Writing a blog that centres around health and well-being throughout pregnancy; I often draw from my own experiences – revealing the good, the bad and the darn right ugly. During previous posts I have made no secret of divulging the ugly side of the digestive health problems and discomfort I faced throughout my first pregnancy.
After-all, that was just one of the many reasons that motivated me to embark on this journey in the first place.
When I use the term ‘discomfort’ I should emphasise this is probably the most discreet and subtle term I can use, but there were days when I was literally too scared to sit on the loo for fear I might push that baby out.
I did not help myself in any way when it came to the foods I was eating and at the time I did not even think to consider alternative ways to help myself. I took it as an uncomfortable and foreseeable part of pregnancy.
The solution – I guzzled on so much Fibrogel anyone would think I had shares in the company and yes; whilst it works, its still only a temporary fix and sooner or later I was back to square one wondering how much longer I could go on battling the discomfort.
So, during my second journey into pregnancy I wanted to explore alternative and natural option, plus by the time we decided to try again for baby number 2, I was well on my way to a healthier approach to the foods I was eating and the benefits of eating the right stuff.
Prune juice was another one of my go to solutions during the first pregnancy.
To say I dislike prunes / prune juice would be an immense understatement. My poor husband would have to pour it down my throat while I held my nose and closed my eyes; much like a small child trying broccoli for the very first time.
Of course, the downside of prune juice; like so many shop-brought concentrated juices is the sugar content which, if you are suffering with diabetes is just going send your blood sugar levels sky rocketing.
Having spoken to many of my mummy friends and expectant friends at the time regarding this issue it was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone.
In fact, up to half of all pregnant women suffer from constipation at some point during their pregnancy and we can yet again thank those pesky hormones for it, and if we’re naming and shaming here then yes, that’s you Progesterone.
The reasons for a sluggish digestive system during pregnancy
Is that progesterone relaxes the smooth muscles throughout the body which includes those in the digestive tract resulting in the food we eat passing through the intestines more slowly. Combined with taking iron supplements which can also contribute to constipation making it worse; it is little wonder really why so many of us suffer with this unpleasant and often distressing side effect of pregnancy.
If you use a search engine to find a solution to constipation during pregnancy; you’ll be hit with a barrage of useful hints and tips such as adding fibre rich foods to your diet including cereals, wholemeal, fruits and vegetables; or the suggestion to try fibre supplements (see point above) and of course exercise as it’s known to increase your bowel motility. All great advice but sometimes just not possible.
Cue morning sickness, exhaustion and an aversion to vegetable and all things green…My saving grace the second time around was Linseed. Who knew this tiny seed could prevent me so much distress?
Linseed and its benefits on digestion
The Linseed plant’s Latin name is Linum usitatissimum which literally translated means ‘most useful’. I’ll bloody say!! The Linseed or flaxseed as its’ sometimes known is an excellent source of fibre and is rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre and, sprinkled on cereal or included in cakes, breads, smoothies, granola bars soups, salads and yogurts is incredible – a small amount really does go a long way.
The fibre in linseed is less harsh than that of wheat bran and therefore more soothing on your bowel and stomach too.
So, if like me and countless other women out there who are suffering with constipation or just feeling a little sluggish; please give Linseed a go before reaching for the shop brought fibre supplements. Just remember to drink plenty of water with them and of course if you’re suffering from any bowel issues such as diverticulitis then avoid and of course, for specific questions regarding your diet or if you feel that you need extra assistance, please do contact your doctor or midwife to seek guidance.
When it comes to fibre, you’ll often see two types listed-
1. Soluble Fibre
2. Insoluble Fibre
As well as the benefits of fibre when it comes to our digestion, the role of fibre also helps in the protection against heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Turn away now if you’re squeamish but when it comes to the amount of faecal matter that we pass a day, it should be in the region of 12 inches, any less and you may be backing up without even realising. So, when I say 12 inches, I do not mean all in one go, but if you are having one or two decent bowel movements a day and feeling like you’re emptying your bowels then you’re doing well.
So, the current guidelines state that men should be getting around 34 grams of fibre a day and women 28 grams but if you aim for around 30 grams a day you will be hitting your quota.
Soluble fibre basically dissolves in water, producing a gel like consistency. It helps regulate and reduce LDL which is Low Density Lipoprotein which is basically the bad cholesterol that builds up in our blood and blocks our arteries. We then have the insoluble fibre which draws water into the bowel and helps us to pass bowel movements easier and more regularly.
I have added a list of my favourite foods that are also known to ease constipation as well as some handy tips for getting things moving.
You’ll find that many fruits and vegetables and particularly the ones I’ve listed below have a combo of both insoluble and soluble fibre.
Top Foods to ease Constipation
Prunes (not the juiced variety)
Prunes eaten on their own or added to cereals or combined with other fruit and topped with probiotic yogurt is a winning combo for combating the dreaded constipation. Prunes contain high amounts of fibre with 2 grams of fibre per serving which is about 3 prunes. The type of fibre in prunes is the insoluble fibre meaning it draws water to the bowel, softening the stool.
Apples are loaded with fibre, just one apple with the skin on has around 4.5 grams of fibre with almost 3 grams of that being insoluble
Pears are great for adding to smoothies as they’re soft and sweet and blend perfectly. They’re high in fibre with around 5 grams per pear. They also contain the sugar alcohol sorbitol which can act as a natural laxative as it draws water into the bowel
Adding figs to your daily intake of foods is a great way to boost your daily fibre intake. One small bowl of dried figs will pack in around 30% of your daily needs. Eat them on their own if you can or add dried to granola or a salad. Figs are a great way to boost your fibre intake and promote healthy bowel habits.
Get your fibre intake by adding an orange or two to your breakfast smoothie, peel first and remove the pips but keep all the pith on, or even better use the grated peel and add that in too. The peel contains pectin which is a soluble fibre and will speed up the amount of time it takes for food to pass through the intestines.
Sweet potatoes are mainly insoluble fibre and one potato is almost 4 grams of fibre. Keep the skins on and have baked with some baked beans or a big vegetable chilli.
Top Tips to help ease the back up
- Increase your fibre – include as many vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains as you can.
- When sourcing breads – stick with wholegrain always and if wholegrain flour isn’t listed as the first ingredient put that loaf back on the shelf and walk away. Bleached flour is not your friend ladies.
- Eat little and often if you’re struggling
- Stay away from any refined or modified foods (note above – avoid anything that contains bleached white flour which includes cereals and pastas too.
- DO NOT hold it in – if you have to go GO.
Good luck everyone; let me know how you get on and don’t forget to post a comment with any foods that may have helped you.