Movement and Digestion: How to get your bowel moving

Uncomfortable bowel movements happen to everyone. We often don’t consider fiber, or just don’t know about it. But there are many other contributing factors such as gastrointestinal illnesses, dehydration, and lack-of-movement between meals. So far, we’ve discussed how dehydration and a low-fiber diet can play a role in constipation. So, we’re going to focus on movement and digestion! 

How Food Travels Through Your Body

What digestion can look like. A man holding his stomach and a drawn white outline of the body's digestive system.
Your digestive system is more than just your stomach and colon!

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about digestion.

Digestion doesn’t start at the stomach. In fact, it starts as soon as you place food into your mouth. And the more you chew, the easier it is for your organs to break down the food you eat. Then, once the food is broken down, your body absorbs the nutrients and tells them where to go. So, what happens if you aren’t eating nutritious meals? 

“Processed and fast foods are often high in fat, making them difficult to digest. They are also rich in sugar, which may upset the balance of bacteria in the gut.”

When your diet is high in processed and fast foods, you’re depriving your body of key nutrients. Also, your body doesn’t agree with processed foods. That’s more work or overload for your gallbladder and kidneys.

Anyways, we all know the last part of digestion, bowel movements💩 

We’ve all experienced uncomfortable bowel movements, but probably don’t have the answer to our troubles. While the contributing factors may vary by person, we’re here to discuss how movement can help!

Why Movement is Important for Digestion

Movement. A low shot of a person's feet in athletic shoes talking a walk surrounded by Cherry Blossom Trees.
Getting some movement in after a meal tells your digestive tract muscles to get moving too!

Now, we’re not saying to do extreme cardio after a heavy meal. Actually, we don’t recommend that at all. We’re talking about light and easy movements such as going for a 10-15min walk and here’s why!

Moving around and using your muscles after you eat triggers peristalsis [peh·ruh·staal·suhs]. Peristalsis is a series of wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract.”

So, if the muscles in your digestive tract are moving, then so is everything in there too! Which means by moving your body, your digestive system is getting a push of encouragement from your muscles. 

So, “How long after a meal should I do light exercise?”

Well, this doctor recommends waiting about 1 hour after your meal. 

Light Exercises We Recommend

10-15 Minute Walk

As mentioned earlier, walking for at least 10-15 minutes around the block or on a treadmill will trigger peristalsis!

Belly Breathing

But did you know there is a type of breathing that also aids in digestion? It’s called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. Basically, instead of inhaling with your chest, you inhale with your stomach. This form of breathing helps with digestion because it puts your body into a “rest-and-digest” state. It’s also been shown to reduce anxiety and improve the feeling of relaxation. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Sit with legs crossed. Make sure your spine is aligned. Head over heart, heart over pelvis.
  2. Place one hand on the middle of the upper chest.
  3. Place the other hand on the stomach, just beneath the rib cage but above the diaphragm.
  4. To inhale, slowly breathe in through the nose, drawing the breath down toward the stomach. The stomach should push upward against the hand, while the chest remains still.
  5. To exhale, tighten the abdominal muscles and let the stomach fall downward while exhaling through pursed lips. Again, the chest should remain still.

Yoga/Stretching

“People believe yoga aids in digestive health by reducing stress, increasing circulation, and promoting physical movement, or motility, of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.”

There is a form of yoga that encourages belly breathing with each movement. So, if you are up for it, try it!

We are no yoga instructors, only yoga do-ers! So, here’s our recommended yoga tutorial that focuses on digestion!

If you like this blog about your body, check out our Water and Digestion Blog!

Why Water is Great for Digestion and Overall Health

Have you had any water today? Well, bottoms up! Proper hydration is an important part of every diet, and we are going to tell you why. Basically, water is great for your overall health and digestion but we’re going to share more details. 

Hydration is Digestion’s BFF

One of water’s many roles in our bodies is aiding in digestion! Fluids help move things along in our digestive tract, just like fiber does. But fiber never works alone, it always needs the help of proper hydration! 

