Alongside the emotional highs of pregnancy come the physical lows resulting from the thousands of physiological changes that transpire during the nine-and-a-half months. With soaring hormones, increased energy requirements, and the demanding job of building a baby, a pregnant woman’s body has so many new tasks to take care of that many of the body’s regular functions can suffer. This is often very true in relation to bowel regularity-one of the most common pregnancy complaints reported by women.
If you find yourself struggling with constipation and the discomfort that follows, don’t despair as there are many simple habits you can adopt that will help get things moving again. Even though pregnancy may have you drained, it is important to ensure you are taking care of your body and encouraging daily elimination. If not, waste material can accumulate in the body and cause you to feel even worse than you do already.
By now we have all heard about fiber’s importance in relation to regularity. Fiber acts like a rake in the body to help to sweep waste material along. When food is eaten, your body takes the carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals that it needs out of the food, and it leaves the rest to be excreted. This process should happen with relative frequency. Otherwise food matter can start to decompose within the digestive tract.
Most people in North America don’t include nearly enough fiber in their diets. The average person consumes only about 11 to 12 grams a day, with the minimum requirement being 25 grams. For a pregnant woman with nausea or specific food aversions, this may be even more challenging. Yet, it is still very necessary. It is important for a pregnant woman to examine her diet and ensure she is getting adequate amounts of fiber by eating good sources like whole grains, beans, lentils, fruits, and vegetables.
Inadequate water and fiber are the two most common reasons for constipation. The two have an important relationship because ample water is vital to move fiber through the digestive tract. When you increase your fiber intake, it is essential to increase water consumption, if it is not already at an adequate level. Try to consume eight glasses of water per day. If you find this number difficult to believe possible, keep in mind that the more water you drink, the thirstier you become!
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are a key nutrient for health during pregnancy for many reasons. One of the lesser known reasons is its function in preventing constipation. EFAs act as a lubricant for the colon. It is this role that allows for improved bowel function. If you are not doing so already, try adding 1,000 mg of purified fish oil in supplement form to your daily diet. Today, fortunately, lemon flavored versions are available for pregnant women with sensitive stomachs.
Probiotics are good bacteria that are critical for the health of our digestive tract. They are helpful to fight against constipation since they assist in the final steps of digestion to soften stools and help stimulate peristalsis (the muscle contractions which are necessary to move waste out of the body). Often pregnancy disrupts the delicate balance between the good and bad bacteria groups in your colon which negatively affects bowel health and function.
Probiotics are completely safe. They are found in yogurt and kefir, and can be consumed daily without risk of side effects. If you choose to purchase probiotics it is recommended you keep them in your fridge to protect them because they are light and heat sensitive. They can be found in capsule form often under the names Acidophilus or Bifidus, or you can purchase a liquid product.
Magnesium is a wonderful mineral that can help support proper bowel function by relaxing the muscles along the digestive tract. Some of you may be familiar with milk of magnesia which has long been used as a remedy to assist people with constipation. Magnesium is found abundantly in food, but when it comes to helping move the bowels along, it may require short term supplementation. Speak to your health care provider regarding proper dosages. Usually 250 mg of magnesium right before bedtime will do the trick. It can also help you have a more restful sleep.
Because constipation is a subject most people don’t feel comfortable talking about, it often gets ignored. However ignoring the problem will only make things worse. In most cases, constipation can be dealt with easily and safely by simply addressing the root of the problem. If it is fiber or water you are lacking, increase your intake. If that doesn’t solve the problem, try adding the other essential nutrients that are necessary for healthy bowel function. Your body will thank you for it.