Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea - it's when stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it's drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated.
1 - Eat more fiber
You've probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fiber.
Dietary fiber is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fiber is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fiber helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fiber is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fiber that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fiber is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fiber from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It's the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fiber per day.
If you are going to increase your fiber intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically changing your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fiber intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fiber affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fiber may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.
2 - Drink more fluids
Since constipated stools are hard and dry, drinking more fluids can help keep everything hydrated and moist. This is especially true when trying to maintain a healthy gut every day, rather than when trying to deal with the problem of constipation after it has started.
And it doesn't only have to be water - watery foods like soups, and some fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your fluid intake.
Always ensure you're well hydrated, and drinking according to thirst; this is recommended for gut health as well as overall health.
3 - Probiotics
Probiotics are beneficial microbes that come in fermented foods and supplements. They have a number of effects on gut health and constipation. They affect gut transit time (how fast food goes through us), increase the number of bowel movements per week, and help to soften stools to make them easier to pass.
Probiotic foods (and drinks) include fermented vegetables (like sauerkraut and kimchi), miso, kefir, and kombucha.
More research is needed when it comes to recommending a specific probiotic supplement or strain. If you’re going to take supplements, make sure to read the label to ensure that it’s safe for you. And take it as directed.
4 - Lifestyle
Some studies show a gut benefit from regular exercise.
Ideally, aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days.
In terms of stress, when we’re stressed, it often affects our digestive system. The connection between our gut and our brain is so strong, researchers have coined the term “gut-brain axis.”
By better managing stress, we can help to reduce emotional and physical issues (like gut issues) that may result from stress. Try things like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
And last but not least - make sure to go when you need to go! Don’t hold it in because that can make things worse.
Optimal digestion is so important for overall health. Constipation is a common problem.
Increasing our fiber and water intake and boosting our friendly gut microbes are key things we can do to help things move along.
And don't forget how lifestyle habits can affect our physical health! Exercise, stress management, and going to the bathroom regularly can also help us maintain great gut health.
Have you found that fiber, water, or probiotics affect your gut health? What about exercise, stress, and regular bathroom trips? I'd love to know in the comments below!
Try out this delicious recipe for Steel Cut Oats with Pears!
We all know the frustration of working hard to maintain a healthy body weight, only to step on the bathroom scale and see the numbers going in the wrong direction - or not quickly enough in the right direction!
Here are 6 truths about those annoyingly normal daily weight fluctuations:
1| Scale weight is not a true measurement of your health. It is simply one of many variables you should be taking into account to determine if you are approaching or maintaining your optimal body weight.
2| When you wake up after fasting - usually for around 12 hours, you're completely dehydrated and at your lowest weight of the day. This is why it’s recommended to weigh yourself first thing in the morning after you’ve voided, and before you eat or drink anything.
3| Speaking of voiding… you can experience daily weight fluctuations of 1-3+ lbs due to waste that could be lingering in your large colon. Who knew poop could be so heavy?
Be sure to keep the bowels moving with plenty of fluids, plant-based fibre and targeted supplementation, if necessary.
4| Your scale doesn't just weigh fat. It weighs muscle, bone, organs, water, and as you just learned - poop!
When you lose weight, it doesn't necessarily mean that you've lost body fat as the average bathroom scale has no way of telling you what bodily tissues you've lost. Weighing “skinny” on the scale does not always translate into healthy off the scale.
FACT: The more muscle you have the more energy your body burns, even when you're just sitting around - due to the fact that it’s a metabolically active tissue. That's one reason why a fit, active person is generally able to eat more than say the chronic dieter who is unknowingly breaking down and losing muscle.
5| Likewise, the scale can't tell if you've gained muscle.
Building muscle makes it possible to drop clothing sizes (and lose inches) without a significant change, if any, in scale weight.
THINK OF IT LIKE THIS: a pound of muscle is like a small, compact brick, whereas a pound of fat is like a bulky, lumpy pillow. So that's why when you gain muscle and lose fat, your figure appears slimmer and more firm - but your scale weight may not change much.
6| For all the ladies out there...it's not you, it's your HORMONES!
Some women can gain up to 10 lbs right before or during their period. No joke. This is because of the natural drop in Progesterone just before your period often causes digestive issues like water retention and constipation. And, let’s not forget how heavy poop can be!
Our bodies also tend to lose Magnesium in the days before menstruation, which drives our Insulin levels up leading to an increase in food cravings - especially for sugar.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that keeps blood sugar levels in check but is also considered a fat storage hormone.
THE BOTTOM LINE: these yo-yoing numbers have nothing to do with your long-term progress and they are just part of the overall health optimization journey.
Simply do your best to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle and understand that daily weight fluctuations are completely normal!
“The scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it.
REFERENCES: New Health Guide: Weight Gain During Period
It’s official! Organizations and governments are (finally) declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake.
While this is a step forward, there are still a few problems. One - they don’t all agree with each other. And, two, I don’t necessarily agree with them either.
We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It isn’t full of nutrition, and excess consumption is not associated with great health.
The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.
So let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”
Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar. What do some of the officials say?
Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.
Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.
“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
So, "Total sugars" = "Naturally occurring sugars" + "Added sugars."
