Joyous Blog

Natural Solutions for Constipation During Pregnancy

Aug 11, 2015 BY Joy McCarthy

The most common question I get on the blog and through our contact form is "I'm constipated, bloated and uncomfortable, please help me!"

First of all, if you're reading this and you've emailed me, I'm sorry to hear you are feeling this way! I used to be right where you are. I can always sense desperation in people's emails because they are clearly at their wits' end and I get it. It's pretty crappy (pun intended) to feel like you are full of poop all the time.

Aside from the fact that not having a daily visit to the john really weighs you down, being constipated can cause a whole range of other symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Allergies
  • Skin issues: Eczema and acne
  • Hormonal imbalance e.g., PMS and increased menopausal symptoms (obviously, you're exempt if you're preggo)
  • Irritability, anxiousness a.k.a. cranky-pants (let's face it, you're just not yourself when you are constipated)

There's more, but let's stop here because these are the most common issues that being chronically constipated can cause. Some of these issues are caused becausetoxins and waste get re-absorbed into the bloodstream when you are not eliminating regularly. Bad bacteria feasts on impacted fecal matter rotting your large intestine. Sorry if this is a bit much for you, but that's what's happening.

If you are eating a lot of sugars and starchy carbs, this makes matters worse. The yeast and bacteria are definitely having a party in your belly feeding off all that fermentation. But don't worry because I've got solutions!

I've written about this topic many times on the blog because I too used to be chronically constipated. Now that I'm pregnant, the most common question other pregnant woman ask me is "how are you dealing with the constipation issues?"

Constipation in pregnancy is extremely common due to the slowing down of your digestion caused by an increase in a hormone called progesterone.

This serves a purpose though, because it gives your small intestine more time to absorb all the nutrients from your food, although for many pregnant women it also means constipation.

Additionally, your growing baby can put pressure on your rectum and an increased blood supply means you need to drink a LOT more water. Many pregnant women simply do not drink enough water – more on that in a bit.

Side note: Constipation is a good reason to quit coffee while pregnant. Caffeine is very stimulating to the intestines and can cause food to be pushed through too rapidly for optimal nutrient absorption to occur.

Fortunately, I haven't suffered from constipation during my pregnancy but I'm definitely prone to it based on my past. However, my diet and overall health is much different than it was in my 20s.

Whether you are pregnant or not, these solutions will help you get to the bottom of your constipation issues. Here are my natural solutions for constipation:

1. Chill out.

If you're a high-strung type-A personality, then your nervous system is working against you to keep your colon tight. In order to have regular bowel movements, you must be in a relaxed state of mind. When your nervous system is in "sympathetic" mode, your body constricts and muscles contract. You've likely felt this before when you've beenstressed at work and come home with a headache, sore back or neck. This is because you've been tense all day. This tension affects your digestive system, too. And remember if you're pregnant, your baby is emotionally connected to you as well, and feels what you feel.

Peristalsis (the action of waste material being pushing through your intestines) happens when you are relaxed. This doesn't mean you need to take a vacation just to make sure you poop every day, but you do need to make time to poop. If you hit snooze on your alarm at least 3-4 times every day, then you need to get to bed earlier so that you can rise earlier and make time for a morning poop. If you're always rushed in the morning, your body will not make time to eliminate.

I've got numerous articles on ways to bring more peace and less stress into your life, such as stress busting foods and nutrients,  5 simple ways to a more peaceful mind, 4 steps to release stress and of course a how-to article on meditation.

Of course, there are some people who get stressed and have the opposite problem and crap too often, which isn't necessarily better. Stress reduction will benefit these people as well.

2. Eat the right kind of fiber

Now that you're pregnant, you definitely should not take a laxative (nor should you otherwise). Even if you're not preggo, they make matters worse because they promote a lazy colon. Instead, eat more fiber. Try acacia root fiber, chia seeds, ground flax, sweet potatoes, apricots, prunes, plums, lentils, beans. These types of foods will soften stool. Have a fiber-rich smoothie every day for breakfast! Remember to add fiber slowly. No bran buds -- have you check the ingredients list lately of your favourite cereal? Think bran buds or bran flakes are helping? They are FULL of sugar and a highly processed food that you want to avoid.

