Constipation and the microbiota: what changes in diet influence intestinal health

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It is a symptom of multifactorial origin that affects more women, children and the elderly.

It is not a disease, but it causes discomfort and affects the daily lives of those who suffer it chronically. Constipation or constipation is one of the symptoms that affects intestinal health that still bears the weight of the taboo. Diet changes may help improve discomfort.

“Constipation is an intestinal symptom characterized by dissatisfaction when evacuating associated with infrequent evacuation, to the difficulty of the passage or both, “explains Paola Hernández, professor of the Bachelor of Nutrition at ISALUD University. It is more frequent in childhood, in women of reproductive age (due to the hormonal changes that occur during menstrual cycles and also during pregnancy) and in adults and older women.

Its origin is multifactorial. “It can be secondary to other diseases such as hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s disease or diabetes for example, and it can also occur due to a diet poor in fibers and rich in ultra-processed and refined flours. That is why it is necessary to treat it by incorporating fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, probiotics, water and a sufficient amount of fats since these act as lubricant at the intestinal level“, he points.

In recent years, research on the relationship of constipation with the intestinal microbiota has intensified. “Many studies showed that those patients with constipation, in turn, have alterations in the intestinal microbiota, that is to say that this situation can contribute to constipation and the symptoms related to it”, Hernández highlights.

The microbiota “is a collection of microorganisms that live in the gastrointestinal tract. Many functions that they fulfill promote health, because they are responsible for breaking down food so that there are absorbable nutrients, stimulate the immune system, prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria and produce many important biological compounds that contribute to the health of the gut. They also regulate the intestinal environment, which is why, at this moment, it is thought that if we manage to modulate it, it could be a strategy to improve constipation, “says the nutritionist.

People with constipation often disbiosis intestinal (an imbalance in the microbial balance), which requires working on that microbiota and modulating it to improve symptoms. How? “By reducing the consumption of ultra-processed products, sugars and refined flours, giving priority to consumption of fibers that come from fruits and vegetables and whole grains, along with the contribution of essential fatty acids, magnesium and glutamine among other nutrients “, affirms Hernández. And lists other tips:

✔Avoid the use of sweeteners.

✔ Consume prebiotics (garlic, onion, cabbage, leek, mushrooms).

✔Add root vegetables as a source of carbohydrates to the diet.

✔Use natural seasonings (oregano, rosemary, black pepper, basil, turmeric, ginger).

✔ Avoid the consumption of ultra-processed products.

✔ Consume sources of polyphenols such as cocoa, grape juice, green tea, flax seeds.

✔ Consume enough amount of water.

“Fiber acts as a prebiotic within the intestine, stimulating the growth or activity of colon bacteria. This helps to improve colonic health, in turn improving constipation. It must be taken into account that this by itself does not work, because For example, if we consume a lot of fiber but we do not have adequate water consumption, it does not produce the action we are looking for, which is to generate greater volume in the colon so that defecation is easier. What it will do, on the contrary, is to absorb more water, produce more constipation and carry some micronutrients, that’s why always its consumption has to be balanced“, he concludes.

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