Check out our blog post High Fiber Diet, to learn more about fiber!

Dehydration is one of the most common reasons behind constipation. Without enough fluids, your digestive tract can’t easily move or break down food. The large intestine will begin to absorb water from your food waste which leads to uncomfortable poops. Not giving your body enough fluids can really harm your digestive tract and bathroom experience. And if you don’t believe us, then here’s a study done with elderly adults: 

“ poor intake of water or excessive loss of fluid and electrolytes from the body such as during vomiting, high sweat rates or from renal disease can reduce water content of the stools and lead to constipation.”

While H2O is helping to break down foods, it’s also helping your body absorb the nutrients from the foods you eat. Water is a true multi-tasker! 

So far, water aids in digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients. What a pal! 

Water is an important part of everyone's diet.
Proper hydration plays an important role in preventing constipation.

How Much Water Should I be Drinking

Your body needs plenty of fluids because of the many ways our body uses them. Your kidneys, skin, brain, stomach, heart, colon, and your entire body needs water. So, this what experts suggest

Did you know we also intake water from the foods we eat! Proper hydration isn’t only about chugging a gallon of water but also incorporating foods with a high-water content. These can be foods like watermelon, cauliflower, tomatoes, and more

Proper Hydration is Good for Your Body and Brain

Proper hydration is important for regulating body temperature and helping brain function!

In warmer climates, drinking enough water is crucial for your body temperature because of sweating. Sweating’s role is to cool down your body temperature and it can’t do that without enough fluids. 

Some say constipation is a “summer disease” because how easy it is to become dehydrated in the summer months. So, drink more fluids in the summer and warmer climates to avoid constipation and keep your body cool. 

Now, let’s talk about your brain. Researchers have studied how dehydration affects cognitive function. Here’s what they found: 

“ Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention, psychomotor, and immediate memory skills, as well as assessment of the subjective state. “

In order to perform at your very best, don’t forget to include plenty of fluids!

It's important to listen to your body if you are feeling dehydrated.
In warmer climates, its especially important to keep your body hydrated!

Hydration is Key

When it comes to digestion and the overall upkeep for your body, water is key! You can increase your water intake by incorporating foods with a high-water content and of course, drinking plenty of water.

Avoid Being Bloated and Constipated during the Holidays

Don't forget to grab some fiber for all your holiday dinners to prevent constipation and that bloated feeling.
Include Naturlax this holiday season.

The holiday season means joy, socially-distant family time, and more food than can fit on the table! This can also include the uncomfortable feeling of being bloated and maybe even constipation. But enjoying the holidays doesn’t always have to end up this way. We have crafted a few tips and tricks to make sure you still feel great even after the holidays. 

Don’t get Bloated on All-Year Round Foods

We’ve all been there, completely overwhelmed by all the delicious home-made plates that we only get to have once a year. Some dishes are too good to pass on. But things like turkey, pumpkin pie, bread rolls, and cranberry sauce can be purchased all year long. So, there’s no need to break your diet or overindulge on these items.

Also, try a lighter hand on the starchy foods like potatoes and white breads or try avoiding them altogether to avoid that bloated feeling.

Move Your Body to Help Digestion

Make sure to move! Stuffing yourself and being a couch potato isn’t helpful for your digestion. We suggest taking a walk or doing some form of activity to get your body moving. This can be something as simple as the post-dinner clean up. 

You don’t have to do heavy cardio if your body isn’t used to it. A simple walk around the block can help digestion and prevent the bloated feeling.

Water to Prevent Constipation

“The intestines require enough liquid to move waste through.”

Staying hydrated is always important but here’s why water can help you during the holidays. Water is great at preventing constipation because it helps keep the stool soft so it’s easier to pass along. [sorry if this was TMI but hey, we’re a fiber company ]. After all, “dehydration is one of the most common causes of chronic constipation“.

Water is especially important if you plan to consume alcohol while waiting for the main course. Alcohol is very dehydrating which will lead to holiday constipation! So, make sure to include water!

