Monday, 26 August 2013

Does running help constipation?

Amongst the many benefits of running, it is helpful for constipation when combined with getting the right balance of fibre and fluids.  You can take my word for it - running does help - and believe me, you don't want me to go into the details.

Muesli with fresh raspberries 
Many people go through periods when the balance of food, fibre and fluids in the digestive system are out of balance.  When you "slow up" or even worse become "bunged up" this can give an uncomfortable feeling of being bloated.  Our modern lifestyles in the developed world do not exactly help with extended periods of inactivity (sitting in cars, at desks, in front of TVs, computers etc) and of course processed foods which lack fibre.

Fibre is also referred to as "roughage" by some people and it means the same.  Roughage is quite often the term used by elderly folk having had it drummed into them during their school days when it was essential that every child would be required to do the necessary "poo" or "bowel movement" early in the morning.  Failing to do so was a big deal.

What causes constipation?

  • Eating the wrong foods.  This includes foods stripped of their natural fibre which normally helps keep your digestion moving i.e. white bread (especially the "cotton wool" type bread many supermarkets sell as their budget range), white rice, white pasta.  Over processed foods and too many dairy foods often do not help.
  • Not eating enough good foods.  We need plenty of whole grains, fruit and vegetables in our diet to provide the natural bulk to keep things moving.  The Government and Public Health peeps recommend 24g of fibre each day.  Linked to that is aiming for 5 portions of fruit and vegetables each day.  Believe me, eating 5 different fruit or vegetables each day should be the minimum, not the "aim" as suggested by the namby pamby Government.  I think 24g is what they think they can get away with, without scaring people off.
  • Not drinking enough fluids.  Tea and coffee don't necessarily help.  Plain clean tap water should not be under valued at all - if this is your main intake then this is a good thing.  Maintaining an intake of about 6-8 tall glasses of fluids each day is not an excise to drink more beer.  Sorry about that and besides that's not good for you, so forget it.
  • Some medications can also be a reason.  The Patient Information leaflet that comes with your tablets is worth reading and looking out for constipation as a possible side effect.  Medications which may caused constipation include iron tablets, some antacids and some medications which treat depression.  There are other medical causes of constipation, such as thyroid problems but these are beyond the scope of this every-day article.
  • Being inactive, loafing around being a lazy couch potato is also a contributing factor.  Now of course, out jobs and indeed getting to our jobs often involve long periods of sitting around, not moving very much.  With this in mind I think it's important we build some activity into our routine (besides running) such as deliberately walking up and down some stairs during the day.  I can't help notice some of my colleagues taking the lift from one floor to the next at work.  Almost all are perfectly capable of taking the stairs but are gradually putting on weight and becoming more sluggish.
The solution
Well, the solution is easy - just address each of the above points.  Make sure you're eating the right foods, drinking enough and moving around.  

Some good anti-constipation foods;
  • prunes, figs, lentils and cabbage are all excellent at keeping your digestive tract moving.  Plus they are nutritious in their own right
  • brown rice, jacket potato 
  • flaxseed (aka linseed) is a natural laxative
  • Smoothies (all are good, especially if they include bananas)

Naturally there are plenty of others and a good diet is one which contains a very wide variety of foods.  There are so many different fruit and vegetables for us to choose from.  Fruit and vegetables which can be eaten raw also make the most of the fibre within but it is important to take in sufficient fluids.

And running is very helpful as it does naturally get the intestines moving.  Some runners complain of the "runner's trots" which as you can imagine are the opposite of constipation.  Running is such a beneficial activity; so simple and so wonderful.  So economical as sports go and one that brings many physical and mental health benefits.


My ideal breakfast
The difference between oat bran and wheat bran
Landgarten organic high fibre snacks

Ingredients for a high fibre breakfast

Healthy raw food lunch

Landgarten high fibre snacks

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