Years ago one of my mum's friends told me that she ate kiwifruit every single morning, first thing, to keep her regular. Well, just last night, as I was flipping through a wonderful book on digestive health I came across a study that proved just that!!! Humble old kiwifruit has powerful digestive properties!
If you've ever suffered from constipation, you'll remember it for the rest of your life!! Haha! As a young teenager, becoming more and more interested in the natural way. It didn't take me long to notice how much better my bowels were for avoiding white products (white flour, sugar, pasta etc.). Looking back I can remember getting constipation so bad that I was bedridden for 4 days. I may have been around 10 or 11 years old at the time. My pain score was high. The only times I wasn't in excruciating pain, was during and shortly after a wonderful back rub by my mum.
Since switching to a healthier diet, constipation is really a thing of the past. I can only really recall two other times where it's been a problem. Stress and infection/antibiotics being the culprits. If constipation is something you suffer from (or constipation + diarrhoea), and you're up for trying something natural... this article is for you!
First up, let's define constipation.
A rough medical definition is based on frequency, anything less than three bowel movements per week. The average person tends to associate constipation with straining, hard stools, time spent on the toilet, a sense of incomplete evacuation or not having a bowel movement for a few days. While both of these definitions can be true they aren't accurate. The best way to check is using the Bristol Stool Scale. If you regularly pass stools that fall into the Type 1 or Type 2 categories you are constipated. It's not about regularity it's ABOUT WHAT IS IN THE TOILET BOWL! :P
- poor diet
- lack of exercise
- low fibre intake
- not drinking enough water
- changes in gut flora (having more bad bugs and less good bugs)
- inability to relax voluntary muscles associated with passing a stool (abdominal muscles, pelvic floor muscles and anal sphincter), known as defecatory disorder
- stress (chronic)
- food intolerances
Over a 10 year period, Professor John Hunter and his colleagues from the Gastroenterology Unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital in the UK discovered the benefits of a 'bowel clear out' for patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These patients, while having regular (daily) bowel motions, were suffering from constipation with an occasional bout of diarrhoea, every 7-14 days. The stools were of a Type 1 and Type 2 category (Bristol Stool Scale).
After an initial strong laxative, patients were given a flaxseed fibre supplement, a bulking laxative to keep things regular. The regime was incredibly successful.
It's important to note. 'Hidden constipation', which is the build-up of faeces in the large bowel, can still occur while having regular bowel motions.
Kick-start your digestive system
Dr John Hunter suggests his protocol for successfully treating constipation. The idea is to firstly clear out the bowels with a strong laxative, and subsequently encourage regular complete evacuation with ground flaxseeds (linseed). Ground or milled flaxseeds do not ferment to create gas, and are a preferable source of fibre.
Several subsequent studies have uncovered the wonderful healing benefits of kiwifruits. Eating kiwifruit daily for about four weeks relieves constipation, improves bowel transit time and results in better shaped stools (Type 3 and Type 4 on the Bristol Stool Scale).
Kiwifruit is unusually high in digestive enzymes (ever wondered why your mouth goes funny after eating lots of kiwifruit?!), prebiotics and a unique gentle fibre that swells after digestion and improves bowel movements.
Kiwifruit kick-start instructions
- Each morning for brekkie consume 2 - 3 green kiwifruit, or a single 2.5-5g dose of kiwifruit dietary supplement standardized to the enzyme actinidin
- Shortly after consuming the kiwifruit, drink 500mL of water
- Continue this daily regime for four weeks
- During the initial four weeks avoid fibre supplements or foods with added fibre, such as cereals
- After the four weeks you can stop the kiwifruit, and start taking 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseeds (ground flaxseeds are best kept refrigerated). Add to muesli, porridge, salads, smoothies etc. Follow with 500mL of water
- 1 tablespoon can be increased to 2 tablespoons twice daily, although too much will cause bloating and discomfort. Always follow with 500mL of water.
Once you've found out what works for you, you should be passing regular healthy stools and no longer be constipated!
The program shouldn't need to be repeated. However, if your bowels become sluggish and constipated again, stop the flaxseed meal and resume 2 - 3 kiwifruits for brekkie.
It may be worth looking into other causes of constipation in case they apply to you. Taking a specific probiotic, getting diagnosed with defecatory disorder, will mean you receive the right treatment and get to the root of the problem!
Happy pooing everyone! :P