How to Manage Constipation Throughout the Holiday Season
The holiday season rarely runs smoothly. In fact, it can be quite hard. The combination of constipation-inducing medications, large holiday meals, and lengthy sedentary time may have you straining for the goods.
Try these helpful tips I’ve shared with my Parkinson's disease (PD) clients and get the scoop on maintaining your holiday poops.
Fill up on fiber
When it comes to holiday meals, fiber-rich ingredients tend to fall by the wayside. Plates often get filled with lots of beige than each color of the rainbow. However, these low-fiber options can leave your digestive system in slow mode.
So, give your gut a much-needed boost by reformulating the way your holiday plate gets structured. Ideally, aim to fill half of your plate with colorful vegetables and a quarter with whole grains. These high-fiber ingredients may help improve gastric motility and bowel frequency.1
But, if you aren’t in charge of the cooking, you may feel limited by the options. So, check out these easy tips for spotting fibrous ingredients at your next holiday dinner. And remember to always pair fiber-filled foods with ample water.
What to eat
Go for the skin The fiber-filled part of fruit and vegetables is predominately found in the skin. So, skip the mash potatoes and opt for a baked alternative to reap the bowel-boosting benefits of fiber. This goes for sweet potatoes too. Even when making fries in the air fryer, keep the skins.
Embrace the legumes. These hearty foods are abundant in feel-full fiber to enable mealtime (and bathroom) satisfaction. Not to mention, they provide plant-based protein and sustained energy to get through any festive function. Lentils. Chickpeas, Beans. Edamame. Peas. Is there an option you’ve bean meaning to try? Consider thickening up your spinach or veggie soups with pureed northern beans.2
Stick to the seeds. Plant the seed for better digestive function with the help of nature’s fiber-filled finest. After all, reaching your daily fiber goals is an all-day affair. So, sprinkle chia, hemp, or flax seeds in your morning oatmeal, yogurt, or smoothie to give your gut a helping hand. Or create a chia seed pudding made from festive flavors such as pumpkin, gingerbread, maple, and more.2
Hype up the hydration
During the holidays, water glasses tend to get substituted for a combination of festive drinks. Eggnog. Hot cider. Mulled wine. While it’s completely acceptable to enjoy a holiday cocktail, it may contribute to dehydration that can negatively impact digestive function.3
After all, alcohol doesn’t only slow down your reflexes (and possibly decision-making skills), but for some, bowel movements as well. So, this holiday season, balance moderate alcohol intake with water to avoid exacerbating symptoms of constipation. Want that second glass of wine? Try serving pomegranate or grape juice in a wine glass!
Holiday dinners are seemingly an all-day event. It may involve sitting around the table for hours while catching up with relatives or friends. The lengthy mealtimes often come paired with an overwhelming sense of lethargy and the occasional leg stretch to power through the remaining festivities.
But this minimal movement can pump the breaks on digestive function and worsen symptoms of constipation. Instead, kick your system into overdrive by minimizing sedentary behavior and keeping the body moving.4
However, if the yearly Turkey Trot doesn’t float your boat, find activities that are fun for the whole gang. Work up an appetite with a family walk, game of ping pong, or charades. The best part is exercise doesn’t have to be all at once but can be beneficial in 10-15 minute increments.
You’ve tried all the tips and tricks, but your gut is seemingly still at a screeching halt from all the holiday festivities. Rather than getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, apply a food-first approach to constipation alleviation.
Embrace nature’s laxatives! Specifically, consuming two kiwis per day provides constipation ridding amounts of actinidine - an enzyme that can stimulate the gastrointestinal tract. But, if you aren’t crazy about kiwis, the high sorbitol content found in prunes can also boost bowel function.5
If dietary interventions are giving you the smooth moves, consult your physician or meet with a registered dietitian to discuss the appropriateness of bowel-inducing medications or foods and supplements.
Have you or your loved one had issues with medication timing?