Constipation is a common complaint in pregnancy because of the hormone progesterone which dominates during pregnancy and which relaxes smooth muscle throughout the body.
In the bowel, when the muscle relax under the influence of progesterone, they are less able to propel the bowel contents towards the rectum for defication. As the baby and placenta grow larger and heavier, their weight puts pressure on the lower bowel and impedes circulation to it, aggravating any tendency to constipation.
Lack of fibre in the diet clearly contributes to constipation, as does any upset in the bacterial population of the bowel. A high proportion of harmful, putrefactive can slow down bowel movements. Such bacteria tend to thrive in the gut of those on a low fibre, high meat and fat diet. They also produce toxins which, when absorbed into the bloodstream, slow down the transit time through the bowel of other harmful by-products from food digestion. This causes other toxins to be reabsorbed, producing a state of "auto intoxication" in the body which can contribute to symptoms such as headaches, aches and pains, malaise, irritability, lethargy and insomnia.
a diet in high unrefined carbohydrates and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will ensure that beneficial bacteria predominiate in the bowel. There is plenty of fibre in fruits and vegetables, beans and pulses, nuts and seeds, as well as whole grains. Prunes, dried figs and apricots can be eaten freely, as can rhubarb, apples, raisins, molasses, honet, sesame seeds and desiccated cocount oil, all of which are particularly laxative.
An old rememdy for constipation is to drink lemon juice in a cup of warm water half an hour before breakfast, with no sweetner added. Alternatively a teaspoon of honey in a cup of hot water each morning before breakfast has also proved helpful. A daily (green) salad is recommended, for raw food is bulkier than cooked.
To ensure the right balance of bacteria in the gut, eat natural, live yoghurt or take a supplement of lacto-acidophilus. Garlic, onion and leeks are also helpful.
Tea and coffee are not recommended in pregnancy, and may aggravate constipation. Dandelion coffee acts as a tonic to the digestive tract and is slightly laxative, making this a useful alternative. There is a large assortment of herbal remedies for constipation. Syrup of figs, linseds, psyllium seeds, and slippery elm powder are traditional treatments which all work well. Health food stores supply these remedies.
There are other herbs which have a tonic, stimulating action in the bowels and a gentle action on the liver, increasing bile flow. They can be made into infusions, or bought as tinctures and taken as directed.
If you have a particularly persistent problem, then senna pods may be your remedy. Tear up 5-10 pods and pour a cupful of boiling water over them. Add a pinch of ginger powder and let it stand overnight. Drink first thing in the morning before breakfast. Licorice may also prove effective. Licorice water can be made by adding 1oz (25g) of peeled sticks to 1 pint (600ml) of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes. Drink a cupful three times daily or as required.
To relax muscles and soothe the nerves, take these herbs as teas and add strong infusions to the bath water:
Essential oils can be added to bath water or to massage oils. Choose from:
Gentle massage to the lower back can also help the tension in the bowel. Iron tablets can often cause constipation. If you require iron, look for a natural source.