Not being able to clear your bowels regularly or suffering while trying to could be due to gluten. Here’s a few tips to deal with it.
It is very important to understand what is actually meant by constipation. If you strain to clear your bowels or pass stool less than 4 times in a week (even after consuming proper diet), then you are said to be suffering from constipation. Many people believe insufficient fiber /water intake and lack of physical activity are the major causes for constipation, and thus try to add water/ fiber / laxative to their diet or start exercising.
But there could be another culprit: gluten. Most of us associate a gluten allergy with diarrhea/ bloating / abdominal pain / headache etc.
Many of us are unaware that constipation might be caused by an allergic reaction to gluten.
While most often constipation is caused by the lack of roughage (green vegetables etc) in your diet, it can also be caused by something called celiac disease. This means that exposure to even small amounts of gluten, like a breadcrumb, is enough to cause an autoimmune reaction, where your immune system starts attacking your own enzymes in order to keep the intestines healthy. This disease attacks the microvilli, the finger-like projections that line the small intestine, inhibiting proper absorption of nutrients. As a result, your colon, and then your small intestine, back up. This in turn inhibits gastric juices entering your stomach, resulting in reflux and heartburn and reducing nutrient absorption. Besides, keeping toxins inside the body causes additional stress on the immune system. Celiac disease is a serious condition that needs to be medically treated It is important to get the tests done, especially if you experience symptoms like constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, very dry skin, muscle soreness, weight loss, mouth sores and fatigue.
Gluten is mostly found in foods made from wheat, rye and barley. Sometimes, gluten can be found even in oats when they are processed for longer, which should be avoided. Food products like pasta, breads, couscous, crackers, pizza dough, bagels and baked goods also contain gluten.
So if you are diagnosed with celiac disease, here are a few basic tips to follow:
• Avoid food products made of wheat/ barley and rye.
• Read the label on the food packaging and check if it contains gluten and if it does, try to avoid.
• Sauces and spreads tend to be contaminated with some content of gluten, and hence should be avoided. Only consume if it says “gluten free” on label.
• Include gluten free grains like – rice/ quinoa/ all kinds of millets and pulses; milk and milk products; nuts and oil seeds; non-veg food items and eggs to your diet.
• While on gluten free diet it is best to add 40 percent of your diet in the form of fermented food, to improve digestion process.
• It is also recommended to drink a lot of water throughout the day. You can also try some warm water with a natural fiber supplement as well as a supplement containing slippery elm bark, psyllium husk, flax seed, and L-Glutamine (glutamine).
• You can start by taking a probiotics supplement, followed by a flax oil supplement.
• Try to follow a consistent exercise regime.
(The author is a lifestyle coach and diet counsellor. She tweets @Bipasha1sugati)