Natural Cures for Constipation

Health begins in the gut, and constipation is just one of many signs that your digestive system is out of balance. A healthy bowel motion consists of waste products from digestion, bacteria, undigested food particles, salt, bacteria, toxins and other compounds. The colon is a key organ of detoxification and elimination which is critical to the function of almost every other system in the body.

Imagine if you didn’t empty your garbage bin regularly; waste would overflow into the surrounding room, scraps could putrefy and release unpleasant odours and gases, and undesirable creatures would be attracted to the mess. A similar analogy can be applied to the bowels. If wastes are not removed effectively and efficiently, they can putrefy, damage the integrity of the lining of the gut, and cause a recycling of some toxins back into the body creating an increased workload on other organs such as the liver.

Constipation is by definition, infrequent or incomplete bowel motions. Constipation can mean hard, dry and small bowel movements or bowel motions occurring less than three times per week. If your bowel motions do not fit this checklist for what is considered normal and healthy, then you may be constipated and need to become a “poo detective” to make some changes.

Healthy Poo Checklist:
✓ You empty your bowels 1 to 2 times daily.
✓ No straining.
✓ No pain.
✓ Smooth, sausage-shaped log or a few smaller pieces.
✓ Takes no longer than 10 minutes to complete.
✓ Brown to dark brown in colour. (Red or black stools require medical attention)
✓ Consistent in its characteristics from day to day.

While constipation may be caused by irritable bowel syndrome or some gastrointestinal infections, it is most commonly caused by a lack of water intake and low fibre intake.
Constipation can also be caused by the overuse of laxatives, leading to a “lazy bowel”. The bowel walls have muscles which contract and relax rhythmically to move bowel contents along. If they are not looked after correctly, just like the other muscles in your body, they too can lose tone and become weakened, leading to constipation.

Some natural ways to relieve constipation include:

Water in adequate amounts is critical to healthy bowel motions. You want to aim for roughly 8 glasses of filtered water everyday.

Fibre is the indigestible part of plants that can act as an intestinal broom. Insoluble fibre draws water to itself as it passes through the bowel, softening and bulking the stool supporting regular bowel motions. Resistant starches also fall in the fibre category and are essential for supporting healthy microbial balance in the digestive tract. Eating approximately three handfuls of vegetables with your main meals and including nuts, seeds and legumes are all good ways to get enough fibre in your daily intake. Partially hydrolysed guar gum is a water-soluble fibre that shows promising results in clinical studies for improving the frequency of bowel motions, reducing straining, and reducing abdominal discomfort.

Good Gut Bacteria are critical to our health. They have many important functions in the body, including assisting in digestion and breakdown of foods, absorption of nutrients, production of energy, vitamins and other important compounds for the body. To help support a healthy gut colony or microbiome, including fermented foods in your diet such as yoghurt, saurkraut, kombucha, kimchi or pickles. Foods containing resistant starches such as bananas, onion, garlic, jerusalem artichoke, asparagus can also help to feed the microbes in your gut, creating a healthy environment in which for them to flourish.

Rest and digest. We often underestimate the importance of chewing our food properly, and taking time away from work to switch our body into digestion mode. Eating consciously and mindfully allows your body to send the right signals to the stomach to break food down properly, pass it successfully through the digestive tract, trigger nutrient absorption and healthy waste elimination. Eating at work or on the go detracts from these messages getting through to your digestive tract, slowing the whole process down.

Your naturopath and acupuncturist can also assist you to resolve constipation by discovering the underlying causes and creating a specific treatment plan to suit your unique circumstances. Our toolbox includes herbs, nutrients, and functional foods to enhance the overall digestive process, allowing for an adequate breakdown of foods, optimal absorption of nutrients and effective elimination of toxins. The goal of treatment is to return the bowel to natural healthy function and avoid the use of laxatives.

 

To make an appointment with a naturopath at Brisbane Natural Health, call us on 07 3186 5702 or click here.

