This week we’re taking a look at constipation, what causes it and how you can get your bowels moving again.
I’ve a couple of friends that suffer from chronic constipation(in other words one bowel movement every 3 to 15 days). They get medicine from the doctor to help them but as soon as they stop taking the medicine they get constipated again. If this is you, you might be wondering “What can I do to help myself?”
Well, it won’t surprise you to learn that you need to eat more fibre, but did you know that studies have shown that dairy products can be the cause of your constipation?
A study was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in October 1998 that showed that chronic constipation can result from cow’s milk. In a double blind crossover study with 65 constipated children they were given cow’s milk for two weeks or soy milk for two weeks.
As Dr McDougall in his newsletter says:
Forty-four of the 65 children (68 percent) had a response as defined as 8 bowel movements in 2 weeks. After reintroduction of the cow’s milk the constipation returned in 48 to 72 hours. Anal fissures and pain on defecation were resolved with soy milk. None of them improved with cow’s milk. The children were also noticed to have a high incidence of other allergic reaction to cow’s milk, such runny nose, asthma, and eczemas.
Dairy products can paralyze bowel activity resulting in constipation, and it’s the protein that’s the cause.
If you switch to eating a whole food, plant based diet then you’ll find that you’ll pretty quickly resort to having normal bowel movements.
If you find that this isn’t happening it’s probably down to that little bit of milk you’re still having in your tea or coffee or pouring on your cereal in the morning. If you stop using milk your constipation will be resolved.
But what about fibre?
You know that it’s the key to better health and better bowel health. You probably also know that plant foods naturally contain generous amounts of water and fibre and so they make your pooh bulkier and softer and so easier to pass.
If you don’t have fibre in your diet then you’ll find it harder to pass your pooh and you’ll make your bowel work harder (by contracting at a higher pressure to pass the pooh). If you’ve been doing this for years the heightened pressure can rupture the walls of your intestine so it has balloon like bulges, it’s these that are called diverticula.
A study presented in the British Medical Journal, July 2011 by Francesca L. Crowe found “Consuming a vegetarian diet and a high intake of dietary fibre were both associated with a lower risk of admission to hospital or death from diverticular disease.” This study was of 47,033 men and women living in England or Scotland, of whom 15,459 (33%) reported consuming a vegetarian diet.
Fibre is only naturally found in plant foods, meat, chicken, fish and dairy products are all processed and don’t naturally have fibre in them. If you kept a food diary for a week you’ll probably find that you’re getting just six to ten grams a day, way below what you really need.
So how much fibre do you need?
Ideally you should be eating 40 to 100 grams of dietary fibre a day. Try to increase your fibre intake gradually over two to three weeks so your system can adapt to the added bulk without causing you any discomfort.
Try also drinking at least 6-8 cups of caffeine-free liquid every day such as still water or herbal teas.
Here’s how much fibre I eat in one day:
Breakfast – oatmeal, one cup – 3.98 grams with prunes, ¼ cup 3.02 grams and two slices of whole wheat toast, 4 grams
Snack – one apple, 5 grams and one medium banana, 4 grams
Lunch – vegetable soup, 5 grams with two slices f whole wheat toast, 4 grams
29 grams so far!
Snack – one pear, 5.5 grams and one orange 4.42 grams
Dinner – chilli with kidney beans, 7.9 grams and brown rice, 3.5 grams
Dessert – one cup of strawberries, 3.83 grams and one cup of raspberries, 8.36 grams
And that’s 63 grams just like that!
Here’s the top 5 Plant Based Foods To Eat To Get You Moving Again:
I’ve shown the amount of fibre in each food in grams.
1. Legumes (cooked), serving size is based on half a cup
Kidney beans – 7.9 grams
Navy beans – 6.5 grams
Black beans – 6.1 grams
Pinto beans – 6.1 grams
Lentils – 5.2 grams
Black eyed beans – 4.7 grams
Chick peas – 4.3 grams
Lima beans – 4.3 grams
2. Pasta, rice, grains
Wheat bran, half a cup – 12.3 grams
Wheat germ, 3 tbsp – 3.9 grams
Pearl barley, half a cup – 3 grams
Whole wheat spaghetti, half a cup – 2.7 grams
Brown rice, one cup – 3.5 grams
Whole wheat bread – one slice – 1.9 grams
All Bran – third of a cup – 8.6 grams
Bran Flakes – ¾ cup – 5.3 grams
Oatmeal, one cup – 3.98 grams
Raspberries, one cup – 8.36 grams
Pear with skin, one medium – 5.5. grams
Apple with skin, one medium – 5 grams
Orange, one medium – 3.1 grams
Strawberries, one cup – 3 grams
Figs, dried – 1.6 grams
Prunes, ¼ cup – 3.02 grams
Banana, one medium – 4 grams
5. Cooked veg, serving size is based on half a cup:
Turnip half a cup 4.8 grams
Green frozen peas, half a cup 4.3 grams
Okra, frozen, half a cup 4.1 grams
Sweet potato, half a cup, flesh only 4 grams
Artichoke, cooked – 1 medium – 10.3 grams
Carrot, raw – 1 medium – 1.7 grams
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2013 and Harvard University Health Services
What do you think? Do you get enough fibre? Let me know what you think below.
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 Scheppach W. Beneficial health effects of low-digestible carbohydrate consumption. Br J Nutr. 2001 Mar;85 Suppl 1:S23-30.
 11. Iacono G. Intolerance of cow’s milk and chronic constipation in children. N Engl J Med. 1998 Oct 15;339(16):1100-4