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.

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!