Staying hydrated is just as important, if not more important than fiber. After all, you need to stay hydrated while intaking high-fiber foods. Let’s talk about our favorite digestion aid, fiber!

Fiber for the Holidays

Try reaching for more fiber-rich sides like spinach, green beans, carrots, and whole grain breads. Fiber is absolutely essential for handling big dinners because it will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Also, it will move things along so you won’t experience holiday bloating and constipation. 

Don’t skip breakfast! Some people will skip meals as preparation for the big dinner but if you are someone who is inexperienced with fasting it won’t actually help. So, don’t skip breakfast. Instead try a high-fiber breakfast like oatmeal, chia pudding, or a smoothie to get some fiber in before the big feast! We even have a Mini Pumpkin Pancake recipe filled with over 4grams of fiber!

If you’re thinking of trying all-natural fiber supplements then we have the deal for you! For the first time, we are offering a Fall Holiday Fiber Bundle! An exclusive deal that can keep you feeling great for the holiday season!

Here’s How Fiber Can Support Your Pregnancy

A pregnant woman sitting crossed in front of a bowl of fruit and a glass of milk.
Fiber has been shown to support healthy pregnancies.

Fiber is important for everyone, but especially if you’re pregnant!  On average, a high-fiber diet supports weight loss, lowers blood pressure, prevents constipation, and lowers your risk of heart disease. If you are pregnant, a high-fiber diet will do all these things and more! 

Constant Constipation

“high-fiber diets in pregnancies helps avoids constipation and hemorrhoids”

For those who are pregnant, their body will undergo dramatic changes to make room for the baby. The body will experience organ displacement as the baby grows larger, which may cause some constipation. A study found high-fiber diets in pregnancies helps avoid constipation and hemorrhoids during this time.  So, to relieve any constipation, try some fiber, but not too much! Ease into it and drink plenty of fluids along the way. 

Although, constipation is a quick fix, there are other conditions that can occur during some pregnancies like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Keep reading to find out why these aren’t great to have. 

Pregnancy Diabetes and High-Blood Pressure!

If you didn’t know before, there is a specific type of diabetes that occurs only when a person is pregnant. This is called gestational diabetes and occurs within 2% to 10% of pregnancies every year! Usually this kind of diabetes leaves with pregnancy or it may turn into type 2 diabetes!

Fortunately, if you are planning to get pregnant, you are able to prevent these outcomes before they start! As always, we recommend speaking with your doctor to find the options that best fit you. 

To prevent gestational diabetes, make sure you are at a healthy weight before getting pregnant and getting constant physical activity. And remember, fiber is a great way for you to control your weight!

“What if I’ve already been diagnosed with gestational diabetes?”

Well, it can be managed by checking your blood sugar, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet (this involves a high-fiber diet), getting moderate physical activity, and monitoring your baby’s health with a doctor. 

Now, on to the next condition. 

Preeclampsia occurs during pregnancy spiking up a person’s blood pressure. In fact, 1 out of every 20 pregnancies will experience this condition in the third trimester! The most common cure is delivery but luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent it!

Natural fiber powders like Naturlax have been recommended by doctors.

It’s No Secret, it’s Just Fiber!

“high-fiber diets significantly reduced a pregnancy’s risk of experiencing preeclampsia in their third trimester by 67%!”

As soon as your first trimester, it is recommended to start eating more fiber! The majority of the U.S. population’s fiber consumption is below the recommended standard, so quit slacking! As we’ve discussed in a previous blog post, it is recommended for men and women to consume 20-38 grams of fiber a day. This is around where most studies have determined what is a high-fiber diet for pregnancies. And believe me, you’ll know when you’ve had enough!

One study found high-fiber diets significantly reduced a pregnancy’s risk of experiencing preeclampsia in their third trimester by 67%! That’s over half!

Even by adding two slices of whole-grain bread into their daily diet found to reduce the risk by 14%. Thats, near half…

The Many Shapes and Forms of Fiber

You may be asking yourself, “how do I get more fiber into my diet?”.

