Some of the home remedies for treating constipation during pregnancy include adding vegetables and fruits and adding whole grains to your diet, avoiding too much intake of milk, other dairy products and caffeine, eating green salads, having probiotics, taking dandelions, taking prunes, flaxseeds and psyllium husk, etc can reduce the incidence of constipation during pregnancy.
Pregnancy is a blissful time when you are glowing with radiance, buying cute onesies and painting little flowers on the nursery wall. However, one of the problems that may very well burst your cosy bubble of happiness is constipation. It is a nuisance at any given time. But when your abdomen is already carrying more weight than ever, unable to clear your bowels can cause a lot of discomfort, especially if you have hemorrhoids. It can even lead to loss of appetite, which is not desirable when you need all the nutrition you can get. However, it is not the end of the world; in fact, it is a very common concern among pregnant women. So it doesn’t hurt to educate ourselves a little on the topic.
What causes constipation during pregnancy?
There are actually not one but several factors that lead to constipation during pregnancy.
- Hormones: When you are pregnant, your body goes through a lot of changes, especially on the hormonal front. Normally, your intestines move solid wastes down by a motion called peristalsis which is alternate contraction and dilation of the intestinal muscles. But the pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes your intestinal muscles because that will help with the labour. But it also inhibits peristalsis, so you will have problems pushing the wastes out.
- Iron supplements: If you have been prescribed high iron supplement, it can also be a contributing factor to your constipation. While you should not give up iron tablets completely, consult your doctor if you can get some amount of the iron requirement from vegetables or foods with high iron content. Unless you are anaemic, this is a viable option.
- Other factors: If you are generally prone to constipation, the problem may intensify when you are pregnant. If you get morning sickness on a regular basis, you may be eating less than required for healthy bowel movement. Getting too little exercise is also going to create constipation problems.
Natural Home Remedies for Constipation during Pregnancy
Here are some home remedies that can relieve constipation:
- Olive oil and lemon: Take one tablespoon of olive oil and add a teaspoon of lemon juice to it. Mix well and have it every morning on an empty stomach.
- Lime and honey: In one cup of warm water, dissolve one teaspoon of honey and the juice of one lemon. Drink this every morning to relieve constipation.
- Molasses: Blackstrap molasses are good laxatives. To use this, add one teaspoon of blackstrap molasses to a cup of tea instead of sugar. You can also dissolve it in warm water. Drink this once every alternate day.
- Aloe vera: Alove vera juice can cool down your digestive system and relieve constipation. So take two tablespoons of aloe vera gel (best to scoop it out of an aloe vera leaf) and dissolve it in a cup of fruit juice. You can also blend the two together. Drink this every day.
- Epsom salts: Epsom salt draws water into the intestines, so it can soften stool and make it easier to pass through the system. It also contains magnesium which can stimulate the intestinal muscles to contract more strongly. This double action makes Epsom salt very effective in relieving constipation.
- Eat green salad: Green salads have lot of dietary fiber and they are also filled with liquids. These do the job of hydrating your body and also supplying your digestive system with the much needed fiber. Dietary fiber, as we know, plays an important role in reducing constipation. It adds bulk to the stool and helps in easy movement of it out of the body.
- Dandelions: Dandelion is a gentle laxative. So a dandelion brew is good for your constipation. Just pluck a few leaves of dandelion and bruise them in a mortar and pestle. Now pour a cup of boiling water over the leaves. Let them steep for fifteen minutes. Once the water has cooled down, drink this decoction.
- Bacteria: Your body needs good bacterial activity to properly digest food. If your digestive system is not working properly, constipation is inevitable. So keep your body’s bacterial flora up to scratch, eat a cup of yogurt every day as it is a natural probiotic. You can eat it during breakfast or throughout the day with fruits as a healthy snack.
Foods to avoid:
There are several food items that have been found to cause constipation. If you find them in your diet in copious amounts, you better replace most of it with some of the above listed items.
- Dairy: We all know how most women crave nice things like cheese and ice cream during pregnancy. However, they are high in fat content and have very low fiber content. As a result, they are bound to cause constipation. You can substitute ice cream with sorbet, which is water based.
- Red meat: Red meat is actually a very heavy protein. So when we eat red meat, we actually cut down the vegetable portion of our meal. This results in less than requisite consumption of fiber and hence, constipation. If you want to eat red meat, make sure you eat two portions per week. Accompany red meat with baked potato with skin or a big portion of salad.
