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Deanna Copland shares some tips on coping with constipation.
Chronic constipation affects about 14% of people globally.
Those affected find bowel movements difficult; the stools are often hard and dry, and the sense of incomplete evacuation common. It is classed as fewer than three spontaneous evacuations per week.
Constipation can lead to bloating, halitosis (bad breath), headaches, hormonal imbalances and haemorrhoids and may increase the risk of certain cancers, such as colon cancer.
It is not a simple symptom; it is a complex multifaceted syndrome involving many different causes. These may include insufficient dietary fibre or fluid intake, imbalance of gut flora, decreased physical activity, emotional or physical stress, medication side effects and hypothyroidism.
Fibre refers to certain types of carbohydrates that our body cannot digest. These carbohydrates pass through the intestinal tract and help to move waste out of the body.
Constipation can be a common issue for those following ketogenic diets, due to the low intake of soluble fibre which would normally come from starchy vegetables such as kumara.
Soluble fibre in foods softens stools, so instead of root vegetables, asparagus and broccoli florets are great alternatives.
Ways to add more fibre into your day
- Increase fresh salad and vegetables - at least one cup per main meal, ideally.
- Try some meat-free meals, as legumes are a great source. Dahl is easy to make and is nourishing. Add beans to other dishes, such as refried beans with nachos and edamame beans with mushroom risotto.
- Aim to eat 2 serves of fresh fruit per day (œ cup is one serve).
- Add psyllium husks to smoothies - start with 1 tsp and work your way up to about one tablespoon per day.
- Add 2-3 prunes to a small handful of raw nuts and seeds.
- Add chia seeds and flax seeds to porridge and smoothies.
- Leave the skin on vegetables and if cooking, reduce the time so they retain some crunch.
- Have prebiotic foods (such as asparagus, bananas, carrots, oats, flax seeds, artichokes) along with probiotic foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, yoghurt) in the same meal.
- Dip chopped carrots, capsicum, cauliflower florets, radish, celery and cucumber into almond butter, guacamole, hummus or white bean dip (see recipe).
- As fibre increases, so must water intake.
Aim to also walk, bike or swim for at least 30 minutes each day to keep active.
Three 10-minute walks should be achievable for most people.
Digestion is highly individualised, so do seek advice if you have noticed changes in bowel activity or experience ongoing digestive issues.
White bean dip
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
pinch of cayenne and black pepper
Add all ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth and creamy.
Garnish with cumin seeds and a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.
This will store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Serve with vegetable sticks and rice crackers or dolloped on top of roast vegetable salad.