Constipated? These Foods Will Help You Go Naturally

20/01/2016 11:48 AM AEDT | Updated 28/09/2016 9:55 PM AEST
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A young woman is touching her stomach because she has a belly ache

Let's be real -- no one really likes talking about constipation. There's nothing sexy about bloating, tummy cramps and the feeling that you're carrying around more than you should -- but chances are, you know what we're talking about, because it's happened to you.

So let's say you've changed your diet, or overindulged, or done any of the many things that can cause your bowels to block up -- how can you get back on track without visiting the chemist?

The first and most important thing to do is hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

"Most people get clogged up because they are dehydrated," nutritionist and founder of Sydney City Nutritionist, Jennifer May, told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Then they often make the mistake of seeking out the traditional method of eating more fibre. But the problem with that is, the more fibre you have, the more water you need. So you are starting from an already dehydrated base and then adding food that is going to make you even more dehydrated. The end result is you are going to be very clogged, feel very bloated, and it's going to be rock hard trying to get out.

"So my advice would be, first off, to try just drinking more water. Whatever you are drinking now, drink more.

"I'd also recommend adding fresh lemon juice. Lime juice will also work, but lemon seems to work better. That's what I would be doing on the first day -- just drinking lemon juice in water every time you are thirsty."

It's a sentiment echoed by nutritionist and health writer Michele Chevalley Hedge, who says not drinking enough water is a common cause of constipation.

"A dehydrated body is a dehydrated bowel," Chevalley Hedge told HuffPost Australia. "I would definitely be advising to get your fluids up."



OK, so drink more water. Now what?

Both Chevalley Hedge and May suggest an increased dose of fruit and veggies can help get things moving again, though some are more helpful than others.

"Kiwi fruit is a natural laxative and it’s delicious, so that’s a good one," May said. "Grapefruit is also fantastic. It's actually really powerful. I would recommend half a grapefruit before breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's rich in vitamin C and it also cleanses the liver and gets the gall bladder going."

"Fresh vegetables are good, for instance, celery and especially brassica," Chevalley Hedge said. "So things like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts, which are very liver cleansing."

Ground flaxseeds will also help move things along -- but take note, they have to be ground -- and chia seeds can also do the trick.

"Flaxseed meal works really, really well, but it has to be the ground ones -- just flaxseeds won't work," May said. "I'd recommend about two tablespoons of that per day.

"The best way to do it is probably to throw it into a smoothie, though it will thicken it a bit. I'd put it in with green things like kiwi and spinach, and mix it with water or a watery milk, like almond milk. I would stay away from actual dairy for the time being."

"Chia seeds are quite effective too. You could make a chia pudding -- just soak the seeds in water so they are nice and hydrated. Something like a choc-chia pudding made with raw cacao would be fantastic."

But what about some of the notorious methods, like prunes and coffee?

"Coffee is a little bit tricky because a lot of people, once they develop that dependence on it, their bowels rely on that coffee for stimulation," May said. "If you are regular coffee drinker -- and by that I mean daily -- then don’t stop, but just make sure you are drinking plenty of water in-between.

"If you're not a consistent coffee drinker, it's probably one of the worst things you could do.

"Instead I'd recommend green tea, which works really well, but it needs to be brewed quite strongly. It needs to taste bitter. To get around that you could add in lemon or lime juice, which would give you a double effect, because you have the lemon and lime working also."

"Prunes and dates, those types of things, they actually can sometimes come with a side disadvantage," Chevalley Hedge said. "While they might be fibrous, they are also high in sugar. You want to get the whole gut healthy, not just part of it."

"Prunes do work, but they need to be soaked in water," May countered. "Most of the prunes we buy have been dried to the point where they become useless. You can't put dry prunes going into a dehydrated system -- that isn't going to work. They need a little bit of water in them."

Finally, there are some foods which you should absolutely avoid if trying to encourage bowel movement.

"Avoid white bread and pasta," advised May. "Although to be honest, when you are that blocked up, you don’t really want bread anyway.

"White rice is probably the absolute worst thing for constipation. It's actually a really effective treatment for diarrhea."

"Steer clear of heavy foods like red meat and cheese," Chevalley Hedge said. "Bananas and rice will also bind you. So those things should be avoided while you’re trying to get your system back on track."

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