Written by: Jen Cox - AdvDip NAT + WHM. @keeperandkin
Humans are absolutely TERRIBLE at balance. We tend to under or overdo everything and sometimes, this perpetual imbalance can rear its ugly head in the form of constipation. Fortunately, recalibrating diet and lifestyle works wonders. So to help you find the Goldilocks Zone that your gut craves, here’s 8 nifty upgrades that can help you give a sh!t.
1. Rehydrate your body:
Us complex little cucumbers do rely heavily on water balance to work properly. The gut is no exception - our mucosal lining throughout needs great hydration to absorb nutrients, move food through and keep pathogens at bay. When too much liquid is reabsorbed from the colon things slow down and constipation occurs, so the 80% of Australians who are dehydrated all the damn time should start by making hydration priority number 1 for healthy number 2 's.
PRO TIP: A quarter of school aged kids are not including any water in their daily fluid intake at all, according to one Harvard study. To hydrate kids we need to think creatively. Options like watermelon, coconut water and homemade icy poles are great, or opt for a drink bottle with water and some PONO Nourishing Reds. This will taste great AND nourish their microbiome too, promoting digestive balance. You can also try rewards, ahem… bribes.. To get them meeting water needs per day. Whatever works.
2. Eat more fruit and vegetables:
We know fibre is good for the gut and the best place to get it is from good old fashioned fruit and vegetables. While this may feel like a no brainer, a recent CSIRO discovery found that that 4 out of 5 Australians are still not meeting their minimum daily requirements... Oops. If you need extra incentive, fruit and veggies have more than just fibre benefits: they’re loaded with antioxidants, nourish the microbiome and have notoriously high water content so pose a quadruple threat to your gut strain.
3. Cut out the culprits:
While you’re adding in more plants, lets reduce some of the things that exacerbate constipation. Red meat, processed foods, dairy and fried foods all tend to take longer to digest. So while it’s OK to eat these in moderation, plan ahead by drinking plenty of water before meals and balancing things out with gut friendly plants.
4. Help your body to break down food:
This is a simple process: the longer food spends in your body (being digested or waiting for this to occur) the more water is reabsorbed at the business end. Properly starting the digestive process will optimise food break down, so repeat after me: I solemnly swear I will chew my food properly. This will give the digestive enzymes in saliva and your pearly whites time to do their thing.
PRO TIP: You can increase enzyme intake with foods like pineapple, papaya, blueberries and kiwi.
5. Feed your microbiome:
With all they do for your gut health, it will be no surprise that probiotics ease bathroom disasters on both ends of the spectrum. Amongst the gazillion of other fabulous things they manage probiotics ultimately help to break down food, which improves digestion and creates healthier bowel motions. The clever clogs at Harvard Health agree - this lot found probiotic supplements increased the number of weekly bowel motions their participants had and made them easier to pass. They also site an all star in the field: recommending Bifidobacterium as one particularly helpful strain.
PRO TIP: Want to know which of the PONO range contain Bifidobacterium strains? Trick question - all of them do. You’re welcome.
6. Stop holding on:
Avoiding a bathroom visit is not a good call, whatever the reason. Not only does this increase water reabsorption - cementing a rock solid experience for later - it can also impact the digestive muscle tone and decrease its function down the track. When nature calls, please do take the time to answer her. She’s a feisty gal and dislikes being left on read.
PRO TIP: Talk to your kids if you suspect they may be deliberately avoiding toilet trips at school/kinder. Sometimes they have interesting reasons that we as adults overlook, so a chat may be all it takes to reframe the situation.
7. Remember the gut mind connection:
Stress, anxiety and depression will all impact how well our digestion works. When we’re stressed out, messages are sent to our good old caveman brains that it’s time to run or fight rather than popping a squat. The use of stress management tools that work for you and seeking help when you need it are always good calls.
PRO TIP: If you’ve had a stressful day, take a breather before you eat. It will help you reach that rest and digest state needed to properly break down food. Avoid eating on the run or at your desk and take the time for 10 deep inhales and exhales before you start your meal.
8. Move your body:
Increasing exercise can ease constipation in a couple of ways: firstly, moving our bodies decreases the transit time of food in the large intestine and secondly, getting your heart rate up will strengthen the smooth muscle in your gut so it can be more efficient. With almost a third of Australians not getting enough, more movement may be just what you need for… more movements.
PRO TIP: If your child is constipated, has a tendency to sit on their knees with feet splayed out, poor or wobbly posture or you notice they’re physically behind physical development for their age it’s possible that low muscle tone is to blame. Speak with your pediatrician if you suspect this, they’ll help to make a plan for strengthening those muscles.