Gut Health: The S^&t Stuff
Well, what can I say, never in my life did I envisage being in the position to write a blog, never mind a blog about poop!
For those who follow me on Insta - @healthstepsuk - you will know that I recently ran a poll to help me do some research on the subject of constipation.
What did my Instagram poll reveal?
25% of the participants are affected by constipation
67% of those suffering from it are using over the counter medication to help relieve it
Some participants are having bowel movements once or twice a week sometimes even missing a week
The NHS Inform website estimates that 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 3 children in the UK are affected by constipation.
Why do people suffer from constipation?
Constipation occurs for a number of different reasons, it might be a side effect of medication, dehydration and insufficient water intake, or it could be a lack of fibre in your diet. It could also be stress and a sedentary lifestyle. A number of people say they hold it in especially if they are at work or in social situations - better to let it go and we shouldn't be embarrassed about it either.
How do you know if you're constipated?
Unless you're a small child and you find poop hilarious, it's still a relatively taboo subject. If we don't talk about it, how do we know what is normal in terms of the frequency and consistency of our bowel movements? Is there actually a normal? We are all unique after all.
In Health Coaching, we're aiming for bowel movements to be between 1 and 3 times per day. We use a tool called The Bristol Stool Chart to establish the current state.
What does it mean and how does it impact me?
Releasing stools is one part of the bodies detoxification pathway system so it's better to have more regular movements. There are debates around whether it can result in toxins remaining in the body or not. There is a lack of scientific studies to support either side of that debate so we remain unclear on that. for now. However, if part of the process is removing toxins, and we're not "going" as frequently as we should then it suggests there may well be. Until we get the facts I guess it's best to remain on the fence with that one.
However, being constipated can often result in straining, leading to problems such as haemorrhoids. and anal fissures that get itchy and uncomfortable, moving on to more serious matters like prolapse
What can you do about it?
There are many products claiming to support and relieve symptoms of constipation. I always recommend natural remedies and treatments, over and above over the counter products. Below are some examples:
Increasing water intake to 6-8 glasses per day
Increasing the amount of insoluble fibre in your diet. Insoluble fibre includes nuts and seeds, cucumber, cabbage, courgettes, celery, broccoli and whole grains
Swap over the counter meds with natural laxatives like prunes, figs, apricots, flaxseed and aloe vera juice
Find stress management strategies that work for you. Maybe it's working on breathing techniques or swapping high impact gym classes for something more relaxing like Yoga or Pilates
There are plenty of alternative, holistic therapies for you to consider too:
A quick search on Google or Instagram will lead you to your local practitioners for these areas of expertise. It's worth getting in touch with the experts to see if they can support you, they usually can. During my own research, I reached out to many holistic therapists who were very knowledgeable and had something to offer for this condition. Don't be embarrassed and don't be afraid, there is no need to suffer in silence and there are so many people available to offer their expertise and to help get you on the road to recovery.
Moving more will help you and it doesn't need to be the high impact stuff if you're not ready for that yet. Try walking alongside the tips above, it's free and so beneficial. I wrote a blog about walking here if you're interested. Yoga is brilliant for both stretching and relaxation so it may well help you. Again there are free options available on channels such as YouTube. Yoga with Adriene is a very popular choice (one of my personal favourites). Click the link here to have a look.
Don't be embarrassed or afraid to talk about it
Reach out and ask for expertise and help from your local practitioners
Try natural fresh products to replace over the counter laxatives
Up your fluids. I know you know this but sometimes it's easy to forget so a gentle reminder is all that's needed
Find stress management techniques that work for you
You are not alone, NHS states 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 3 children suffer from constipation
If you are suffering from constipation and would like to chat about it, why not get in touch via Instagram direct messages @healthstepsuk. I'd love to hear from you about this.