10 best foods that help relieve constipation during pregnancy
During pregnancy, with a baby growing rapidly inside you and hormones wreaking havoc, your normal or routine habits can go for a toss! Bowel movements, for one, become way trickier and constipation becomes a daily challenge. Stomach pain, hard stools, and infrequent bowel movements are some common symptoms of constipation that affect three out of four pregnant women. So here is some help at hand. In this article, we explore how you can get relief from pregnancy constipation by consuming certain foods regularly.
When does it start and why does it happen during pregnancy?
Constipation during pregnancy usually starts in the second or third month of pregnancy, and is linked to the increase in a pregnancy-related hormone called progesterone. Progesterone causes the muscles in your bowels to relax, thereby allowing food to stay longer in the digestive tract. While the good part is that the body gets extra time to absorb nutrients, sadly, there is a downside too, and that is constipation!
Progesterone isn’t the only culprit behind constipation. When your baby grows, your uterus expands and presses down on your bowels, which can slow their ability to empty. Moreover, the iron present in prenatal vitamin or iron supplement can also contribute to constipation during pregnancy.
How to manage constipation during pregnancy?
To get relief from constipation, following a proper diet and exercising are essential. Being active helps the stool to move better through your digestive system. Regular exercise, as recommended by a doctor, can help relieve constipation. However, if exercising is not an option, at least try and walk for 20 to 30 minutes every day.
Regarding diet, consuming more fibre is your best bet. Fibre absorbs large amounts of water, making the stools bulky and soft, and thereby facilitating their easy passage through the digestive system. Since fibre needs water to work its magic, having plenty of fluids is a good idea. Consuming foods rich in probiotics is also a good idea as probiotics are friendly bacteria that nourish your gut (intestine) and thereby promote better bowel movements.
Now, check out the 10 foods that will help relieve constipation:
As opposed to refined grains, whole grains are loaded with fibre and are generally rich in B vitamins and magnesium, which are frequently lacking in the diet of a pregnant woman. Including whole grains in your diet is easy, as you can choose from brown rice, whole wheat, millets (like ragi, foxtail, jowar), broken wheat, and oats, instead of polished white rice or maida-based products like white bread.
The next time you are in the kitchen, whip up whole-wheat chapatis or dosas, ragi dosas, jowar rotis, broken wheat upma/khichdi or multigrain khichdi.
Pulses and dals
Pulses, dals, chickpeas, and peas are fibre-packed foods which promote good digestion and reduce constipation. Additionally, pulses contain nutrients such as potassium, folate, zinc, and vitamin B6, which also help to ease constipation. You can incorporate more pulses in your diet by adding them to soups or blending them to make healthy dips like hummus.
Vegetables and greens
Vegetables are loaded with fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Green leafy vegetables are particularly important as they provide fibre as well as iron and folate (nutrients that are needed more during pregnancy). So, get your daily dose of vegetables in the form of a soup, smoothie, salad, or sambar.
Apples are an easy way to boost the fibre content of your diet and alleviate constipation. It contains a special type of fibre called pectin. You can also snack on them in between meals.
Not only are pears rich in fibre, but they are also rich in fructose and sorbitol, which stimulate bowel movement. Thus, this is another healthy snack to include in your diet.
Prunes are packed with fibre, potassium, vitamin K and sorbitol. They are natural laxatives that help relieve constipation. You can enjoy prunes in salads, oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies or simply munch on them as a mini snack.
Curds and buttermilk
Curds and buttermilk are foods rich in probiotics that promote a healthy gut. Foods like idlis, dosas, dhoklas, rice kanji, and kadhi are some of the traditional Indian fermented foods which contain probiotics.
Did you know that chia seeds can absorb up to 12 times its own weight in water? When chia seeds are soaked in water, a gel is formed. This helps add bulk and weight to stools, making them easier to pass. So, sprinkle these seeds on juices, flavoured/infused water, smoothies, or on oatmeal.
Bran is the outer fibrous cover of grains. Include wheat or oat bran in chapatis, soups, smoothies, curds, and baked goodies.
Soups are like warm hugs in a bowl. Not only are they nutritious, but they also soften dense and hard stools, making them easy to pass. It is also easier to digest warm liquids and foods during pregnancy. Apart from soups, make sure to drink lots of water. If plain water isn’t your favourite, try fruit-infused water or ajwain/jeera flavoured water.
In a nutshell, remember that fibre-rich foods, plenty of fluids and an active lifestyle can help relieve constipation during pregnancy. If the problem still persists after you have tried dietary changes, do consult a doctor.