By Lucy Gornall
How awful does it feel when you just can’t poo? Or when you haven’t been in 24 hours and suddenly you’re feeling, well, a bit full and bloated. Our health editor reveals which natural laxatives work for her...
I’m now a regular lady. My mood for the day will often be dictated by whether I’ve ‘gone’ in the morning. It’s taken me years to hit the ‘smooth digestion’ nail on the head. Intolerances and IBS have thrown a few minor spanners in the works, but all in all, I think I’ve cracked it. And it’s all down to the occasional colonic irrigation, a few nifty products, natural laxatives and hacks…
Natural laxatives that help constipation
Ahh the gut. Dubbed the second brain, our guts are worth looking after. Experts claim that a healthy gut can boost your mood, maintain a healthy immune system and even aid in weight loss. Plus, it can mean less bloating, and a smoother digestion. Probiotics, in basic terms, are good bacteria that help to keep our guts in check.
I take various probiotics, but my current favourites are Pro-ven Shapeline (£29.95, provenprobiotics.co.uk) and Optibac Probiotics Bifidobacteria & Fibre (£7.99 for 10 sachets). I notice a difference to my regularity when I don't take them.
Within 10 minutes of waking, I’m mixing a scoop of Chuckling Goat Complete Prebiotic powder (£59.95 for 3-week supply, chucklinggoat.co.uk) with water and spooning it into my mouth.
This powder has been a game changer; it contains 18 prebiotics and a 10g scoop provides 30% of your daily fibre intake.
Wondering what prebiotics are?
Nutritional advisor and founder of Chuckling Goat, Shann Jones, explains that ‘prebiotics are indigestible plant-based fibres that serve as food for your beneficial gut bugs’.
‘You can’t digest them, but your gut bugs ferment them to produce valuable short chain fatty acids, (SCFAs) that help reduce inflammation.’ This inflammation can include bloating, the bane of my life.
A shocking two out of three adults don’t eat enough fibre per day, according to new research by Hovis. Typically, fibre = poo. So if you’re not hitting your recommended daily amount of 30g, then the toilet situation might become a struggle.
Whilst fruit and veg does contain fibre, it’s grains and beans that will really pack a fibre punch.
Dr Megan Rossi (instagram: @theguthealthdoctor) explains that there's also some pretty convincing evidence that the fibre from wholegrains could help reduce your chance of developing several diseases including diabetes, heart disease and several cancers.
So ditch the carb fear because they can be great natural laxatives, and be sure to munch on plenty of fibre-ful carbs including:
- wholewheat bread
One-Pro Nutrition Bars
Whoever said chocolate snacks were unhealthy, clearly hasn’t tried these. My latest snack find, I’ve been having half a bar each day. Not only does a bar pack in over 14g of fibre, but it also has 17g of plant-based protein and less than 3g of sugar. Oh and it tastes amazing, with no ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
£2.59 per bar, onepronutrition.com
SHOP NOW: Protein bars, £2.59 each, One Pro
Plain kefir can taste revolting, but actually, I’ve started to like the taste and no longer squirm in disgust when I drink it. A type of fermented food, kefir is made from milk and kefir ‘grains’, which are a mixture of good gut bacteria and yeast.
Dr Rossi explains that fermented foods contain live microbes, which have been linked to a number of health benefits, including gut movement and function.
If kefir isn’t really to your liking, you could try plain yogurt with added cultures. It’s far more palatable.
Why does relaxing have anything to do with regular bowel movements? Ever found that during times of stress and tension, your stomach ties in knots and subsequently, seems to bypass the whole toilet thing!? It’s a similar scenario when you’re in an unfamiliar toilet environment. Personally, I can’t ‘go’ at other people’s homes. But I can step over the threshold into my own flat and within seconds, things start moving.
Shann explains that stress stops the digestive process.
‘Our stress response evolved primarily as a means of self-preservation, from our ancestors who were facing immediate, life-threatening situations. If you’re running from a sabre-toothed tiger, your body needs to prioritise blood flow to the large muscles of your arms and legs, diverting blood flow away from non-essential functions like digestion.
'Our bodies still function this way today - so when your stress response kicks in, your digestive system shuts down. Obviously this kind of response isn’t ideal for the type of chronic, ongoing stress we face in the modern world.’
Dr Rossi also adds that ‘you can have the ultimate gut-boosting diet, but if you’re not sleeping right or your stress levels are through the roof, your gut health will likely pay the price’.
Not ideal. So be sure to spend time winding down and relaxing with un-stressful people, doing un-stressful things!
Hot drinks and lots of water
The health benefits of tea and herbal teas have been written about lots. One of them can be their natural laxative effect. Fan or mint tea? Or turmeric? A boiling mug of green? Whatever your go-to hot drink, up the volume you are drinking. They act as a natural laxative and helps soothe my tummy and *cough* push things along…
In fact, hot water alone is often enough to do it. So, instead of cold water when I’m sat at my desk working, I drink my h20 hot.
Lucy Gornall is the former Health & Fitness editor at Future and a personal trainer specializing in pre and post-natal exercise.
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