An estimated 75% of expecting moms experience digestive disruptions — including constipation — during pregnancy.
This makes constipation the second most common pregnancy symptom after nausea and vomiting. In addition to being uncomfortable, constipation in pregnancy can have other adverse effects in pregnancy, including making it more difficult to get restful sleep, absorb all the nutrients required to support baby’s healthy growth and development, and to maintain healthy mobility.
Why do women become constipated during pregnancy?
There are three common contributing factors to constipation in pregnancy:
- Changes in hormone levels: the rising levels of progesterone in pregnancy contribute to the relaxation of the body’s muscles and tissues, which means there is less powerful contracting of muscles surrounding the digestive tract. This leads to constipation.
- Dehydration: the body needs more for fluid to build more blood volume and to create and replenish amniotic fluid. Because of this, it is easier to become dehydrated in pregnancy and this leads to constipation.
- Compression of the intestines: as the uterus expands in the abdominal cavity, other organs are compressed to make space. Imagine a whole family trying to cook a holiday meal in a small galley kitchen — everyone’s job would become harder with limited room and compromises would have to be made. The compression of the intestines and rectum also contribute to digestive changes and the experience of constipation.
Luckily, there are plenty of tasty ways to support the body’s digestion in pregnancy and encourage that coveted daily BM (bowel movement).
The foods below have been trusted by herbalists, Ayurvedic practitioners, and Chinese Medicine practitioners for centuries and have been confirmed by modern research to support digestion.
4 of the most promising foods to prevent or alleviate constipation:
Flax: Research shows that consuming ground flaxseed daily can improve constipation. One of the mechanisms that makes flax effective is that it is high in both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber feeds beneficial gut bacteria that support overall digestion, and insoluble fiber absorbs water, ensuring that stools stay soft and easy to pass.
Psyllium husk: similar to flax, psyllium husk is incredibly fibrous and absorbs water, forming gel-like mass that encourages our intestines to move things along quickly. Psyllium husk is the active ingredient in Metamucil and can be taken on its own with water as a supplement (though it’s not the most appetizing experience!) or enjoyed as an ingredient in food.
Warm, cooked grain porridges: cooked grains like oatmeal, farro, buckwheat, or rice are great because they contain fiber or resistant starch, both of which feed good gut bacteria and can bulk up stool for elimination. An added bonus is the water they absorb is called structured water and is fantastic for hydration (another important tool for reducing constipation!)
Fresh, juicy fruits: another (particularly delicious) way to get a combination of fiber and structured water is in whole fruits. It is recommended not to eat uncooked fruits with meals or other food groups as fruits take a different set of enzymes and different amounts of time to digest from other foods. A whole fruit as a late morning or afternoon snack is a perfect way to enjoy the great benefits of fruits.
What are the best ways to consume these foods?
The best way to enjoy these foods is in a way that is enjoyable and sustainable for you! There are many recipes for baked goods that call for flax and psyllium husk, and plenty of possibilities on how to prepare and enjoy grains and fruits. We worked with our Medical Advisors to combine two of these foods, flax and psyllium husk, in a super-tasty Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies to make it easy for you to enjoy the incredible benefits of these powerful digestive aids.