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Are you feeling bloated? Constipated? Maybe even both? Do you feel uncomfortably full all the time? On occasion, it happens to everyone, right? But when it occurs more frequently, it could be a sign of a far bigger problem. Now, there is no cause for alarm just yet. Instead, let's look at the bigger picture of what impacts our digestive regularity. Then, work to fix it.
Some combat bloatedness and constipation using immediate solutions like fast-acting medications. They drink laxatives and even take prescription medications to help quickly ease the pain. But turning to laxatives and other medications can sometimes do more harm than good, especially over the long term. Plus, it does not address the root causes of the problem.
Instead, we must address the primary factors that impact our digestive systems. The truth is that most of us are not healthy all the time. And a large part of what we put into our bodies impacts our digestive regularity. But that does not mean you need to poop three times per day to consider yourself healthy.
Keep in mind that this is not medical advice. If you are experiencing severe constipation, bloating, cramping or other gastrointestinal issues like IBS regularly, consult your doctor immediately. Outside of that, there are ways you can mitigate the problem in the future. How? Simply by focusing on a few fundamental elements that impact your diet and overall health.
The truth is this. There is no universal answer to what causes bloating and constipation. But bloating and constipation are related. We usually feel bloated when we are constipated. Unable to poop for extended periods has detrimental effects on the digestive system. Why? Because bacteria in our large intestines feed on the carbohydrates in our stool, creating gas.
However, the longer we are constipated and unable to poop, the more the bacteria ferment in the large intestine, causing more and more gas to build up. So if you cannot poop, the gas continues to build up, becoming incredibly uncomfortable and even painful for some. Of course, a large part of this has to do with our diets, but that is not the complete picture.
We need to look at a few key areas to address the root causes of bloating and constipation. First is what we put into our bodies. The second is what we do not put into our bodies. And the third is the environmental factors that impact our health. Each of these areas affects our digestive regularity. And when one is off, it can throw the entire system into disarray.
Our digestive system is an evolutionary marvel. It has evolved over millions of years, and it can withstand just about anything for a limited time. But that does not mean it will not break down if we continue to feed it the wrong things. That is why what we put into our bodies is vital. Do not expect good results if you put bad things into your body.
But the best part about this? It is a quick and easy fix. Old habits die hard. But if your overall health is suffering, the time to change your diet is now — not tomorrow. So what types of things have harmful effects on our digestive systems? While there are many, here are the major ones.
Avoid FODMAP (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols) foods. These foods produce gas when gut bacteria ferment these short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult to digest.
Some examples of FODMAP foods are as follows:
Also, avoid things like alcohol, beer, and carbonated drinks. Instead, drink coffee, tea, and even some flavored waters. Dairy products like milk and cheese are also a source of indigestion. Yes, they are rich in calcium but can be tough to digest. That is especially true if you are lactose intolerant.
There are over 100 trillion bacteria in your GI tract. That may sound like an absurd number, but those 100 trillion bacteria have numerous functions that are vital to immunity, digestion, circulatory, respiratory and more. All of the bacteria have their designated homes in your body. Meaning they are all pre-configured to live and function in specific parts of each of the systems in your body.
However, sometimes your bacteria go astray. For whatever reason, they somehow manage to end up in the wrong part of your digestive system. When that happens, we feel bloated, constipated, gaseous, and experience diarrhea. One common infection is called SIBO (small intense bacterial growth). It can occur for numerous reasons, such as after abdominal surgery, in response to medication, and more.
While there are numerous types of bacterial infections, what we put into our bodies can directly impact not only our digestive system but every other system as well.
It is not just about what we put into our bodies. What we do not put into our bodies can have an even greater effect on our digestive systems. Bloating and constipation have many causes. But one overarching theme is the lack of the right types of nutrients in our bodies. Most of these nutrients are vital to our digestive regularity.
For example, a lack of fiber can cause constipation. But it is not just a lack of any fiber. Because sometimes fiber can cause traffic jams in our digestive systems. Water-soluble fiber slows digestion. Some examples are beans, oat bran, barley, lentils, apples, peas, along with other fruits and vegetables.
