If, after several uncomfortable minutes of pushing, all that you manage to produce during your bathroom routine is some sad little bokkie pellets, the problem may not be in the bathroom but in the kitchen.

Being constipated or having a happy regular tummy starts with what we eat, hence reference to the kitchen. Thinking of our tummies when we shop or cook could mean that bathroom problems become a thing of the past.

Highly processed foods like white bread or those full of solid fats and sugar, like chips, pizza, cookies, cakes, pastries, cheese and ice cream are delicious but they don’t help the tummy to move things along because they don’t contain fibre.

Dietary fibre is the tough parts of grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. It’s such a big health hero that the medical industry recommends we eat 25 grams per day. Fibre’s super power is that it absorbs water as it passes through the intestines and this helps stools to become larger, softer and easier to pass.

So rougher versions of grains like brown rice, brown bread and whole wheat rusks are better for tummies. More ideas to try:

1. Start the day with a plate of cereal containing bran or other high fibre. Read labels bearing those 25 grams of fibre in mind. Oats and pearl barley for instance deliver around 4.5 grams a cup.
2. Regularly eat legumes like baked or other beans, lentils and split peas. Half a cup of tinned butter beans delivers nearly 7 grams of fibre.
3. All veggies contain fibre so up their space on your plate. Heavyweights to look out for are broccoli, carrots, sweet potato and turnips. Wash them and serve with their peels where possible as much of the fibre is found just under the skin.
4. Fruits all contain fibre, some more than others. Look out for berries, avocado (nearly 7 grams a half cup), apples, pears, guavas and prunes.
5. Drink lots of water as it helps to make stools soft and easier to pass. Health authorities recommend around 2 litres of water a day, around 8 glasses.
6. For those nightmare days when we need a little help to get things moving, think of tried and trusted Black Forest Herbal Tea. It’s as simple as infusing a tasty teabag in a cup of boiling water and drinking it at night. Black Forest Herbal Tea normally produces bowel movements within 6 to 12 hours and is indicated for the relief of occasional constipation. It is not recommended for use consecutively for longer than a week.

Increasing fibre and water intake may seem like a lot to think about, but the effort is definitely worth it when push comes to shove, so to speak.

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