Spicy Morrocan Chickpea & Lentil Soup with Chermoula

Ingredients: Serves 4-6

Chermoula marinade:

1 handful of fresh coriander or parsley

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 or 2 fresh red chilli’s (deseeded)

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

sea salt – pinch.

Place all ingredients for Chermoula in the blender and pulse until smooth. Set aside to develop flavour.

 

Soup:

1 tablespoon Olive Oil

1 fennel bulb, chopped

2 onions diced

3 cloves garlic diced

2 tins organic tomatoes (or 2 cups homemade chunky passata)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger – or 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups vegetable broth or stock

1+ 1/2 cup dried chickpeas (soaked overnight)

1/2 cup red lentils

1/2 cup green/brown lentils

2 bay leaves

sea salt to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

extra water to make soupier if needed.

Saute onion, fennel, garlic in the olive oil until translucent. Add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, pepper and allow aromas to develop before adding the tomatoes/passata. Cook for 10 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the lentils, chickpeas, broth and bay leaves and allow to cook on low heat for approximately 30-45 minutes or until chickpeas are tender and soup has thickened.  Season to taste and serve topped with as much spicy Chermoula as you like.

Voila! Enjoy

How to Curb your Sugar (and carbohydrate) Cravings Naturally

Are you at the type of person that is at the café for a piece of cake every afternoon at 3pm? Or perhaps you can’t finish a meal without having a sugary treat. Some of us think about sugar all day long! And no doubt the media has taught you that sugar is the crack cocaine of the food world – so a sugar addiction can’t be good right?

Well, we certainly are eating more of it than ever before, and the type of sugar that we eat is more refined than what  our ancestors were eating. This combined with the fact that most of us sit in chairs all day with limited physical movement has created an issue. However it’s not all bad news. You can have your cake and eat it too – but it’s about understanding the various types of sugar and being in control of when we have it so that we can look after our bodies without feeling deprived.

Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate available to the body and can be used as a source of fuel for our cells to turn into energy. It can also be used a little bit like a drug, making us feel good when we are feeling down or giving us that kick of energy in the mid-afternoon when the post-lunch slump turns the computer screen into a blur. When we have a craving for sugar or for more complex carbs (like grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes) when our blood sugar drops a little (or when we are feeling a bit crappy). This can happen with ‘blood sugar imbalance’, which is not really an illness as such, more a slight dysfunction which is easily fixed. What often happens is we can get caught up in a vicious sugar cycle – we crave, we eat, we crave again, we eat again and so on – and a blood sugar yo-yo effect is what keeps us coming back for more. Breaking this cycle is not always easy, but once it is done, we are no longer in the trap, and no longer a slave to sugar.

Let’s look at some simple ways to improve your blood sugar balance and reduce your sugar cravings:

  • Eat protein at breakfast time – this has been shown to be beneficial for many different physiological syndromes of blood sugar imbalance. It also helps to keep you fuller for longer throughout the day and make better food choices.
  • Try some healthy alternatives when the craving hits– an apple and a handful of almonds or cashews makes a great mid afternoon snack to keep you going until knock off time.
  • Make sure to snack on healthy snacks regularly throughout the day – try a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts, a boiled egg, hummus and carrot sticks, bliss balls
  • Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to your breakfast or include in cups of tea. Cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar, which in turn reduces your body’s likelihood of having a craving
  • Try dark chocolate instead of milk/sweet chocolate. Often a switch to 70% dark chocolate (which is low in sugar) allows you to feel like you have had your treat, without you needing to consume a high level of sugar. Chocolate also contains antioxidants which are protective to your health and theobromines, which make you feel good.
  • If you are going to have a sweet treat, try having it with some protein and fat – this will slow down digestion time, delaying the release of sugar into your blood stream and reducing the yo-yo effect of eating sugar explained above.
  • If you are still struggling with your cravings, please book in to see a naturopath as there can be deeper reasons for this that need examination.

