplete the immune system of the vital nutrient zinc. When you take zinc it boosts the immune system. Good sources of zinc include fish, seafood and pumpkin seeds.
People with CFS often are inflammatory and have lots of free radical damage from their immune cells constantly fighting infections. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to mop up free radicals and prevent cell damage.
You need omega 3 fatty acids for brain health and concentration, skin health and tight cell membranes. You can find omega 3 in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, walnuts, hemp powder, flaxseed and chia seeds. Often people with CFS are deficient in omega 3 so it may be worth increasing it in the diet and taking a supplement to see if you feel better.
If you would like to find out more about how to use nutrition to support CFS/ME recovery, please contact me to book your free 15 minute fatigue breakthrough call.