Nutrition for bowel health

Did you know that nutrition and diet patterns can help support the regular function of your bowels?

Your large bowel (aka large intestine) works every day to help you remove undigested food and waste from your body. Your bowel also makes important nutrients like vitamin K and biotin and reabsorbs water.

Nutrition and diet patterns can help support the regular function of your colon. Here are a few tips to consider:

Focus on fibre

Eat foods high in fibre like beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables and whole grains such as oatmeal, oat bran, and barley. Fibre absorbs water and adds bulk to stools, supports the increase of bowel movements, feeds healthy bacteria and helps to soften stools (making them easier to pass)

Most people consume less than the suggested adequate daily intake for fibre. Adults need between 21-38 grams of fibre every day.

The suggested adequate intake for fibre:

Women age 19-50 years: 25 grams

Men age 19-50 years: 38 grams

Women over 50 years: 21 grams

Men over 50 years: 30 grams

Eat regularly

Avoid going for long periods without eating. Eating stimulates bowel movement. Consume meals and snacks throughout the day to keep stool moving through the bowel.

Stay hydrated

Drink enough fluid every day to keep your stool soft. All beverages count as fluid (with the exception of alcohol). However, water is a great choice.

Be active every day

Exercise keeps the bowel active. It helps stool move through the bowel, and therefore helps to keep your bowel movements regular.

Do not resist the urge to go

Do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement. Water is reabsorbed in the colon, and the longer the stool remains, the drier or more difficult it will be to pass. Also, when you ignore that urge to go, you may stop feeling the need to have a bowel movement-this can lead to constipation.

Constipation is when your stool is difficult or painful to pass, or when you have less than three bowel movements per week.

Constipation is usually caused by:

  • Not eating enough fibre

  • Not drinking enough fluid

  • Not getting enough exercise

  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement

  • Certain medications and

  • Certain medical conditions

It is important to note that bowel movement patterns are not the same for everyone. Having fewer bowel movements does not mean you are constipated if they follow a regular pattern, and the stools are soft and easy to pass.

You should see your doctor if you have any of the symptoms listed below:

  • Constipation that does not get better, even after you have increased fibre and liquids for a few weeks

  • Constipation alternating with diarrhea

  • Development of hemorrhoids

  • Inability to control bowel movements

  • Rectal bleeding

  • Mucus in stool

  • Abdominal pain

  • Constipation accompanied by loss of appetite to weight loss

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