Constipation, the dreaded word no one really wants to talk about, but most have experienced. It can leave you with stomach pains, fatigue, cramps, headaches, poor skin and many other issues. As an athlete it can be quite painful, especially if you are trying to ride for hours on end or go for long runs. You don’t want a swollen cramping gut that’s for sure. Here are 4 tips to keep your bowels moving.
1. FLUID. Lots of fluid. I vote for water first. You can have all the fiber you want but you need to give that fiber fluid to create a bulk that will move through your GI tract. Some teas can help with constipation such as Licorice root, Burdock Tea, Senna Tea, Peppermint Tea and Clove tea.
2. FIBER. Over 25 grams of fiber per day is a good goal. Start measuring yours! Real fiber from real food first.
Insoluble fiber doesn’t absorb water and adds BULK to your stool, going through the GI tract relatively intact, speeding up the passage of food and waste.
PRUNES legitimately are a great choice. It’s not an old wives tale, they have actually been studied for relieving constipation. Their sorbitol and insoluble fiber are useful to get things moving. Go easy on them at first, some have stronger reactions to prunes than others.
Other good source of insoluble fiber are; celery, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, green beans, beans, dark leafy greens, whole grains and seeds.
3. MOVE. Twist your midsection. Exercise. Moving your body can literally help get things “moving”. Try doing some light yoga with twisting in the low belly and back area to help squeeze and release the intestines, encouraging movement.
4. CHEW your food. Chewing signals your bowels to start a natural snake like motion called peristalsis, which helps to move food along. If you always eat processed foods (many people) that don’t require chewing, or you eat so fast you don’t chew (picture eating while standing, driving, rushing here), you could be affecting your bowels.
Chocolate lovers…chocolate is constipating. If you are having major problems, lay off the chocolate. Other foods shown to increase constipation are bananas, meat and dairy (for some dairy will cause diarrhea on the opposite end of the scale.)
For some, coffee can act as a laxative as it is a stimulant and the intestines are muscles. It can speed up peristalsis thus reducing the time for the bowels to absorb water, leaving you with more runny stools. I wouldn’t rely on coffee as a means of having bowel movements however, as you want your system to work naturally without the aid of stimulants. Best to stop caffeine for a month or so and see what the actual health of your intestinal movements are naturally.
The sweetener called sorbitol can also cause loose bowels and cramps for many people. If eating processed foods, read labels carefully to avoid this potentially uncomfortable GI distress. Some sports products have sorbitol in them.
NSAG – Keeping things moving!