Constipation is a common and uncomfortable complaint in pregnancy. The mainstay of natural treatment is eating more fibre, drinking more water, and regular exercise, but there are also other things you can try which I will mention later.
1. Make sure you are eating enough fibre. Fibre bulks up the material in your bowel and helps to move it through. There are plenty of great fibre-rich foods to choose from including:
fruits especially berries, apples and pears
beans and legumes
wholegrains and popcorn
nuts and seeds
Eat these at every meal and throughout the day.
2. You need to drink extra water when you are pregnant. If you don’t drink enough your body will pull water from the bowel causing constipation. You should be drinking 2.5 litres per day. Warm drinks are better for constipation relief than cold ones. If you are still drinking tea and coffee these can be included in the 2.5 litres, as can one glass of fruit juice, but avoid any drinks with added sugar.
3. Take about half an hour of moderate exercise everyday, no excuses. This will increase circulation to your bowel and help it to work properly, and also increase circulation to your uterus and baby. Walking at a moderate pace is ideal.
Once you have changed these you should notice an improvement in your constipation. If there is no improvement you can then try:
4. Fibre supplements such as Psyllium husks or Acacia fibre add bulk to the bowel contents and absorb water helping the stool to pass. They are not digestible at all and just pass straight through the digestive tract. This is a safe and gentle way to treat constipation and is ideal in pregnancy, and also acts as a prebiotic.
5. Pharmaceutical products for constipation often contain magnesium. This is an essential mineral which regulates muscle contraction including in the bowel. I do not advise taking these products in pregnancy, especially if you have long term constipation. If you just occasionally get constipated you could try either Magnesium citrate or food grade Epsom salts, but follow the instructions to the letter, don’t overdose and make sure you drink plenty of water. It is better to include some magnesium rich foods in your diet everyday. These include:
spinach, kale and chard
brazil nuts, almonds and cashews
watermelon and pumpkin seeds
black beans, navy beans and mung beans
brown rice and buckwheat
6. Cod liver oil and coconut oil can also help if you are not too sick to take it. Cod liver oil is great for your digestive health. It contains omega 3 fatty acids which reduce inflammation in the gut. Coconut oil stimulates the bowels and has a lubricating effect helping the bowel contents to move along. Take a teaspoon a day at first and you can increase if necessary.
7. Prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for you and keep your gut healthy. Fermented foods contain good bacteria. The bacteria which reduce constipation include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. If you have taken antibiotics your gut bacteria will have been destroyed so you need to replace them by eating prebiotics, probiotics and fermented foods such as:
8. Avoid stress. Stress affects the digestive system causing it to constrict, slowing down the passage of the gut contents. Make time to relax, have reflexology treatments, chat to friends, take country walks, meditate, listen to music.
I have included many foods here so hopefully you will find something that you will enjoy that will help your constipation naturally.