If you’ve done any research into foods that can help with constipation, you’re probably seeing fermented foods coming up again and again. It’s a diet trend that’s proving to not only have longevity, but also the backing of research. Before we look at the role of fermented food in avoiding constipation, let’s first understand what’s happening in the body to cause it to happen.
It’s important to talk about the causes of constipation to understand why your body is acting in this way. The roots of your digestive distress are likely to fall into one of these three broad categories:
Therefore, what you‘re actually looking for are things that can soften your stools and encourage regular bowel movements. That’s where fermented foods can come in.
But what makes these foods such a powerful elixir for rebalancing digestive discomfort? It’s primarily down to their probiotic content. Fermentation not only extends the shelf life of foods, it also adds nutritional value. Yes, fermented foods are packed with live, good bacteria.
But it’s important to note the probiotic bacteria must be alive when you eat it. Food processes, such as pasteurisation, smoking, baking and filtering kill live bacteria. This removes soy sauces, most beers and wines, sourdough bread, and chocolate from your list of fermented superfoods unfortunately. It’s also important that yoghurts are ‘live’ or contain ‘active’ ingredients. And you should choose unpasteurised sauerkraut and select fermented pickles rather than ones soaked in vinegar.
Constipation happens in your large intestine. This long muscular tube heads up your gut’s mission to absorb water and flush out waste. But if this movement doesn’t happen and faeces sits there for too long, stools become hard and difficult to pass. Fermented foods can help create an environment in your gut that prevents this from happening.
The gut contains a diverse collection of trillions of bacteria. 95% of these microbes are in your colon. It’s called a microbiome, and it helps to break down food and regulate bowel function. When you’re constipated, it may be a sign there could be an imbalance between friendly bacteria and the bad species in your large intestine.
Fermented foods help by topping up the level of good bacteria in the gut, which reduces the impact of the less friendly varieties.
However, there are causes of constipation other than an imbalance in gut bacteria. So, some trial and error may be required.
As well as being a rich probiotic source, fermented foods are also a great way to add some healthy diversity to your diet. So, while adding live yoghurt to your meals may be the easiest option, there is so much more to experiment with. Try pickled vegetables as a side or as a topping for your salads. And why not add a little sauerkraut to your sandwich to give your lunch some extra excitement.
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Last updated: 15 June 2020