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The most effective way for Indians to relieve constipation

The daily stress we face, the junk we eat and medicines such as antacids and antibiotics all add to the problem.

 |  Hello, Health  |  4-minute read |   28-02-2017
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It’s a fact that constipation plagues those who are trying to lose weight big time. I hear about how it messes up their good intention and worthy efforts and adds inches to their waistline, all the time. It irks them excessively, as when loss does not show on the scale, it disappoints even the most optimistic of them.

While I am a firm believer of not depending just on what the scale in showing to gauge progress, constipation is one problem, I believe, everyone, whether on a weight loss diet or not, definitely needs a solution for. As even though constipation is not dangerous, it is uncomfortable most certainly.

consti-fibre_022817044027.jpg Lifestyle changes like increasing fibre intake help prevent constipation.

I did write about it earlier covering the broad basics and lifestyle changes like increasing the fibre intake, enough hydration etc, that help prevent constipation, but sometimes one needs damage control tips. So below is a list of strategies that can help reverse constipation.

First, what not to eat.

Constipation clearly means the gut is overburdened, so it helps to go gluten- and dairy-free for a couple of days. Yoghurt is fine but skip other dairy products. Similarly skip wheat, barley, rye, and have more of ragi, amaranth, rice instead.

Magnesium deficiency is behind constipation very often, and unfortunately we don’t really get enough of this important mineral through our diet. In fact, magnesium deficiency is the most common deficiency worldwide (after Vitamin D), yet most of us are not even aware of its importance.

The daily stress we face, the junk we eat (sodas deplete magnesium from our body), medicines like antacids and antibiotics all add to the problem, as they leech the mineral away. So upping magnesium is a good idea because of its laxative effect; it draws water into the stools, making them softer and easier to pass.

We need about 400mg daily. Best sources are: dark leafy greens, specially spinach, most nuts, seeds, specially pumpkin and sunflower seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, egg plant, and unsweetened cocoa.

Similarly Vitamin C is also an effective natural remedy for constipation as this vitamin helps increase bowel movements and thus shows a laxative effect. Kiwi, alma (gooseberry), citrus fruits are good bets. Citrus fruits also contain a flavonol called naringenin, the laxative effects of which research has recently uncovered.

Good fat helps move the gut better too, so try to have a serving or two of fish every week, sprinkle some flax seeds or sesame seeds on your cereal/smoothie daily, and as MCT (medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fatty acid) is one of the best "laxatives" available include some coconut oil, cheese and butter in your diet too.

Prunes help a lot, as besides fibre, they also deliver fructans and sorbitol, fermentable sugars that have a laxative effect. So stock up on these.

It helps to focus on foods rich in a special type of fibre called resistant starch (RS). Green banana, slightly raw bananas, seeds, oats, peas, potatoes, yams, lentils (like chickpeas, kidney beans and more), corn, barley, cold pasta and rice are good RS sources.

One smart advice here is to definitely include some high RS foods in the breakfast — will keep one full for long and help cut constipation.

A cup of java also helps some people as coffee stimulates muscle contractions in the colon, which may help some go to the bathroom.

But be careful as too many cups can dehydrate you and make the situation worse. In fact, sometimes all you need is a hot liquid (any) to help move the bowels. So maybe try out a bowl of soup or just warm water. Or sip a cup of mint or ginger tea, as both have an antispasmodic effect that relaxes the muscles of the digestive tract and help alleviate constipation.

Peppermint contains menthol, and ginger is a "warming" herb that causes the inside of the body to generate more heat and help speed up sluggish digestion. Dandelion tea is another  gentle laxative and detoxifier.

Finally hydration is essential, as without enough water none of the above strategies will actually work. So tank up on water every day!

Also read: Your pot belly can cut your lifespan. Shake it off


Kavita Devgan Kavita Devgan @kavitadevgan

The writer is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don't Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).

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