3. Drink at least 1.5 to 2L of water per day

Your blood volume increases by just a little under 50% during pregnancy. This means that you need to increase your water intake because you simply need more fluid otherwise you can easily become dehydrated. When you are dehydrated, waste material cannot easily flow through your intestines and constipation – or dry, hard stools that are hard to pass – is often the result.

4. Change up your iron supplement.

Cheap iron supplements are one of the most common causes of prenatal constipation. Unfortunately, most practitioners who are not Naturopathic Doctors or Certified Nutritionists will likely have no clue what is the best kind of iron for you to take. Quite often clients will tell me their doctor recommended an iron supplement and told them it won't make them constipated but as soon as they begin taking it, they are still constipated and have an upset tummy. When I look at the form of iron in the supplement, they are taking it's usually the cheapest form with poor absorption.

My favourite non-constipating brands that are easy on your tummy are THORNEAOR ORTHO-IRON, Mega Foods Blood Builder and New Chapter Iron Food Complex. By the way, as a nutritionist, I do not agree with the notion that every pregnant woman should be taking additional iron beyond their prenatal multi unless you've been told to by a certified practitioner to do so. Many women are advised to take more than 30mg of iron when there is absolutely NO need. Be sure to talk to your practitioner about this if you've been told your iron levels are adequate and you are taking more than 30mg per day.

5. Acupuncture.

Not only is getting poked during pregnancy a fantastic way to release stress and relieve pregnancy nausea, it can also help relieve constipation. There is an acupuncture point located in the middle of your belly that is related to digestion. Find yourself a reputable practitioner and go get poked! I did acupuncture in my first trimester to relieve pregnancy nausea and it really helped. So did wearing acupressure bands (sea bands) on my wrists – I wore these ALL the time.

6. Eat well and joyously!

I've lost count of the number of times people have said to me "hurray, you can eat for two and eat whatever you want!" I know these comments are all in good fun but they kinda make me cringe. When I got pregnant, I never thought to myself "thank goodness now I can gorge on whatever food I want." In fact, pregnancy was even more of a motivating factor to eat better than ever because I'm growing a human being. For me, the biggest change was not drinking vino (he he he). And yes, I still eat gelato and good pizza from time to time :)

Indulging in junky, processed, sugary food on a daily basis is going to set the stage for constipation, mood swings and weight gain beyond the normal range. Plus, continuing with this pattern only causes more cravings for unhealthy foods. I've got tons of recipes that are amazing for you and baby here and in my book Joyous Health.

7. Lemon Juice in Water 

Such a simple habit with incredible health benefits for digestion and beyond. Lemon helps to stimulate detoxification of the liver via increasing bile. Bile, along with fiber is a carrier of toxins so it is a fantastic habit for detox. Lemon and water stimulates good quality bowel movements. I've written lots of articles about this and done videos too. You can learn more here.

8. Exercise

I've had to significantly cut back on my level and type of exercise during my pregnancy. As you probably know if you read my blog regularly or follow me on Instagram, I started doing Barre classes last year and was going 3-4 times a week. I absolutely LOVED it. I continued through to the beginning of my 2nd trimester and then noticed I didn't feel great doing that kind of activity anymore. It was just too intense for me. However, that doesn't mean that you should stop intense activity if you feel great doing it! The key is to listen to your body.

I now do yogaand powerwalking. I'll do one or the other every day and this promotes regularity because exercise boosts bowel motility –  meaning, moving your body gets the waste and toxins moving through your body. If you're sedentary and sitting a lot, pregnant or not, this can cause constipation. If you're finding it tough to get motivated, here are some great tips from my hubs Walker on 4 excuses you're not exercising and how to overcome them.

