Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Diet Plans and lifestyle modifications
Constipation is a common issue affecting over half of those living with IBS. Lifestyle modifications or changes in diet can improve constipation.
The following dietary tips are used in my practice and have found helpful to support those suffering from constipation:
If you are often constipated, ensure to keep hydrated, especially during hot weather or heavy exercise. Drink ample fluids at mealtimes and during activities like work or school.
Be mindful that water isn’t a laxative. Water, alone, will not move the bowls! Unless you’ve been directed by a medical professional to do so, drinking an excessive or uncomfortable amount of water won’t help your elimination regimen.
Drinking a cup of hot beverage to start your day can help stimulate bowl contractions that are the most intense in the morning.
Caffeinated liquids can worsen your symptoms through dehydration (they are diuretic and make you pee a lot). Nevertheless, in certain cases, I encourage individuals to have a caffeinated beverage in the morning as this may stimulate bowel contraction.
Eating consistently stimulates gut movements that can relieve constipation. In this case, the adage “eat three square meals a day” is advisable as opposed to skipping meals or going for long periods without eating.
Cut down fermentable carbohydrates
Implementing a low-FODMAP diet can help those with IBS-C to reduce gas production, bloating, pain/discomfort and even improve bowel movement consistency. Fermentable oligosaccharides, also known as FODMAPs are short-chain fibres found in wheat, garlic, onion, and legumes. Their small size and solubility cause them to ferment rapidly in the small intestine and produce large amounts of gas.
Studies indicate that a low FODMAP diet can improve symptoms in IBS patients. But, because the diet eliminates several foods rich in fibre and prebiotics, you may need additional support strategies to avoid constipation while following a Low FODMAP Diet.
The Gut Loving Dietitian can help you design a personalized constipation management plan that may include a range of lifestyle modifications and possibly the use of supplements to get your bowels back on track.
Increasing your fibre intake has a variety of health benefits such as feeding healthy gut bacteria, bulking stool, and accelerating travel time.
Ensure that your diet includes foods high in soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre makes your stool bulky and soluble fibre creates a gel in your gut that helps food pass through the GI tract.
The low FODMAP diet eliminates several foods rich in fibre, and so it’s imperative to make sure you get an adequate amount of fibre, especially if you struggle with constipation. This can be achieved by incorporating wholesome foods, and supplements when needed. For example, you can eat low FODMAP high fibre foods such as canned chickpeas (1/4 cup serving at a time), lentils (1/2 cup), chia seeds (2 tbsp) with your meal. Be cautious when re-introducing high fibre foods to your low FODMAP diet. Slow and gradual should be your objective as this gives your body time to adjust. Even if the food you’re eating is “FODMAP friendly”, calculated, incremental increase in portion size is advised.
Fibre supplementation just might be for you! The following are excellent examples of supplements: sterculia and/or psyllium husk, oats, linseeds, oat or rice bran, aloe vera juice, and methylcellulose.
Psyllium husk has the best evidence to support its use as a fibre supplement if you live with IBS-C. Bring this up with your specialist dietitian if this may be suitable for you.
Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG), a water-soluble fiber with prebiotic activity, also has clear evidence supporting its use in relieving constipation, as it improves stool consistency, transit time, and stimulates growth of helpful gut microbes.
Probiotics are live organisms that provide a wide a range of health benefits. Probiotics can affect bowel motility and reduce constipation. Because probiotic science is complex and largely uncharted territory, more robust studies to determine effective probiotic strains, dosing, and therapy intervals is required.
Prebiotics feed the beneficial gut bacteria and are found in both wholefood and supplement form. Low FODMAP sources of prebiotics are scarce, as prebiotics are typically a FODMAP. However, regulated portions of unripe bananas, broccoli, and canned lentils are all good low FODMAP sources of prebiotics.