By: Hayley Edwards, DTR & Dahlia Marin, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Constipation is the worst! Let’s face it we’ve all been there and it is uncomfortable. The bloating, the pain… you name it, it’s awful. The good news is that constipation can be made better by our diet, exercise, and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Foods high in fiber help to ease constipation because it helps in the passage of fecal matter (poop J).
There are two kinds of fiber. Insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Both are needed but have different jobs. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stools, allowing your stool to pass more quickly (like a broom). Soluble fiber absorbs water in the digestive system, which forms a gel like substance that makes stools softer (like a sponge). The soluble fiber is like a sponge that absorbs water and the insoluble fiber is like a broom to sweep away things-both help to clean the floor but have different jobs. When stools are soft then it is easier to push those suckers out. Not only does fiber help us pass stools and help constipation, but fiber is also good for the heart by lowering cholesterol and can help control blood sugar levels. It controls blood sugar levels by delaying the digestion of food (carbohydrates specifically) which delays the release of glucose (sugar) into the blood stream. Summer time is sometimes easier to get more fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain fiber, because salads are more common during warmer seasons. During the colder months try stir-frys and soups with plenty of vegetables and whole grains to get more fiber in your diet.
Exercise helps reduce constipation. Exercise, such as walking, running, hiking, and swimming are fun activities to get you moving. When we get our bodies moving it gets everything else moving. When it gets chilly in the winter time you can do indoor exercises, such as chair dips, sit ups, or using the stairs (if your house has stairs).
Drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated by drinking water allows stools to pass more easily because it helps make your stool softer. In the winter time I find it difficult to drink enough water and I gravitate towards hot cocoa, champurrado and atole, which have a lot of sugar. When it gets cold outside I like to boil hot water and soak lemon slices for a healthier option. This way I get my warm drink and stay hydrated. Here’s the recipe to try on a nice cold night:
Hot Lemon Water
- Hot water
- Lemon slices
- Cut one lemon into ¼ slices
- Place 3-4 lemon slices in a mug
- Boil a pot of water on the stove in a tea kettle
- Place boiling water in mug with lemon slices
- Let it sit for 2-3 minutes until liquid is cool enough to drink
*I like to place a few ice cubes or cold water in the mug to cool the liquid more quickly so I don’t have to wait J