- Refines flour confections: Many women crave cookies, pastries or cakes when they are pregnant. But these are made with refined flour which is high in fat and very low in fiber. To avoid constipation, replace these with high fiber desserts like fresh fruit salad, granola and yogurt parfait, caramel popcorn balls or apple crumble.
- Fried foods: Fried foods, slick with oil, are known to back up your digestive system. They take very long to digest and as a result, you are constipated.
- Caffeine: Caffeine can act as a laxative but if you are dehydrated, it can go the other way. In such a situation, drinking coffee can give you constipation
Exercises for Relief:
Constipation is greatly relieved by a little bit of exercise. Simply walking for fifteen minutes every day goes a long way in preventing constipation. Exercise optimizes digestive system functions. If you are used to jogging, your doctor may suggest light jogging even when you are pregnant. You can even try dancing or swimming. However, during pregnancy, all these should be done with caution. Consult your doctor before you take on an exercise regimen.
Some Yoga poses ( practiced under the guidance of a certified yoga instructor) also help relieve constipation:
- Child’s Pose
- Nadi Shodhanam (alternate nostril breathing)
- Bhastrika Pranayam on a regular basis
- Bhramari (bumble bee breath)
- Bhadrasana (Butterfly pose)
Alternative approaches: Some alternative therapies like aromatherapy, reflexology, acupressure or herbal remedies can relieve constipation. These are not proven remedies, so be cautious with these. Consult with other women who have adopted these therapies during their pregnancy or discuss with your doctor whether these can cause any complication later. To adopt these therapies, you would need another person to help you. Ask your partner or spouse or even a friend to help with acupressure or reflexology. Also, if you are adopting herbal remedies, cross-check them from several sources. Some herbs can create a harmful concoction for pregnant women.
Foods you should eat to avoid Constipation During Pregnancy
If you are constipated, you can eat certain foods to get relief. The main objective is to eat lots of fiber. Since our body cannot digest fiber, they help in passing of stool. So incorporate a lot of food items that are rich in fiber, such as:
- Beans: Half a cup of beans can give you at least 6 grams of fiber. You can eat canned kidney beans or chilli beans or incorporate beans in your salad. This is a delicious and healthy way to add crunch to every bite of a salad. You can also make a bean dip, like hummus, to snack on whenever you are hungry. Eat French beans, cluster beans, broad beans and cowpea with the pods intact. The pods of these beans contain very high amounts of dietary fiber.
- Fruits: Fruits are really good sources of fiber. Also, every time you feel like snacking on something, you can have an apple or banana instead of sugary or fatty snacks. One apple can give you around 4 grams of fiber, one banana can give you 3 grams of fiber and one pair can give you another four grams of fiber. In fact, a cup of strawberries will also provide you with almost 4 grams of strawberries.
- Vegetables: These are essential in your diet for their rich content of vitamins, minerals and also fiber. A cup of cooked broccoli will supply you with 4.5 grams of fiber whereas a cup of cooked carrot slices will give you 5 grams of fiber. Potatoes also give you 4 grams of fiber per cub. Two cups of raw spinach and one cup of cooked cauliflower both provide you with 3 grams of fiber each.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are obviously very high in fiber content. The bran, endosperm and germ all contain dietary fiber. Apart from providing you with fiber, it also fights diabetes and are chock full of vitamins. To add whole grains to your diet, eat whole grain bread, whole grain cereal, brown rice, whole wheat tortilla or pasta.
- Prunes: Prunes have been proven to be slightly laxative. This is why prune juice or eating them raw would help your constipation. However, check with your doctor to determine the dosage.
- Flaxseed: Flaxseeds are recommended for constipation. A tablespoonful of seeds need to be soaked in water for sometime and taken before going to bed. Flaxseeds absorb all the water and swell, adding bulk. This bulk contains a lot of fiber that helps in relieving constipation. Apart from this, flaxseeds also contain vitamins, minerals, protein, omega 3 fatty acids and fiber. So these small seeds are packed with nutrients you cannot miss during pregnancy.
- Psyllium Husk: Pysillium or ispaghula is also another remedy that can be used for controlling constipation. Psyllium contains lot of dietary fiber. As it starts moving through the lower part of the digestive tract, it absorbs good amount of water. This bulk of material pushes on the fecal matter, thus making a smooth bowel movement.
With these handy tips, your pregnancy can be a lot more enjoyable. After all parenthood is all about being happy and excited!