Constipation is uncomfortable and can have serious long-term health effects, from our moods to joint pain and loss of appetite to severe long-term stomach pain requiring visiting the hospital. (2)
Let's explore the role of diet and constipation; this blog will discuss why we become constipated and why lacking fibre, protein, carbohydrates, and water can cause constipation. How much fibre, protein, carbohydrates and fat must you intake daily to eliminate constipation? What are the benefits of increased fibre and protein on the gut and the gut bacteria?
What is constipation?
According to the NHS, constipation is a common digestive problem that affects 1 in 7 adults (10). The typical symptom of constipation is having fewer than three bowel movements per week, with hard, dry stool and difficulty passing. Many say it feels like you squeeze and push, but you still feel full. You may even begin to feel stomach aches and cramps. The discomfort that comes with constipation can start at any age of life, and many note that they can sometimes see it happen when they have made drastic diet changes.
Bristol Stool Chart and Constipation
When talking with people suffering from constipation, they mention the stool as lumpy or small hard lumps. When we show them the Bristol Stool Chart, they often say it looks like either Type 1, Type 2 or a harder version of Type 3! The Bristol Stool Chart is a good way of diagnosing if you are constipated or have diarrhoea, and many suggest whether you have IBS.
What is normal on the Bristol Stool Chart?
The ideal stool is in the middle of Type 3 and Type 4. Where the stool is firm, not too watery and comfortably passed out. Many find this type of stool when we eat a balanced diet of fibre, protein and carbohydrates.
How diet and fibre affect constipation?
Diet plays a vital role in preventing and managing constipation, and one of the most important dietary factors is fibre. Many notice that when they change their diet, such as going keto, paleo or even vegan, they can see and feel changes in their stool and constipation symptoms.
Fibre is a carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Fibre helps to not only bulk up stool but help stool move much more quickly through the gut. (5)
Why do we become constipated when we don't have enough fibre?
Fibre is a carbohydrate, and as mentioned, found in plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. It's why many who move onto plant-based diets have seen their constipation disappear. (5) There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance that slows down digestion and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass. Both types of fibre are essential for digestive health.
When we don't consume enough fibre, our stool becomes hard, dry and difficult to pass. This is because fibre adds bulk to the stool, which helps to move it through the gut and colon. Without enough fibre, the stool moves slowly through the digestive tract, making it dehydrated and more difficult to pass.
In addition, low-fibre diets can lead to poor gut health and bacteria, contributing to constipation. (7)
How much fibre should I be eating per day?
- Adults need 30 grams of fibre per day
- 11 to 16 years need 25 grams of fibre per day
- 5 to 11 years need 20 grams of fibre per day
- 2 to 5 years need 15 grams of fibre per day
The UK Government (11) recommends that adults eat at least 30 grams of fibre daily. According to the latest figures, the average fibre intake of a UK adult is 18 grams, much less than it should be.
How can I increase my fibre intake?
It all comes down to the food you eat. You need to find fibre-rich foods; anything with 6g per 100g is considered high fibre. However, it would help if you had variety, such as fibre from fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lentils and beans.
We put together foods you can quickly add to any meal, from nuts and seeds to veggies and fruits packed in fibre! (9)
Here is an example of some foods in high fibre:
|Food||Fibre per 100g|
2g per slice
What are the benefits of fibre, protein and fat on the gut and gut bacteria?
Increasing your fibre, protein, and a good fat intake source can benefit your gut and gut bacteria. Fibre acts as a prebiotic, providing food for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. (7,8)
When you begin making these changes to your diet by including good sources of fibre, protein and fat, you will help to increase the diversity and abundance of these beneficial bacteria, which can have many health benefits, including:
- Improved digestion and regularity
- Reduced inflammation
- Increased nutrient absorption
- Improved immune function
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
In addition, protein and fat are essential for the growth and maintenance of the cells in your gut lining, which can help improve gut barrier function, reduce inflammation, and promote overall gut health.
Making these little changes, such as eating fruit such as bananas and pineapples or adding in veggies such as peas, can have a massive positive impact on your gut health.
How should I begin increasing my fibre intake?
Like anything, take your time! Increasing fibre too quickly can cause discomfort, such as bloating and gas. The gut needs time to adapt to the fibre changes. So, it's best to make these changes slowly. Even if it's simply adding some flaxseed, hemp seeds and nuts into your morning porridge or having a slightly greener banana before your dinner, you will begin to see and, most importantly, feel the benefits!
However, remember, WATER! Fibre draws in water to the gut, and if you follow our histamine protocol, you will need to ensure you drink even more water as Toxaprevent and Fibre both need water to transport through the system.