Let me know if you have any nutrition questions during pregnancy! I love writing about this topic and I'm happy to help you have a joyous pregnancy.

Wishing you joyous poops!

Joy

Aug 11, 2015 BY Joy McCarthy
21 Comments
Meagan   •   August 11, 2015

I needed this article today! I am 18 weeks pregnant and this is the one problem I've been dealing with! Thanks!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2015

My pleasure Meagan! You're not alone, I hope these tips help you. Take care and congrats on your pregnancy, how exciting!!!


Aleah   •   August 11, 2015

Loved this article! Thank you! Speaking of constipation and related symptoms a holy grail pregnancy product for hemorrhoids has been the Thera Wise Natural Bio Active Hemorrhoidal Ointment. It's safe and effective during pregnancy and is made of plant based ingredients so you don't have to worry about mineral oil, petroleum, BHT, or BHA. Take a look http://www.therawise.com/products-2/hmr/

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2015

Thanks for sharing! Will check it out :)


Lindsey   •   August 12, 2015

This was definitely a helpful post for me. Although not pregnant, I have struggled with constipation for the majority of my life. In fact, (TMI) I have not gone to the bathroom for a week and counting right now. I feel awful. And I have tried what seems to be everything. I have a huge bottle of lemon water beside me, I exercise, eat healthy...I don't get it. I do have anxiety issues and this issue actually makes me worry more! Are there any supplements you can recommend for someone like me? I have tried Benefibre, Metamucil, probiotics...everything I can think of basically. Let me know - I am willing to try anything at this point. Thanks, Joy. Sorry for the TMI post.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2015

Hi Lindsey, you're not alone -- many people struggle with this pregnant or not, thanks for sharing your story. If you're eating right, you've eliminated any potential food allergies or and you are not over-exercising it could be related to your anxiety. When you are not relaxed your colon will likely constrict and this makes it harder to have a bowel movement. I would suggest yoga and meditation. Also, you might want to consider colonics. Beyond this, there are other recommendations but I really need to do a more in-depth assessment. I'm not taking on any new clients right now because my baby is coming soon, but you might find it valuable to fill out my wellness form as it may spark something that you might not have thought about. I will back in practice in November. Hope that helps! Here's the link to my wellness form: http://www.joyoushealth.com/resources/

Mel   •   August 12, 2015

Great article ! Love the mention of stress and anxiety as so many women hold tension in their pelvic floor and their bottom too which can cause constipation and even spastic muscles in the bottom which is super painful. For those desperate Times when nothing is working I really have been saved with my oxy powder supplement . It is all natural but wondering your take on it. It's from the global healing center . I didn't take it during pregnancy just in case but I have taken it a few times while nursing . Levi seems ok.


Fatima   •   August 12, 2015

Hi Joy, congradulations on being pregnant! I myself am 12 weeks and your pregnancy couldn't have come at a better time! I love reading your articles and watching your videos, but especially about pregnancy. I definatly noticed my digestion slowed down a lot and eating junk food was not helping at all. I've been trying to incoporate more healthy foods in my diet and i feel so much better now, no more constipation! I was wondering if you could do a post about good products to use during pregnancy (eg. for stretch marks, bras, etc) and natural products for babies. Would love to know your opinion! =)

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 12, 2015

Congrats on your pregnancy Fatima! I hope you are feeling great! I didn't mention this in my post, but definitely make sure you are taking probiotics, this will also help prevent constipation and yeast infections which are pretty common in pregnancy as well and will help keep your immune system strong. Here's another article you might like: http://www.joyoushealth.com/blog/2015/05/23/5-tips-growing-healthy-baby/ and my belly bump butta will help reduce those stretch marks, as will eating plenty of vitamin C rich foods: http://www.joyoushealth.com/blog/2015/06/02/nourish-growing-belly-belly-bump-butta/ Hope that helps!


