Constipation and How you can Take Steps to Avoid it

According to Ayurvedic practice, you are only as healthy as your colon. Proper elimination of your bowels should occur once (or even twice) daily. Stool should be roughly the shape and texture of a ripe banana – that is, well formed, easy to pass, and somewhat bulky. If elimination is less frequent, painful, or not as it is described above, this could be a sign of constipation. 

Why is constipation so important to avoid?

Well, in addition to that full, bloated feeling, constipation can lead to the fermentation of fecal matter, which irritates the lining of the colon and can also cause toxins to be absorbed into the blood. If it’s not dealt with and left as an ongoing problem, chronic and severe constipation can lead to leaky gut (a contributing cause of chronic illness and auto immune disorders), hemorrhoids, fissures (small tears), fecal impaction, and even a prolapsed rectum.

What are the symptoms of constipation?

Well, besides the obvious (infrequent bowel movements), other symptoms can be abdominal pain, bloating, and a sense of incomplete evacuation (i.e. feeling like you still have to go after a bowel movement).

What are its causes?

Aside from a poor diet lacking in fresh, non-processed whole plant based fibre rich foods, not drinking enough warm water, and stressful life events, some causes of constipation can be:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Non-Celiac Gluten sensitivity
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Celiac disease
  • Bowel cancer
  • Diverticulitis
  • Certain medications

An in-depth look at Ayurveda says that there are THREE different types of constipation that are dependent on one’s constitution:

  1. In Vata constipation, the stools are hard, dark, and can resemble rabbit pellets. This may be due to a lack of oil or fiber in the diet, and can also be linked to stress and anxiety.
  2. In hot Pitta constipation, the stools are smelly, sticky, and hard to pass. This is caused by over consumption of fried foods and/or red meat. Elimination often feels incomplete.
  3. In Kapha constipation, the bowel movements are large, but very infrequent. This is caused by a lack of motility and can be related to depression and hypothyroidism.

As you would anticipate, because there are three different types of constipation, there are different recommendations of what foods to eat to remedy each kind (based on “gunas” – qualities like hot and cold that determine how your body responds to different foods).

So, it is important to figure out what type of constipation you have, and then to come up with an individual and specific list of foods to eat and avoid. A consultation with your health practitioner is quite often recommended.

However, in general, these foods have been known to help stimulate the bowels:

  • Fruits – apples (cooked), plums, peaches, prunes, dates, figs, mango, apricots
  • Vegetables – aloe vera gel, avocado, rhubarb, sweet potato
  • Nuts/Seeds – chia, flax, hemp
  • Beans/Legumes – black beans, chick peas, mung beans, lima beans
  • Grains – oats, oatmeal (never buy the quick cook crap!)
  • Ferments – coffee
  • Roots – beets, carrots
  • Greens – dandelion
  • Oil – ghee
  • Sweeteners – raw unpasteurized honey, molasses

And, here is a list of foods that have been known to aggravate, or even cause, constipation and should therefore be avoided:

  • Sugar (including agave nectar, icing sugar, white sugar, and corn syrup)
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • White flour
  • Meat (beef, pork, and chicken)
  • Cheese

Further study on relieving constipation shows that several herbs (brewed into a tea) can help ease the pain and bloating that comes with constipation. Some of the recommended herbs are licorice, cardamom, and coriander.

As well, triphala (an Ayurvedic herbal remedy) has long been recognized as a gentle, yet effective bowel tonic.

As we know from previous topics, practicing an Ayurvedic lifestyle involves more than just food. In order to reduce the likelihood of constipation developing, try avoiding the following activities:

  • Suppression of the urge to pass gas or stool
  • Excessive fasting
  • Eating on the run
  • Not enough sleep
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Too much travel
  • Irregular mealtimes
  • Too much cold or stale food

Finally, make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Warm water is much easier for your body to digest, and it will calm an aggravated Vata dosha.

While this topic can be something of a bummer (sorry, we couldn’t resist) it is an important one. In Ki’s Kitchen we specialise in gut health and healing.  If you need help getting your digestive system back on track, please let us know. We would love to help heal what ails you from the inside out.

Thank you so much for visiting! I hope you have found some valuable information, if so, I’d love to hear about it!

Please feel free to share this post with anyone who might benefit, and comments are always welcome!

I look forward to connecting with you next time!

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