Luckily there a lot of the foods you probably already eat that contain high amounts of fiber. But remember, it’s important to ease your way into fiber and always drink plenty of fluids with your fiber. Do as your doctor recommends! 

Some high fiber foods include fruits, veggies, beans and legumes, and nuts but if all these make you sick, try natural fiber supplements like Naturlax!  

At Naturlax, our fiber supplements are naturally derived from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant, safe enough for your pregnancies and but still effective. Some studies even recommended natural fiber supplements, like psyllium, for those who are pregnant and struggle to achieve a high-fiber diet. 

Pop Quiz! Just Kidding, Let’s Review!

Let’s review what we learned today: fiber is especially important for those who are pregnant. Among the benefits fiber already provides, fiber can also help manage gestational diabetes and prevent preeclampsia. Fiber is easy to find in anyway grocery store! But it’s also easy and effective to try natural fiber supplements.

Enough fiber a day, can keep these conditions away!

Fiber for Fitness: How to Achieve Better Performance 💪🏼

For most people, summer time means beach trips, vacation, and free time (finally!)… but for athletes, it means fitness packets, team training, and tournaments. 

BUT WAIT! 

Before you jump to the conclusion that this post isn’t for you because you “aren’t an athlete,” think again, my friend! Whether you are an active exerciser or not, there is still something to learn from this post. We promise! 

We’ve mentioned in previous posts that fiber has a lot of benefits, so today we are going to tell you how fiber benefits  your physical fitness, when the optimal time for fiber intake is, and when to lay off of it. Yes, too much fiber can hurt you, just like anything else, but knowing when you’ve had too much and when you haven’t had enough is another challenge we want to help you overcome. 

Let’s begin…

Why is fiber important for athletes?

Like everyone else in the world, athletes have a hard time establishing and maintaining healthy eating habits, too. You may workout 10+ hours a week, but to stay healthy, you have to consider everything you eat. Athletes tend to have a high intake of protein and carbs, but when it comes to fiber, they fall short just like the rest of us. 

Reminder: it is recommended that the daily intake of fiber is 20-35 grams for men and women regardless of physical activity. 

With the right intake of fiber, athletes and non-athletes alike can have better appetite control, improved insulin and blood sugar levels, and a stronger immune system. These health benefits are crucial to improving athletic performance and overall physical fitness.

Break it down a little further… How does fiber help exactly?

Appetite Control

Do you find yourself hungry throughout the day and eating small snacks in addition to the meals you make? Do you eat and not feel satisfied? Or eat a meal you were craving, but still feel hungry afterwards?

A high intake of fiber fixes this problem! Let’s learn how. Fiber helps control your appetite by absorbing water. Ever notice that after eating apples or broccoli that you are less hungry than when you eat a pint of ice cream? That’s because apples and broccoli are amongst the many foods that are rich in fiber. They absorb water and create a gel-like substance in the gastrointestinal tract that takes up more space in your stomach. 

So when you eat high fiber foods, your stomach is only concerned with breaking down the fiber because it’s taking up all the space in your stomach! Since fiber slows down digestion, you’re full for a longer period of time, which means you snack less, which makes it easier to eat clean. And for athletes, bodybuilders, and people trying to lose weight, this is a perfect solution to keep them disciplined in eating healthy.  

Insulin Control

A high-fiber meal has several positive effects on your digestion in addition to making you feel full faster and for a longer period of time. When you combine a high-fiber meal with protein, it can help distribute the release of nutrients like glucose into your bloodstream. That’s great for your body composition regardless of whether you are trying to bulk up, slim down, or maintain the physique you have! Regulating blood sugar levels and increasing insulin sensitivity can help prevent diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. 

Exercising and a balanced diet go hand-in-hand in preventing obesity-related diseases and other illnesses. An active lifestyle does not mean that you are automatically immune to sickness which is why it is so important to pay attention to what you’re putting into your body.