 

7 Natural Strategies For Healthy Gut Flora

Did you know that there are 2-3kg of symbiotic bacteria and fungal organisms living in your gut? This army of organisms (called your microbiome) comprises of bacteria that are equivalent to over 10 times the amount of cells you have in your body.

The role of bacteria and health is discussed in depth here, but let’s take a look at what you can do everyday to help create a healthy microbiome.

  1. Get a water filter

Town water contains chloride to kill off any bug that may harm you. Chlorine is a very effective antibacterial agent so when you drink chlorinated water your gut bacteria will suffer. The best water filters have several stages of filtration including layers to reduce fluoride, heavy metals and other contaminants as well as layers to alkalise and remineralise your water.

  1. Cut back on sugar

Excessive sugar intake, particularly of refined sugars, will disrupt the balance of your microbiome by ‘feeding’ fungal organisms and causing overgrowths. This can lead to candida or other organisms that are endemic to the gut increasing in numbers and crowding out your ‘good’ bacteria.

  1. Eat foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre

Fibre provides ‘food’ for your gut bacteria – without it your good guys won’t be able to thrive. Include plenty of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat in the diet to bolster your fibre intake.

  1. Avoid excessive alcohol intake

Drinking alcohol has the same effect as consuming too much sugar as alcohol is carbohydrate rich. The carbohydrates in alcohol can lead to fungal overgrowth and can kill of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Beer in particular can be problematic because it contains yeasts which can cause further disruption in the microbiome.


Too much alcohol can damage your microbiome.

  1. Avoid taking antibiotics

You probably already know that antibiotics damage gut flora. Some gastroenterologists believe that once you take antibiotics your microbiome will never be the same again. The WHO recommends that antibiotics are only used when absolutely necessary however we still see them being used frequently for the common cold when often the illness would resolve on it’s own over time. The advice used to be to always finish a course of antibiotics, but the WHO now recommends that you cease the course of antibiotics as soon as your symptoms subside.

  1. Boost up your natural immunity

The best way to avoid antibiotic use is to boost up your own natural immunity so you don’t get sick as often or as severely. Eating a diet high in vitamin C and bioflavonoid rich foods such as berries, onions, pineapple, paw paw, kiwifruit, lemons, grapefruit, capsicum and passionfruit will help to support your immunity. Eating foods high in zinc such as pepitas, sunflower seeds, organic red meat, oysters, lentils, asparagus and mushrooms will help to boost your white blood cell counts and fight of viruses. Other immune boosting foods are garlic, raw honey, bee pollen and chinese mushrooms.

  1. Eat loads of fermented foods

Fermented foods have loads of natural probiotic bacteria that will help to colonise your gut with the good stuff. We recommend that you eat 2 different types of fermented food each day. You can choose from yoghurt (dairy, cashew or coconut), cashew cheese, fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, kim chi etc), kombucha, kefir and many other fermented foods that you can make yourself.

Eating a diet rich in fermented foods will help to bolster your levels of healthy gut bacteria.

If you’re going to choose one thing to focus on for wellness we recommend it be your gut health. Following these tips will help you to build a healthy microbiome that will provide benefit to your immune and nervous system and help you to ward off disease.

Listen to Katherine Maslen talk about How to Up your Good Gut Bacteria on 2UE

Professional help for healing the gut 

Our naturopaths help people with gut problems every day. If you haven’t been following these guidelines or have a history of high antibiotic use then it is worthwhile ordering a CSA (comprehensive stool assessment) to check out your levels of good vs bad bacteria. From this information, your naturopath can provide a tailored gut rehabilitation program using herbal antimicrobials and probiotics along with a specific diet to support gut health.

Gluten and Leaky Gut

To gluten or not to gluten, that is the question. Gluten is the stuff that makes bread soft and chewy, that holds cakes and biscuits together. The modern diet is high in gluten – most people consuming the gluten containing grain wheat at least once a day. Bread, pasta and pastries have become staples in our diet – but are they ruining our guts?

