Constipation and the Importance of Regular Bowel Movement
As defined by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, constipation is characterized by the following characteristics:
- Fewer than three bowel movements a week
- Hard, dry, or lumpy stools
- Stools that are difficult or painful to pass
- A feeling that not all stool has passed
Constipation is considered a common condition that affects all ages. However, studies have found that it tends to be higher amongst older age groups due to inadequate fluid intake and physical activity, diet, complications of illness, medication use and general decline in digestion/absorption. Chronic constipation leads to negative long-term health effects such as rectal bleeding (bleeding resulting from continual strain to pass stools), haemorrhoids (swollen blood vessels in the lower rectum and anus), faecal impaction (faecal matter obstructs the path through the large intestine), renal prolapse etc. Chronic constipation has also been shown to adversely affect our mental health. Psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders and depression are significantly higher amongst those suffering from chronic constipation. As gut health is closely related with cognitive and emotional health, it is uncertain whether chronic constipation is a result or a cause of mental health problems. However, given our mechanistic understanding, it is likely that improving our gut health and alleviating chronic constipation would improve our cognitive function and mood.
3 Ways to Improve Gut Motility and Help to Alleviate Constipation
Constipation may be symptomatic of underlying health problems. It could also be remedied through lifestyle changes.
As defined by the World Health Organization, probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Microorganisms include bacteria, yeast for which there are many different strains. Probiotics, by definition, are beneficial for our health; however not all probiotics are equally effective to alleviate constipation symptoms. Certain probiotic strains such as Bifidobacterium spp., Lactobacillus casei rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri strains are known to be beneficial for promoting gut health.
These bacterial strains help to alleviate constipation through various mechanisms, such as promoting gastrointestinal motility, softening stool. KOSO contains a wide variety of probiotics, including various bifidobacterium and lactobacillus species which help to promote gut health and regularity.
2, Diet (Fibre and prebiotics)
A healthy diet rich in fibre-rich foods such as unprocessed whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds is foundational for good digestion and gut health. These are nutrient-dense foods which are high in fibre, vitamins, minerals, as well as antioxidants and phytonutrients which are protective against various types of cancers and promotes gut and overall health. Fibre is key in alleviating constipation. There are 2 types of fibre: soluble and insoluble water. Soluble fibre dissolves and absorbs water, expanding to many times its volume. Whole foods such as oats, beans, apples, peas and barley contain a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibre. In the form of supplements, soluble fibre can be found as chicory root/inulin, oligosaccharides, guar gum, pectin. Soluble fibre provides a source of prebiotics such as oligosaccharides which help nourish our gut microbiota and promote healthy bowel movement. Moreover, metabolism of prebiotics by gut microorganisms have been shown to produce beneficial metabolites such as essential nutrients, short chain fatty acids, and serotonin which promote whole body health. Insoluble fibre is the other form of fibre. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and tends to be coarser in texture. Insoluble fibre can be found as psyllium husk which is an effective supplemental fibre for alleviating constipation, though given its coarse texture it may not be ideal for those with gut inflammatory diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s disease etc. All forms of fibre, both soluble and insoluble, when consumed with adequate amounts of water, can help alleviate constipation symptoms and improve gut motility.
oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruit, carrots, barley, and much more!
Chicory root/inulin, guar gum, inulin
It is very important to consume supplemental forms of fibre with enough water (as indicated on the label), as inadequate levels of fibre can lead to impaction. As dehydration may be a cause for constipation, it is also important to keep hydrated by drinking fluid throughout the day. Oligosaccharides found in prebiotic drinks such as KOSO are beneficial for promoting gut health in many ways. It nourishes the gut probiotics, stimulates bacteria to promote health promoting short fatty acids such as butyrate, as well as serotonin.
Serotonin is often coined as the “feel-good” hormone, because it is associated with feelings of wellbeing, sleep, as well as a sense of tranquility and calmness. Chronic stress can lead to dysregulation in gut motility, constipation, as well as other gastrointestinal disturbances. Furthermore, it can lead to poor sleep quality, irritability, mood disorders and other health issues. Serotonin is produced both in the gut and the brain. As the gut and brain communicate with each other extensively, the health of one organ system (i.e. the gut) has undoubtedly been shown to affect the health of the other (i.e. the brain). The types of microorganisms residing in our gut will affect our gut health and balance, and also impact the production of serotonin. Serotonin promotes gut peristalsis and therefore affects our bowel regularity (healthy and regular bowel movement).
3, Physical activity
Excessive sedentary lifestyle and insufficient physical activity has been associated with higher rates of constipation. Moderate to vigorous physical activity on a regular basis has been found in clinical studies to help alleviate constipation in obese women, adolescents by increasing defecation pattern.
Constipation is a health condition that can lead to adverse long-term health effects if left untreated. For example, as 80% of serotonin is found in the gut, constipation resulting from inadequate intake of soluble fibre has led to low gut serotonin levels and low brain serotonin levels, manifesting as depression symptoms in mice. Although there are various reasons why one may be experiencing constipation, we can improve our digestive motility and alleviate constipation by improving our diet, exercising regularly and consuming probiotics. A healthy and balanced gut environment is very important. Probiotics and prebiotics in R's KOSO can help to improve gut health by providing prebiotics for nourishment, as well as a rich and diverse variety of probiotics which help to create a healthy gut environment. A healthy gut is essential for our mental, emotional and physical health as it can influence our stress management, sleep quality, digestive health and much more. Thus, consuming KOSO drink alongside a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will help improve gut health and help to alleviate constipation.