So, remember to have at least 300ml of water with every Toxaprevent dosage. When increasing fibre, aim to hit your target of having at least 2 litres of water daily!
What else can I do to reduce constipation and support gut health?
Does exercise help constipation?
Yes, it does! Exercise can ease constipation as the colon and intestines respond to activity. Several studies have mainly focused on light activity such as walking, Qi-Gong and even lightweight muscle workouts (2,3). The movement helps push the food through your gut and into the colon. In addition, light exercises can strengthen the intestines and the colon making it easier for the body to push the stool out!
What exercise can I do to help relieve constipation?
After eating a big meal, don't just get moving straight away. The blood rushes to our stomach and intestines to help digest the food and, most importantly, pick up the nutrients. Give your body a chance to digest, then start with some movement.
Exercises to help relieve constipation:
- Go for a walk; a brisk 15-20 minute walk can help push food down to pass out stool.
- Lightweight exercises such as bicep curls, squats, and even stretching while focusing on breathing can help push the food down and support the uptake of nutrients.
- Cycling, just a gentle bike ride or even exercising before eating a meal, can help digestion and break down the foods as the body craves food such as carbohydrates, fats and protein to replace and build on any nutrients used up part of the exercise.
Top tips for relieving constipation
Take it slow; we know how uncomfortable constipation, bloating and pain can be. Fortunately, making these small changes will have massive gut and health benefits. So remember:
- Drink plenty of water as you increase fibre. As fibre draws in water to the gut to help create stool
- Start slow; add a banana before a meal, and sprinkle breakfast or dinner with some nuts and seeds.
- Look at your protein and fat intake to help further improve your gut health.
- Aim to eat at least 30 grams of fibre per day for adults.
- Create an exercise plan, even if its a simple as going for a walk after a meal or waking up and doing some stretching.
- Remember, if you take Toxaprevent to bind and detox histamine, heavy metals, or toxins such as ammonium, drink a minimum of 300ml water with each dosage and increase your fibre intake!
These small changes will have massive health benefits not only to your gut but to your overall well-being!
- Aziz I, Whitehead WE, Palsson OS, Törnblom H, Simrén M. An approach to the diagnosis and management of Rome IV functional disorders of chronic constipation. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Jan;14(1):39-46. doi: 10.1080/17474124.2020.1708718. Epub 2020 Jan 2. PMID: 31893959.
- Sharma A, Rao S. Constipation: Pathophysiology and Current Therapeutic Approaches. Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2017;239:59-74. doi: 10.1007/164_2016_111. PMID: 28185025.
- Gao R, Tao Y, Zhou C, Li J, Wang X, Chen L, Li F, Guo L. Exercise therapy in patients with constipation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Scand J Gastroenterol. 2019 Feb;54(2):169-177. doi: 10.1080/00365521.2019.1568544. Epub 2019 Mar 7. PMID: 30843436.
- Chaplin MF. Fibre and water binding. Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):223-7. doi: 10.1079/pns2002203. PMID: 12756971.
- Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients. 2010 Dec;2(12):1266-89. doi: 10.3390/nu2121266. Epub 2010 Dec 15. PMID: 22254008; PMCID: PMC3257631.
- Cronin P, Joyce SA, O'Toole PW, O'Connor EM. Dietary Fibre Modulates the Gut Microbiota. Nutrients. 2021 May 13;13(5):1655. doi: 10.3390/nu13051655. PMID: 34068353; PMCID: PMC8153313.
- Fu J, Zheng Y, Gao Y, Xu W. Dietary Fiber Intake and Gut Microbiota in Human Health. Microorganisms. 2022 Dec 18;10(12):2507. doi: 10.3390/microorganisms10122507. PMID: 36557760; PMCID: PMC9787832.
- Hiel S, Bindels LB, Pachikian BD, Kalala G, Broers V, Zamariola G, Chang BPI, Kambashi B, Rodriguez J, Cani PD, Neyrinck AM, Thissen JP, Luminet O, Bindelle J, Delzenne NM. Effects of a diet based on inulin-rich vegetables on gut health and nutritional behavior in healthy humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Jun 1;109(6):1683-1695. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqz001. PMID: 31108510; PMCID: PMC6537941.
- Akbar A, Shreenath AP. High Fiber Diet. [Updated 2023 May 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK559033/
- Masrul M, Nindrea RD. Dietary Fibre Protective against Colorectal Cancer Patients in Asia: A Meta-Analysis. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2019 May 30;7(10):1723-1727. doi: 10.3889/oamjms.2019.265. PMID: 31210830; PMCID: PMC6560290.