Rachel   •   August 13, 2015

Hi Joy! I'm not pregnant, but this article definitely resonated with me. 2 questions...is apple cider vinegar an adequate substitution for lemons or do they have different functions?, also are there any acupuncturists that you would recommend? Best wishes for a short delivery and healthy baby!

Reply
Kate McDonald Walker   •   August 13, 2015

Hi Rachel, Apple cider vinegar is a great substitute for lemon and water. If you're in the Toronto Area, my husband has nothing but good things to say about the Village Rehab Team in Liberty Village. Kate - Joyous Health Team


kate   •   August 13, 2015

Hi Joy! Congrats on your pregnancy. I suffer from IBS that developed from a horror story of antibiotics that caused c difficile. I eat about 80% healthy and exercise a lot, I sometimes get forgetful when it comes to staying hydrated but I try my best. Lately food has been triggering a lot of nasty symptoms for me but my biggest concern is I go through such long stretches of constipation. You are so right, feeling that way is just awful! Sometimes upping my fiber intake just doesn't seem to cut it and I often use magnesium citrate supplements (around 500mg) to get things going fast. I'm just wondering if I'm causing a lot of damage by doing this or if it is an okay option in a pinch? Thanks!

Reply

Kirsten   •   August 22, 2015

Hi Joy-thanks for the article. This is helpful, as I work in a health food store. I was surprised to see that magnesium wasn't on your list-it's the number one thing I suggest for those who are constipated (and it's amazing for all types of muscle tightness). Cheers.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   August 24, 2015

Great suggestion, I love magnesium too! However, I don't find it addresses the root cause of constipation though which is usually not simply magnesium deficiency as there are many other factors. If taken regularly, I find that it can promote too much loss of fluid as well. It's definitely far far better than a laxative of course.


Alayne Langford   •   September 25, 2015

I love your tips! I am certainly not pregnant, I had 5 children and now 2 Grandchildren. I suffer from chronic migraine and also chronic constipation. I was led to a book called Brain Maker and it is very interesting how problems with the gut lead to various ailments. I have food intolerances so it is difficult to find the right foods but will try what you have mentioned above! Thank you!

Reply
Kate McDonald Walker   •   September 28, 2015

Hi Alayne, Thanks for sharing! We'll have to check that book out! Kate - Joyous Health Team


Lisa G   •   December 17, 2015

Hi Joy! Great article! I have struggled with constipation (even before pregnancy) in the past and increasing my water intake has helped tremendously. I am wondering if lemon water is ok for me though, as I had my gallbladder removed in March due to gallstones and pancreatitis. Since I no longer have my gallbladder, is it ok for me to drink something that encourages bile? One other question is that I have been told to take bile salts. I have taken them in the past few months but are they safe for pregnancy? Thanks!

Reply

Jolene   •   March 28, 2016

Joy- is it safe to continue having Macca in my smoothies while pregnant?

Reply
Heather Allen   •   March 29, 2016

Hi Jolene! We haven't come across any research that advises against maca during pregnancy. Joy used it in her smoothies all throughout her pregnancy. But as with most things, if it's something you've never used before and you're wanting to include it in your diet, start with a small amount and see how you feel before taking a full dose. All the best :) Heather- Joyous Health Team


jaivermapal   •   March 2, 2017

Constipation is a condition of digestive system where an individual has hard feces that are difficult to expel. In most cases, it occurs because the colon has absorbed too much water from the food that is in colon. This is treatable condition but it can cause serious stomach related problems if you leave this untreated. Your idea to treat constipation with natural remedies is very effective actually one of my friends used some natural ingredients and she is very happy with the results. I also read about home remedies for constipation for constipation over your site.

Reply
Rachel Molenda   •   March 2, 2017

Hey there! :) You're spot on with all of that. There's also many more factors that can contribute to constipation as well! That's why we have to make sure we're keeping our health in check and diet as detox-friendly as possible to continue eliminating every single day. I'm so happy to hear your friend was able to find relief from natural remedies! Rachel - Joyous Health Team


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