The "official" change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. You may remember that in Canada and the USA, they declare the amount of sugar, but don't give it a %DV (% daily value); this means, they've never had a "benchmark" maximum daily value to use. They haven't declared how much is too much. Now, both countries are implementing a %DV for sugar.
In Canada, the %DV is based on 100 g/day of total sugar. Unfortunately, this number is large because it includes both naturally occurring and added sugars. The %DV is in-line with the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation's recommendations of no more than 90 g of total sugars per day.
In 2008, the average daily total sugar intake in the USA was 76.7 grams per day; this is less than these two benchmarks. Yet, it doesn't seem that people are getting healthier. I'd argue that 100 g per day total sugar is still too high.
In the USA, the labels are changing too. They are not declaring "total" sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50 g of “added” sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men.
What is a better daily sugar goal?
While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would recommend.
For one thing, I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50 g of "added" sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.
Second, you don’t even need to max out your daily sugar intake. I promise! Try to reduce your sugar intake below these “official” amounts for an even better goal.
Tips to reduce your sugar intake
Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don't get too much:
Let me know in the comments your favorite tips to reduce your sugar intake!
A little self-criticism is a normal shared human mental pattern, and can even be healthy for the most part. But, we can also just as easily open the door to that overly vocal “negative nelly” voice in our head.
However, if your negative voice is preventing you from doing what you want or need to do in your life, then it has to get booted back out the door. This kind of mental chatter has no right to set up shop in your mind.
Deeply held negative beliefs, especially when they’re firmly rooted in your unconscious, stress you out, damage relationships and can greatly limit your potential for health and happiness.
If you’re sick of having the same old conversation with negative nelly, then be sure to try some of the ideas I’ve outlined in this article on how you can shift away from this damaging mindset, and finally release yourself of these limiting beliefs.
What are limiting beliefs?Limiting beliefs are the little, but persistent voices that convince you that you can’t be or do or have something due to a perceived inadequacy in some area of your life or personality.
Your negative nelly narrative usually goes something like this:
I won’t ever be [this]…
I can’t do [that]...
I don’t have [this]...
I don’t deserve to be/have [this]...
And, one really common one that comes up for many people...
I am not good enough.
Let’s change up the narrative you may have been having with yourself for a very long time!
Overcoming negative self-talk and releasing limiting beliefsYour limiting decisions have shaped everything you do, and they have likely prevented you from seeing opportunities and maybe even discouraged you from trying some things at all.
The good news is that it’s totally possible to permanently change a long-held belief -- even the ones that are lifelong.
You only perceive what you believe, so your beliefs shape the very world you live in.
But, when your limiting beliefs come into question, your whole world can experience a shift for the better.
Here are a few ideas to help you silence your inner critic for good!
When you find yourself feeling “stuck”, or repeatedly spinning your wheels on the same speed bumps that life might be throwing your way, it’s always a great idea to seek out the help and guidance of a life coach, counselor or therapist.
In addition to that, there are several things you can do on your own, in your own time and space...
→ The first step to releasing limiting beliefs is to shift your thinking into AWARENESS
Time to bring those disempowering thoughts out of hiding! Once you do that, know that you have choice.
However, just simply being aware or having knowledge of them is not enough, it’s just the first step. You must understand and truly believe that you have a choice about how to react to stressful situations.
→ Possible thinking, not just positive thinking
Your mind is a powerful thing, and when you fill it with thoughts of what’s possible (not just positive), your mindset will start to shift.
When you believe something IS possible, you will notice options and opportunities coming up for you that would simply not have be noticed if you did not believe it was possible.
With repetition, your positive feelings will intensify, the new neural connections will strengthen, and you’ll start to notice just how awesome this new “win” really feels!
Reminding yourself often of these little wins can further shift your mindset and help you embrace the bright side of your perceived “failures” or shortcomings. It also helps to simply accept that you are perfectly imperfect, just the way you are!
→ If you wouldn’t say it to your friend, don’t say it to yourself
Your limiting beliefs are assumptions you make about reality that often aren’t true. They aren’t helpful, and they certainly don’t serve you or the goals you want to achieve.
Ask yourself: would I say these negative, hurtful and unsupportive words to a friend?
→ Adopting empowering beliefs such as:
“It is not my job to please everyone else.”
“Just be me. There will never be anyone else like me.”
To swap out your limiting belief with a more empowering one, you’ll need to play a little mind game:
Convince yourself that the value you thought you were getting from the former limiting belief isn’t worthwhile, and that your new empowering belief can serve to fill this void.
→ Take some time and space that’s all yours
Ensure that you are creating space in your life for these new empowering beliefs. Take action and get into the habit of using your new beliefs as often as possible until they begin to feel comfortable, familiar and routine to you.
Just remember - you have the ability to harness the power of the possible! Overcoming negative self-talk and releasing yourself of limiting beliefs takes commitment, introspection and a good dose of self-confidence to make the necessary changes stick.
There’s the old saying that we view ourselves through a much harsher lens than the rest of world does. So, let’s try to bring our own lens back into focus.
Health.com: 9 Ways to Silence Your Inner Critic
Thrive Global: What are Limiting Beliefs and What Causes Them?
IQ Matrix: The Complete Guide on How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs