Constipation is a common digestive problem that affects millions of people worldwide - It can be caused by a variety of factors, including a lack of physical activity, poor diet, and certain medications. However, one of the most common causes of constipation is a lack of dietary fibre.
In this blog post, we will explore the connection between fibre and constipation, and why it is essential to include fibre in your diet to keep things moving.
If you missed my previous blog post on constipation, let's quickly discuss what it is:
Essentially, constipation refers to the condition where someone has infrequent bowel movements (less than one per day) or has difficulty passing stool. This can lead to bloating, discomfort, and pain. Constipation can manifest in different ways for different people, ranging from days without bowel movements for some, to daily incomplete, dry, and brittle stools for others. Regardless of the manifestation, it's important to address constipation with a nutritionist to find relief.
What is fibre?
Now that we’ve established what constipation is and some signs and symptoms, let’s bring it back to fibre. Fibre is a crucial component of a healthy diet, and it plays an important role in keeping our digestive system functioning properly. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods that the human body cannot digest. It passes through the digestive system largely intact, adding bulk to stool and promoting regular bowel movements. It can be found in a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.
To add another layer of complexity, there are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It’s especially important in preventing constipation because it helps to soften stool and makes it easier to pass. It also slows down the movement of food through the digestive tract, which allows more time for water to be absorbed, making the stool softer and easier to pass.
Sources of soluble fibre include: oats, barley, beans and lentils, apples, oranges, and other citrus fruits, psyllium husk and chia seeds.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and passes through the digestive system mostly intact. It adds bulk to stool and helps it move more efficiently through the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre also promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation.
Sources of insoluble fibre include: whole wheat bread, pasta, and crackers, brown rice, vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and green beans, and nuts and seeds.
Why you need both types of fibre to prevent constipation
Both soluble and insoluble fibre are essential for preventing constipation. As mentioned above soluble fibre softens stool and slows down the movement of food through the digestive tract, while insoluble fibre adds bulk to stool and helps it move more efficiently through the intestines.
It's important to consume both types of fibre in your diet because they work together to promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. A diet that is high in soluble fibre but low in insoluble fibre may lead to loose stools, while a diet that is high in insoluble fibre but low in soluble fibre may result in hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass.
What’s the link between fibre and constipation?
When we don't consume enough fibre, our stools can become small, hard, and difficult to pass, leading to constipation. This is because fibre adds bulk to our stool, which stimulates the muscles of the colon to contract and move the stool along. Without enough fibre, the muscles of the colon may not be able to contract effectively, leading to slow-moving stool and constipation.
In addition to preventing and treating constipation, fibre has many other health benefits. It can help to lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood sugar, and promote healthy digestion. fibre has also been shown to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.
In conclusion, the link between fibre and constipation is clear: consuming enough fibre is essential for maintaining regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. By including a variety of high-fibre foods in your diet and staying hydrated, you can help keep your digestive system healthy and functioning properly. If you're struggling with constipation, increasing your fibre intake may be the solution you've been looking for. But, if your symptoms persist, it's important to speak to a nutritionist (like me!) to rule out any underlying health issues. Book a free discovery call with me to get to the root of your constipation today.