Constipation and Eating Fibre

Eating fibre is key for normal healthy bowel function. Fibre makes our bowels regular. (Read: NO CONSTIPATION).  Fibre makes us feel full (so if you are trying to LOSE WEIGHT, fibre is your friend!).  Fibre stabilizes our blood sugar levels.  Fibre ‘cleans’ our intestines.  Fibre PREVENTS colon CANCER.

Types Of Fibre

Fibre comes in two forms: Soluble and Insoluble.  Vegetables and whole grains (and bran) contain Insoluble Fibre.  Psyllium and Guar gum are examples of soluble fibre, which combine with water in the gut to form a ‘gel’ like material.

NOTE: The only people who should not eat lots of insoluble fibre are those who suffer from IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, as some studies have shown that insoluble fibre can make IBS symptoms worse in some people.  Soluble fibre is usually well-tolerated even in IBS, like a special type of guar gum called PHGG, that can be used in IBS-constipation type.

So, Here is the fibre lowdown to recap:

Soluble Fibre

Examples: psyllium, guar gum.

  • Dissolves in water and forms a gel.  Can increase intestinal gas when it gets chewed up by the gut flora (good bacteria in the intestine)
  • Can relieve constipation

Insoluble Fibre

Examples: Bran, Corn Fibre

  • Not changed by the gut flora.  Increases the ‘bulk’ of stool
  • Can relieve constipation but not recommended for those with IBS

How to Get more Fibre from Food Today

  • Replace partially whole grain or white bread with 100% whole grain or even better, sprouted grain bread in increase your fibre intake effortlessly and feel full longer!  You can still make the same meals, but just use 100% whole grain breads instead!
  • Switch from normal pasta to whole wheat, brown rice or spelt pasta.  It’s yummy and will make you full quicker too!
  • Add in high fibre veggies like any deep leafy greens, beets, and high fibre fruits like pears, apples, watermelons, and strawberries.

Fibre and Constipation

It is amazing how many people I see in my practice who suffer from chronic constipation.  Even more amazing, is how little education there is about this issue for patients and how little practical advice they are often given on how to have more regular bowel movements by making simple easy changes to their diets.
  • Most people should have one bowel movement every day of the week.
  • Water intake is also important for this issue–we should be drinking about 8 cups of water a day, not counting milk or caffeinated drinks.
  • Eating fibre by consuming Prunes, beets, and spinach are all helpful in helping make the bowels move more regularly.

Fibre Supplements

Supplements such as pysllium husks can be used occasionally to cleanse the bowels, but should not be used daily or relied upon for keeping you regular–it is not the same as eating fibre through whole foods.  Also use caution with Senna, which is a natural laxative from the leave of the Senna plant.  Although it is natural, it is a strong intestinal stimulant and your bowels can become dependent upon it if it is used regularly.

What Does Eating Fibre Actually Do?

Eating fibre works by adding more ‘bulk’ to the intestinal contents and not by stimulating the bowel, and is therefore a safe way to keep the bowels working smoothly in the long run.

I Am Eating Lots Of Fibre But Am Still Constipated..

If you are eating fibre in good amounts, drinking plenty of water and still have constipation, you may suffer from a ‘sluggish bowel’ or slower motility in the gut than is optimal.  This is also a common problem in the western world, and many people with this type of issue have been diagnosed as having ‘IBS’ or irritable bowel syndrome.

If you are not active and have a sedentary lifestyle, regular exercise can be an important part of fixing the issue.  Emotional upset, anxiety, and chronic stress can also cause the bowel to get sluggish and constipation to result (the opposite can also happen and emotional upset or stress can also cause diarrhea).

If this is the main issue, there are lots of ways to de-stress effectively–yoga, relaxation recordings, meditation, or just going for a walk in nature are all good ways of putting the body back into ‘rest and digest’ mode and out of sympathetic overdrive that many of us operate in without realizing it.

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