Digestion is something we have a lot of experitise in as New Zealand Dietitians. Constipation, Diarrheoa, Diverticulitis and much more are discussed often in our Christchurch and Dunedin Clinics.
Patients with digestive problems or who have had surgery that affects their digestive system will typically have unique nutritional needs. Our dietitians have helped many New Zealand men and women with their digestive health. They are experts in determining these needs. We can help by collaborating with you to achieve and maintain optimal health. During your Dietitian-led treatment plan, you'll learn how to manage your digestive symptoms in a way that's sustainable, effective, and practical.
You can learn more by reading our gut and digestive health page.
Constipation is when you are only able to pass bowel motions less than three times a week, it’s hard or dry, and it’s a struggle to pass. It’s not really a conversation people like to have. But here at Nutrition & Life we get it. We’re not afraid of the uncomfortable conversations. We know that constipation is a common problem that affects so many different people.
You may have felt the abdominal discomfort, the bloated feeling, or felt like you’ve lost your appetite. You may even feel the need to go but you just can’t. I’ve had clients who couldn’t figure out why there tummy was so sore until I asked when their last movement was!
Constipation can come and go without being an issue. It may just be because it’s the certain time of the month for a woman or maybe because you’ve been travelling and your schedule is out of whack. However, when constipation lasts it becomes extremely uncomfortable and can have real health effects. We know it’s not an issue you want to ignore!
But before you go reaching for those laxative pills, we’d love to share some thoughts on potential ways to get constipation symptom relief.
Let’s be clear, if these are medically prescribed, please don’t contradict your doctor. But if you’ve chosen to take laxatives regularly to help you go, it might not actually be helping you in the long run. Please seek professional advice before self-medicating. Some laxatives have a stimulant effect which stimulates the muscles to move. This pushes things out. But over a long term, your body can become less receptive to the natural stimulant of having bulk in the colon. It may make it even harder to go in the long run! Slowly reducing your laxative intake while increasing your fibre and water intake can help restore your natural movement.
Stress doesn’t just affect our mind, but it effects every area of our body. It even effects our digestion. When we’re stressed, it engages our fight or flight response which gets us ready to move, not to digest. It makes sense, how inconvenient would it be to need to go toilet during a fight! Unfortunately, when we remain stressed when we want to go to the toilet, it can make it very difficult. Some simple relaxation methods such as meditation or yoga can help reset your mind and your gut.
Did you know your digestive tract is a muscle? When we engage in regular movement, whether planned physical activity or just walking around the office, we are inadverntently helping our digestive tract to contract and release. This helps moves stool through your system. When we rarely move, like when we sit at a desk all day, the stool moves slower. When stool moves slower, more water can get absorbed making it drier and harder to push. So don’t be afraid to take a few short breaks during your day!
When we don’t get enough fluid throughout the day, it’s not just our mouth that gets dry! The less fluid you drink, the less fluid there is to soften the stools. This makes it much harder to pass! Aiming for around 8 cups of water spread across the day can help keep your digestive system moist and moving.
Long breaks between meals, or simply not eating enough food, can mean there’s not enough bulk in the intestine to push through. Making sure to have regular fulfilling meals can help you have consistent bowel movements.
Getting enough fibre in your diet is one of the best ways to fight constipation. Fibre is the component of plant food that our bodies can’t break down. Although we can’t digest it, fibre plays a number of important roles that benefit the health of your gut.
There are two types of fibre. Soluble fibre such as oats, legumes, and fruits, traps water in the colon and forms a gel-like structure. This makes stools softer and easier to pass. Insoluble fibre like vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, the skin of fruit, adds bulk to the stool. This speeds up movement through the digestive tract and encourages your body to go.
If you’re looking to beat constipation, start by checking you’re getting enough fruit and vegetables in your diet. Choose wholegrain options such as oats for breakfast, and make sure to get enough water to go along with it.
Chronic constipation can significantly reduce your quality of life and lead to hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse, and intestinal impaction. So you want to prevent long-term constipation using the tips above or by speaking with a healthcare professional.
If you’re struggling with constipation, not getting enough fibre in everyday, or just want support around nutrition and your lifestyle, we’re here to help. Our dietitians are experts in all things food and digestion.
Interested in learning more about digestive health. We talk about constipation, diarrheoa, abdominal pain and much more. There's no awkwardness. You can feel comfortable discussing this with out discreet and respectful local Dietitians. Book your 15minute chat with a NZ Dietitian to find out how we can help.
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