Did you know that up to half of women experience constipation during pregnancy? It is such a common discomfort. Constipation can occur anytime throughout your pregnancy, but it is especially common in the third trimester. As your baby grows bigger and takes up more space, there is increased pressure on the large intestines which can lead to slow moving or backed up bowels.
One reason constipation occurs during pregnancy is because of the increased hormone progesterone, which relaxes the intestinal walls therefore slowing down the rate at which food is moved through the digestive tract. Additionally, many women take iron supplements during pregnancy which are known to cause constipation.
If you are feeling the gas, bloating and discomfort of constipation, try these four tips to support your digestive system and keep things moving while pregnant:
1. Chew more. The process of digestion begins in the mouth with chewing. As you chew, saliva and enzymes are released that start to break down your food. Chewing also stimulates digestive juices in your stomach to start acting in anticipation of food coming. Chewing seems like a no-brainer but it is actually something most of us unintentionally rush through. The next time you eat, take a bite and chew at least 20 times before swallowing. Notice what the food feels like in your mouth before you swallow it. How has the texture changed? Did the extra chewing allow you to enjoy the taste of your food differently? When it comes to improving digestion, chewing is one of the most important things you can do. The more you chew your food, the easier it is for the rest of your body.
2. Focus on Fiber. Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that our bodies need for optimal digestion. The two main types of fiber are soluble and insoluble. Both types of fiber are important to our health for different reasons.
Soluble fibers are commonly found in fruits (especially pear, apple, and citrus fruits), oats, barley, and legumes. These water-soluble fibers form gels within the digestive tract, and provide many beneficial health effects including: helping the body feel full, slowing absorption of carbohydrates which helps stabilize blood sugar and helps to lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Insoluble fibers are commonly found in wheat bran, corn bran, whole grain breads and cereals, as well as vegetables. Insoluble fibers are important for facilitating the movement of food through the digestive tract, thus preventing constipation.
By eating a diet focused on whole foods including lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains you’ll be getting the fiber you need to keep things moving.
3. Increase fluid intake. With the increase of fiber consumption your body will require more water to help move food and waste materials through the body. Try to consume around 100 fluid ounces of water per day. If you struggle with drinking enough water, try adding electrolytes or squeeze a lemon or an orange into your water to make it more palatable.
4. Movement after meals. After you’ve chewed your fiber containing foods super well, it’s time to let gravity help you out! Doing some light upright exercise after meals is a great way to help your system keep things moving. I’m not talking about anything strenuous, rather just 10 mins of walking after meals can give your insides the shifts and shakes they need to move things along.