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Constipation is no fun. It can leave you feeling bloated, tired and uncomfortable. Most of us will have heard that the best way to develop better bowel function is to eat a lot of vegetables. According to conventional wisdom, vegetables are high in fiber and so prevent constipation. However, this is not always sufficient to maintain regularity. Some popular vegetables are not actually high in fiber. For example, there are only 1.3 grams of fiber in a portion of lettuce, while recommended daily fiber intake is 25-30 grams per day for an average adult. (Imagine if you only rely on eating more veggies, you’ll have to eat 25 bowls of lettuce!)
Rather than making superficial dietary changes, the best approach to prevent constipation is to make a series of lifestyle adjustments. Take the following five steps and look forward to better bowel health.
Try and get into the habit of going to the bathroom early in the morning. According to expert Dr Kenneth Koch, this is the best time of day to move your bowels. As you sleep, your small intestine and colon work to process the food you ingested the day before. This means that when you wake, your body is ready to release waste products. Moreover, our bodies like routine. When you make it regular, your bowel will get used to it and function better.
Did you know that the posture most of use when sitting on the toilet increases the risk of constipation? In a traditional sitting position, the colon is shortened, which does little to encourage the body to release feaces. Humans are physiologically designed to squat rather than sit as they use the toilet. Products such as the Squatty Potty can help by encouraging you to adopt a safe, more natural position.
Research shows that the healthiest posture to maintain when eating is one in which your shoulders are relaxed, with your feet in full contact with the floor. In this position, your body can make use of gravity in digesting your food. When you adopt a good posture, you also maximize the amount of oxygen that you take in via your lungs, which also helps your body achieve maximum digestive efficiency.
Sitting upright also encourages a confident, relaxed mood. Since the brain and the gut are intimately connected, any action that helps you stay relaxed will exert a positive effect on your digestive health.
White rice, pasta and bread may well be delicious, but they contain very little fiber and therefore increase the risk of constipation. For example, a portion of white spaghetti typically contains only 2.5 grams of fiber versus more than 6 grams for wholewheat versions. A 60 gram portion of wholewheat pasta contains over 9 grams of fiber, the equivalent of three oranges. You should also consider switching breakfast cereals. For example, bran flakes are a better, higher-fiber choice compared to regular corn flakes.
Vegetables may have a reputation for preventing constipation, but certain fruits contain significant quantities of fiber and should therefore be included in your diet on a regular basis. Papaya is a great choice for several reasons. Not only is it high in fiber and water, both of which prevent constipation, but it contains an enzyme called papain which helps your body undertake the digestive process.
A typical apple contains around 7 grams of fibre (while an orange only contains around 3 grams of fibre). Given that the recommended daily fiber intake is 25-30 grams per day for an average adult, eating a couple of apples per day could be a great way to help cover your needs!
Preventing constipation needn’t be difficult. Just by making a few simple lifestyle and dietary changes, you could soon be spending much less time in the bathroom.
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