Carbohydrate restriction is a proven way to stimulate weight loss; removing foods like bread, pasta, cereals, rice, muffins and other grain products from your diet for a period of time assists with “retraining” and improving your body’s response to insulin, the ultimate key to any effective weight loss plan.
Keeping insulin levels low is the rationale behind low-carb diets and the reason I recommend the Glyci-Med way of eating in my book, The Hormone Diet. But the low-carb lifestyle can have drawbacks. Some people feel a slight decrease in energy or in mood when they limit carbs, and because these foods are a source of fiber, removing them often causes a nasty case of constipation!
Why is constipation so bad?
If things are not “moving along” properly at least once (optimally, 2-3 times) per day it is tough to feel healthy, let alone slim. Obvious negative issues associated with constipation include feeling bloated, pain in the abdomen, occasional cramping and abdominal distention.
Not only is constipation unpleasant, it is not without repercussions on other aspects of your health. Simply stated, the longer waste remains in your large intestine, the longer undesirable byproducts of digestion and elimination will be permitted to reabsorb into your system. This can result in headaches, fatigue, increased menstrual pain and cramping, acne and other signs of toxicity. Chronic constipation can increase the risk of certain types of cancers; breast and colon cancer rates have been found to be higher in women with a history of chronic constipation. I encourage you to do something today if this is a pattern of constipation in your past or if you experience an acute response to reducing grains in your diet. Try these easy methods to help prevent constipation:
1. Magnesium glycinate: Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. Many people tend to hold tension and stress in the muscles of the abdomen and digestive tract. Taking magnesium (starting with a dose of 250–300mg twice per day) can reduce tension and cramping and may help to ease constipation without dependence. Increase the dose until you get loose stools, then reduce by one capsule.
2. Vitamin C: Vitamin C taken in slightly higher amounts is a great natural laxative. This effect will be reached in different people at different doses. Begin by taking 1,000 mg twice per day and increase from there until you obtain the desired effects. It is best to take the vitamin C in divided doses throughout the day rather than all at once.
3. Essential fatty acids: Oils like fish, flax, evening primrose, borage or hemp are great for healthy bowel function. Try a tablespoon or two per day. Simply add these to your smoothies—you won’t even know they are in there! Try adding avocado to your salads for a dietary source of essential fatty acids.
4. Calcium/magnesium combination: Taken before bed, these two minerals may help to improve your sleep, strengthen your bones and assist with bowel regularity. Try a 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, as more calcium can actually cause constipation. If you decide to go with this product, it is not necessary to take the magnesium mentioned above.
5. Flaxseed: Add 1–2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to your daily smoothie. It is a cheap and effective source of fiber and healthy oils. If you purchase ground flaxseed, ensure it is stored in a vacuum sealed package and keep it in the freezer. Alternatively, you can grind it yourself with a coffee grinder. If you grind it yourself, prepare only enough to last a few days and keep it in the fridge. Once flaxseed is ground, the oils are exposed and may become rancid if not properly stored.
6. Drink water: This is one of the easiest ways to prevent constipation.
7. Eat fruits and vegetables: Certain fruits and veggies are high in fiber and great for keeping you regular. Blueberries, pears, apples and dried figs are high in fiber, as are broccoli, beans, peas and spinach. Aim for 25–30 grams of fiber each day. Check out the Truestar meal plans for healthy options.
8. Exercise! It is not wise to obsess about the need to open the bowels daily, but you should seek the advice of your doctor if you experience a change of bowel habit that persists. If you continue to have problems, consider our recommendations for irritable bowel syndrome which may assist you in finding the cause of your digestive upset.