Immune System Boost

We saved the best or last! 

When you eat fiber, you’re not just feeding yourself — you’re also feeding the “good” bacteria in your gut. This bacteria helps to reduce inflammation and enhance immune function. Now, if you eat the right amount of fiber on a daily basis, guess what that means for your immune system? That’s right, you’re on your way to having a healthier body! 

A stronger immune system means you’ll get sick less often, which means you get to spend more time training and less time missing life’s most important events. It also helps you to recover faster from training by producing the necessary cells to support tissue repair. When you workout, you’re creating microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, which is why you may feel sore afterward. Your muscle is rebuilding the tissue it tore, but also making it stronger and a strong immune system will produce an abundance of cells to help regenerate your muscle and recover faster.💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼

Pretty cool, huh? 😎

So, when should I eat fiber-rich meals and when should I not?  

“Understanding the role that fiber plays in energy availability and digestion can help athletes further fine tune their nutrition strategy for training and race day. When you’re planning carbohydrate, protein and fat intake, be sure to consider fiber as part of a well-rounded and healthy approach to your training diet.”

Quick Recap: One of the great benefits of having a consistent intake of the recommended amount of fiber is that it helps you to control your appetite, which is great because it makes it harder to snack in between meals.

But here’s the kicker: too much fiber can also cause gastrointestinal distress because it slows down the digestion process. 

Too much fiber intake close to a workout can actually cause some issues both while you workout and after. Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this! Eat fiber foods a minimum of two hours prior to your workout. 

But a couple of days before a high intensity event, like on race day or game day, decrease your fiber intake. Why? Decreasing your fiber intake on the days leading up to an event can decrease the chances of having gastrointestinal distress during that event, and the last thing anyone wants is a gas cramp.  

Based on the article written by Pamela Nisevich, a dietician who specializes in sports, athletes should eat fiber rich meals on rest days or after workouts. Nisevich suggests athletes also gradually increase their fiber intake because it requires a lot of water and could lead to dehydration and constipation. 

So if you, reader, start to increase your fiber intake, DRINK LOTS OF WATER! You want to make sure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to work efficiently and successfully. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH

We may know the facts about fiber from research and personal experience, but we aren’t doctors or nutritionists. Ask your doctor, dietician, or nutritionist about any changes you make to your diet or what you should eat to improve your health. 

Summary 

DO increase your intake of fiber on rest days and after workouts with your protein meals, so your muscles can recover faster, your stomach can efficiently distribute the nutrients to your body to give it the energy it needs, and to help balance your metabolism. 

DON’T increase your fiber intake a couple of days before and on the day of the big event because it can cause bloatedness and probably negatively impact your performance. You should still eat fiber foods like an apple, but don’t go crazy. 

DEFINITELY talk to you a nutritionist or dietician about what foods and behaviors are best for you to improve your health. 

Now that you know how fiber can help you, you can make better decisions on what to include in your diet and when. If you still don’t know what to eat, we made a list of foods you can eat and make that will provide you with protein and fiber:

Foods high in Protein and Fiber

Food (serving)Protein (g)Fiber (g)
Almonds (1 oz.)63.4
Oats (1 cup)1116.5
Broccoli (1 cup)32.4
Quinoa (1 cup)85.2
Lentils (1 cup)1815.6
Pumpkin Seeds
(1 oz.)
99.6
Brussels Sprouts
(1 cup)
44
Kidney Beans (100g)246.4
Chickpeas (100g)198.3
Chia Seeds (100g)1134.4
Baked Potato:      
S  (~ 138g)     
M (~ 173g)     
L  (~ 299g)

3.5
4.3
7

3
3.8
7
Brown Rice (1 cup)5195
Visit UCSF Health to learn more.

On-the-Go Solutions

Add to your protein shakes, smoothies, water bottles, etc! Quick AND simple

References

Increasing Fiber Intake

Fiber’s Role in Muscle Building

Fiber Intake Guidelines for Endurance Athletes

Digestive Health for Active People