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Unfortunately, constipation during pregnancy is pretty common. Luckily, with a well-executed vegan diet, you are more likely to be able to avoid getting backed up than heavy meat-eaters will be.
One of the big differences between omnivorous humans and carnivorous animals is the length of our digestive tract. We are made with a really long and bumpy digestive tract, which allows foods to travel along and get stuck in the ridges, giving us more time to digest the nutrients from our foods. In carnivores, the digestive tract is really smooth and short, which allows the food to evacuate quickly and prevents meats from rotting inside the stomach.
During pregnancy, our digestive tract does naughty things that can lead to irregular bowel movements. (TMI alert!)
1. The intestines start moving slower, to give our bodies time to fully absorb nutrients. Because the food is now inside your body longer, the body will absorb water from the waste matter and makes them harder in texture.
2. Our body slows down on producing the hormone that stimulates our bowel movements (motilin)
3. When your uterus starts to grow, it pushes on your colon and makes it harder to eliminate the food in your stomach.
4. Your body produces more progesterone when you're pregnant, which also wreaks havoc on your digestive system.
Luckily, as a vegan, you are likely eating quite a bit more fiber than the regular meat eater, so you shouldn't have as much trouble with constipation during pregnancy. When you eat a lot of fiber, your body can fully digest all your food within 18 hours, whereas without fiber in the diet, it takes three days to digest. That means some people potentially have three days worth of leftover food sitting in their stomachs and not leaving their bodies.
If you're a meat-eater suffering from constipation, you might not know that there is absolutely no fiber in meat, fish, dairy, eggs, chicken, or any other animal products. Fiber only comes from plant products (conveniently similar to how cholesterol only comes from animal products!), so even if you're still eating animals, make sure you add plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into your diet during pregnancy.
If you haven't totally given up eating animal products, or have started feeling like your baby might need meat, constipation during pregnancy might remind you of the benefits of a healthy diet during pregnancy. Whole vegan diets are loaded with fiber and beneficial nutrients that can help you avoid constipation. And luckily, if you can avoid constipation and pregnancy, you can often get away without having the dreaded hemorrhoids, which often come from pushing too hard on the bottom area.
Note: If you ever have abdominal pain along with the constipation, or if you have constipation and then it switches to diarrhea, or if there is mucus or blood in the stool, call your doctor or midwife to make sure it's not a symptom of a more serious issue.
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