The trick is to use water-insoluble fibers (aka insoluble fiber) to help increase digestion. Insoluble fiber draws the water into your stool, helping to make it larger, bulkier, and easier to pass through your intestinal tract. This comes from wheat bran, whole grains, some vegetables, spinach, avocado, walnuts, and more.
However, sometimes, adding insoluble fibers into our diets can seem difficult. For busy individuals who don’t have the time to whip up chef-prepared meals with all the right types of nutrients, they turn to dietary fibers such as this one. It contains the right blend of prebiotic fibers that help avoid those constant traffic jams in our digestive tract.
Prebiotic fiber is a dietary fiber that helps to feed friendly bacteria into your gut. It also has numerous immune system support benefits and helps to regulate and boost energy levels. In turn, it helps stop constipation, bloating, and IBS. It is a quick and easy way to add the right amount of fiber to your diet. Just add one scoop mixed into the beverage of your choice.
Water is a vital part of life. Humans require ample amounts of water to live and function normally. A lack of water can be fatal. Everyone knows that. But the truth is that we substitute other liquids for water. Sodas, beers, alcohol, and juices are not the same as water.
Although other drinks contain water, the body needs to process those to distill down the water. And that is not enough to keep the body humming along. When you hydrate, you also flush the toxins out of your system. It cleanses the body and all its systems, including the digestive system.
For digestive regularity, make sure you drink enough water. Not juices, beer, alcohol, or sodas. Water. How much, exactly? According to the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, roughly 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) for women. The water you drink helps to keep the food moving through your intestines, and does a lot to regulate your digestive system.
Most people have heard of the term probiotics. But not many understand what it is. According to Wikipedia, “Probiotics are live microorganisms … that provide health benefits when consumed, generally by improving or restoring the gut flora.” These help to regulate our digestive systems and keep food moving through our intestines.
Not only can probiotics help balance the digestive system by introducing friendly bacteria, but they can also help to treat and prevent diarrhea, improve mental clarity, boost energy, help with cardiovascular functions, and more. Good sources of probiotics come from dairy cultures such as yogurts, buttermilk, sourdough bread, cottage cheese, kombucha, and so on.
However, most people have a hard time introducing enough probiotics into their system solely through their diet. That’s why they turn to supplements like the Detox Probiotic or the 100 Billion CFU Probiotic. These are fast and easy ways to introduce ample amounts of probiotics into the system to drastically improve digestive regularity.
The final key area that leads to bloating and constipation are environmental factors. Your environment and the external stressors can play a big role in digestive regularity. For example, if you’re sedentary and don’t move around much, your digestive system will not thank you. Combine this with a poor diet and it’s easy to see why we feel so bloated and constipated all the time.
Instead, you need to get your body moving. If you feel depressed or stressed out all the time, and don’t feel like you can exercise, find small hacks. Park far away from your office or the grocery store and walk a long distance to your car. This way, you can get some much-needed steps in. It’s not exercising, but it is a start. And don’t be afraid to start small.
However, nothing beats a real sweat. At least 20 minutes of exercise per day can do wonders for your digestive system. Combine that with drinking more water and avoiding certain foods, and the changes can be dramatic very quickly. But we need to start somewhere. Don’t be afraid to start by walking around the block for just a few minutes every morning. Then, watch as you walk longer and longer every day. You just need to start. That’s all.
Stress can destroy our health and wreak havoc on our digestive systems. When the body is under stress, it releases stress hormones such as epinephrine. This is part of the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism that diverts blood flow away from all other systems and towards the vital organs such as the brain, the heart, and the lungs.
Stress also causes the body to release a hormone called CRF, or corticotrophin-releasing factor. It causes the intestines to slow down and become inflamed. Stress also increases the permeability of the intestines, allowing inflammatory compounds to enter. Plus, stress impacts the normal healthy gut bacteria in the digestive system.
Overall, if you have high levels of stress, you have to find an outlet. What can you do to relieve that stress? Can you go for a run? Workout? Meditate? Whatever it is, find a way to alleviate it so that the stress doesn’t cause long-term health problems beyond your digestive regularity.