Fasting is an increasingly popular trend, whether it be for weight loss or religious purposes. But, how does it affect how you poop? Here’s what you need to know.
According to Healthline, fasting may result in constipation due to dehydration and insufficient dietary fiber intake. The bowel’s ability to function properly also decreases when it’s not used, meaning you are more likely to experience diarrhea from breaking your fast than during the fast.
Keep reading to learn how to prevent constipation while fasting, and diarrhea when breaking your fast.
Tips To Prevent Constipation During Fasting
Constipation is an extremely common gastrointestinal side effect during fasting, and this results in the food moving through the digestive tract much slower than usual which causes painful stools that are difficult to pass. The good news is that there are some steps you can take to prevent this from happening to you!
Here’s some helpful tips to combat constipation while you fast:
- Eat your fruits and vegetables. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. These will give your body enough quantities of fiber.
- Opt for whole-wheat bread over white. Again, this will help provide your body with more fiber. Also, opt for cereals higher in fiber a lower in sugar. Add legumes or corn to rice and pasta dishes and soups for added fiber.
- Include salads with your main meals. This will provide your body with more roughage to bulk up stools and get them moving through your system quicker.
- Include fiber with your meals. Include fiber-rich soups such as grains, vegetables, or lentils with your meals when you do eat. This will help provide your body with both fluids and fiber. You should be getting 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
- Consume sufficient fluids. Water, vegetable juice, unsweetened fruit juice, low-fat or fat-free milk, and slimming soups are excellent additions with your meal or as snacks to prevent constipation and keep you hydrated. You should be drinking three to four liters per day.
- Get active. If you can, keeping active stimulates the bowels and decreases the number of time stools sit in the bowels. Aerobic activity is the most effective at doing this, so go for a short jog or jump rope for a couple of minutes and see the difference!
With that being said, there are certain foods that you should avoid when fasting, so keep reading to find out what they are!
5 Foods To Avoid For Constipation While Fasting
1. Refined foods
Refined flour-based products such as cookies and noodles lack fiber and are much more difficult to digest. They also increase the body’s blood sugar levels which results in insulin resistance and food cravings.
It is much better to rather eat whole grains, vegetables, or foods high in fiber to ease the digestion process and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
2. Foods with a high sugar content
Most people tend to do less physical activity during their fasting period. Because of this, it is a good idea to also reduce your intake of sugar. If you are craving sugary foods, try and choose a homemade food or something that is naturally sweet such as fruit.
This will help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels while at the same time not wreaking havoc with your body.
3. Deep-fried foods
Foods that are fried (such as chips and french fries) are particularly high in trans fats that tends to raise levels of bad cholesterol. It also tends to lower the water content of stools due to the high salt content.
4. Processed foods
As mentioned a little earlier, noodles and other instant foods contain excessive quantities of preservatives, sugar, salt, and trans fats. Not only this, but they also tend to be low in vitamins and minerals that are important and necessary to support healthy bowel movements.
Rather opt for natural, freshly made foods in the window when you do eat, and this will also help to increase your fiber intake and reduce constipation.
5. Canned juice
While a can of juice or fizzy drink may be especially tempting (especially when your sugar feels low or you are particularly thirsty) this can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can lead to constipation. This is due to all of the hidden sugars found in most canned beverages.
Rather consume fresh fruits or juice that are easier to digest, such as bananas and avocados to maintain your energy levels.
Diarrhea While Fasting
Constipation is not the only common side effect of fasting, diarrhea is also an issue for many people. This is especially common for people who are new to fasting, especially if they are entering the fast after eating a large number of carbohydrates.
It may also be linked to a dramatic drop in levels of insulin that signals to your kidneys to excrete excess water, therefore resulting in diarrhea.
How Can You Avoid Diarrhea While Fasting?
Step 01. Take 1 tablespoon of psyllium husk and stir it into 1 cup of water, and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes before drinking it. Do this first thing in the morning (it is vital that you drink enough water when you take psyllium husk in order for it to work properly).
Step 02. Do this again with a second tablespoon if needed later on in the day.
Insider Tip: Diarrhea often results in low sodium or potassium levels. Make sure that you drink an extra cup of broth or pickle juice on the days where you experience this undesirable side effect. You can also take an extra pinch or two of salt and add that to your water too.
Additional Side Effects of Fasting
While fasting does have its fair share of health benefits, there are other side effects that you should be aware of before you begin. If you do experience any of these, it may be a good idea to consult a doctor or give it a break.
Insomnia and feeling anxious
According to DietDoctor, this is due to the production of the counter-regulatory hormone adrenaline that is produced when one begins to fast. Normally, this is a positive thing. It boosts our metabolism and helps us to feel energized. But, this is not how we want to feel in the evenings!
This can also result in the jitters, as most people who do not suffer from anxiety report that they feel as if they have had too much coffee when they start to fast. This is simply due to your body producing more adrenaline hat is making the jitters worse. The good news is that your body will adapt over time.
Headaches & dizziness
This side effect is due to low sodium levels. Our insulin begins to drop significantly when we first start fasting, and this causes our kidneys to excrete more water. This results in excess urination, which causes the body to lose important electrolytes.
This can throw off the body’s homeostasis as it tries to regulate the levels of electrolytes, leaving you feeling fatigued, possibly dizzy, or with a headache.
Low blood sugar
Nausea, headaches, and dizziness may also be a strong indicator that your blood sugar is very low. If you are diabetic, it may be a good idea to avoid fasting diets if you can. This can cause you to become hypoglycemic, which is a very dangerous condition for anybody who has problems with their insulin or thyroid.
Changes in menstrual cycle
According to Mayo Clinic, women who have lower body weights and do not consume enough calories during the day may be prone to a condition known as amenorrhea, otherwise known as the loss of menstruation. Sudden weight loss can interfere with your usual hormone cycle and cause missed periods.
If you do experience missed periods due to fasting, it may be a good idea to stop the fasting and speak with your gynecologist.