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, kamut and barley. Perhaps once, when these grains were eaten in small amount and in their natural form, gluten was not so problematic. The issue is that we are eating more gluten than ever and wheat is far removed from what it used to be – having been cultivated and modified to contain higher levels of gluten and to be more pest resistant. Gluten-free diets seem to be all the rage right now, but is there any merit to it?

 

Gluten and your gut

Studies have found that gluten is bad news for our guts. One example is this study, that found that gliadin, a component of gluten, increased the production of an enzyme called zonulin. Zonulin causes the breakdown of the glue that holds the tight epithelial junctions of our intestines together. In simple terms this means that the spaces between your cells become bigger and you begin to get large molecules and even whole bacteria passing through the intestines and into your bloodstream. Termed as ‘leaky gut’ – this process means that you are more likely to get an abnormal reaction of the immune system and develop an autoimmune disease. It also means that you’ll have more inflammation in the gut, which can impair your digestion.

 

Gluten and inflammation in the gut

This review article summaries the research available on grain intake and inflammation. Basically, there are a lot of studies that show that the intestinal permeability or leaky gut caused by gluten intake is very pro-inflammatory and may have a role in chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease. Most people are best to eat a low gluten diet, but for those patients with any autoimmune disease, severe digestive problems or inflammatory conditions like endometriosis, migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia our naturopaths recommend following a strict gluten free diet.

Gluten free is the way to go if you have any type of inflammation in your body.

Gluten alternatives

If you’re used to eating a lot of bread then you will need to make some changes to your diet when eliminating gluten. Gluten free bread is not a healthy option – most that are even close to bread are highly processed and have additives to make the bread light and fluffy like traditional bread. For pasta you can use wholegrain brown rice, buckwheat or quinoa pasta. Including quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat in the diet is a good way to get the benefits of fibre and protein from grains while preventing damage on your digestive system.

 

Need help with your diet? Make an appointment with one of our qualified nutritionists by calling 07 3367 0337 now.

 

Is bread for you?

Bread is the staple of the west. We have toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and sometimes even bread with dinner. But is all this bread doing us any good?

There are several problems with eating too much bread. This first is linked to wheat – a grain that is high in gluten and reactive to a lot of people. Wheat has become problematic for us because it is far too refined and we eat far too much of it. 99.9% of bread consumed is made from flour that is highly refined and bleached, which then makes it low in nutrition. Even wholemeal bread is made from white flour with bran added back in, so although a little healthier than white bread it does not do us much good.

Then comes the issue of the fast rise loaf of bread. Commercial bakeries use lots of yeast that causes the bread to rise in under 30 minutes. As well as the fact that yeasts can disrupt our digestive systems and lead to fungal overgrowths, rising a loaf of bread in this fashion does not allow the proteins to be broken down. Traditionally bread was risen over 6-12 + hours using a sourdough method. In naturally fermented sourdough bread the proteins have begun to be digested and nutrients are released so you can better utilize them.

Sourdough Bread

Traditional sourdough bread

Some people may cope with small amounts of organic, wholegrain wheat sourdough bread, although better alternatives are breads that are made with spelt, kamut (khorasan) or rye flours. Beware of the ‘sourdough’ bread you find at the supermarket and regular bakeries – they are most likely yeasted bread with a little bit of culture or sour flavouring added in.

If you’re very sensitive you may need to avoid gluten, which even spelt, kamut and rye contains. I do not recommend eating gluten free bread however as it is highly refined and usually has lots of additives to make it taste like ‘real’ bread. Unfortunately if you are gluten sensitive then eliminating bread is the best way to go.

If bread is something that you love, eat it, but use the following rules:

  • Only eat organic, traditionally leavened sourdough bread
  • Eat bread a maximum of once per day, 5 days a week
  • Buy bread that is made with wholegrain flour
  • Opt for spelt, kamut or rye breads over wheat
  • If you have digestive issues then see a naturopath to check if bread is right for you.

Katherine Maslen

Principal Naturopath
Bachelor of Naturopathy