Constipation is defined as you or your child not having had a poo at least three times in a week, poo being difficult to push out and larger than usual, and poo that’s dry, hard or lumpy. If there is insufficient dietary fibre or water in the diet, the faeces will move more slowly and there will be more time for water to be absorbed from the ingested food into the rest of the body, leaving the faeces smaller and harder. This makes it more difficult to move, resulting in constipation and generally feeling sluggish. Constipation could also result from lack of movement, various medications, stress, and unfamiliar environments.
The NHS recommends drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding alcohol, increasing the fibre in your diet, and adding some heart bran, oats or linseed to your diet to make poo softer and easier to pass.
Including some supplements in your diet may also be of benefit, according to nutritional therapist at Lexical Natalie Lamb.
Psyllium husk fibre
For those that need a little extra fibre, psyllium husk is a gentle fibre supplement known to absorb much more water than other common fibre supplements.
Natalie explained: “It forms a soft gel like substance, shown to be a much gentler than wheat bran and without the harmful side effects of laxatives.”
Natalie advised: “Studies have shown there to be an imbalance of the intestinal microflora of those with constipation compared to those without and live bacterial supplements have been shown to be of some benefit here.”
Prebiotics are the food source for beneficial bacteria residing in the gut. Bifidobacteria are more efficient at this process than pathogens, explained Natalie.
She said: “Found naturally in foods such as onions, garlic, asparagus, leeks and bananas or in a supplement form such as FOS, GOS or inulin.
“As a type of soluble fibre inulin is suggested to have a mild laxative effect by drawing water into the colon.
“Lepicol is a three in one combination of gentle psyllium husk fibre which contributes to the maintenance of normal bowel transit, five probiotic strains to help rebalance gut microflora and inulin acting as a prebiotic (food source for beneficial bacteria).”
Natalie recommended: “A magnesium supplement may help to relax the bowel muscles to kick start natural peristalsis, the muscle movement to propel waste material along the colon.
“I would also recommend that you keep your water or herbal tea intake up to two litres a day, eat at least five portions of vegetables each day, fruits such as kiwi and prunes, and eat meals slowly.
“Include some natural animal fats and perhaps include some exercise such as walking, swimming or yoga in your daily routine.”
Another common digestive issue is bloating, and supplements could also help get rid of this.