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Avoiding and Curing
Constipation During Pregnancy

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.

To combat constipation during pregnancy:

  • Drink plenty of water, around ten 8-ounce glasses per day. If you increase your fiber intake but don't increase your water intake, the fiber will basically bunch up in your intestines and get stuck. Water helps things move along.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens. Pretty much any whole vegan food is going to be healthy for preventing constipation during pregnancy.
  • Stay away from un-whole grains like things made with white flour. If you're absolutely having a craving for cookies, cake, brownies, cupcakes, breads, or anything of the sort, try to make some with entirely whole grains and unprocessed sugars. Or, try to avoid eating them altogether and eating some fruit instead.
  • If you're experiencing constipation, it might help to have a salad made with olive oil (or other healthy, unrefined oil) to help grease the skids a bit on the way through the intestines.
  • Try a tablespoon of wheat bran and/or ground flax seeds everyday as a natural remedy.
  • Eat several smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large ones, to prevent too many passengers waiting in the line to leave your body.
  • A little bit of exercise goes a long way toward clearing out the refuse. Try to get moving for 30 solid minutes each day. Increasing the oxygen helps get things moving, and dedicated practices like yoga and tai chi can even help internal digestion.
  • When you're using the "facilities," don't wait too long to go or push too hard when you're there, as both can lead to constipation during pregnancy and hemorrhoids.
  • Don't take Ex-Lax if you're having issues eliminating. It's safer to use All-Fiber, Metamucil, Colace, Surfak, or Senokot (according to Your Vegetarian Pregnancy by Dr. Holly Roberts). These natural products will help bulk up the stuff in your intestines and help move it along, but I prefer to go the entirely natural route first, with real foods, saving these for last resorts.
  • You could also see an acupuncturist or get acupressure to work on increasing the movement in your digestive tract. Acupuncture is safe and effective throughout pregnancy for relief of many of the negative side effects.
  • Make sure you keep your stress levels as low as possible when you're pregnant because high stress, lots of travel and changes in sleeping and eating schedule, and even worrying can cause your body to become constipated. If you take yoga, work on the meditation exercises and proper deep breathing when you're in a stressful situation to prevent the buildup of energy in your body.

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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by Cathleen Woods   |   © Copyright 2010-2021   |   Vegan-Momma.com

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