The Scoop on Poop (during Pregnancy)


Everyone has an “issue" during pregnancy - that one symptom or side effect that nags at you for ten months. The most common complaints include nausea, unending fatigue, uncomfortable heartburn, or a soul-crushing sluggish colon. As you may have guessed, I experienced the latter….

During pregnancy, digestion slows down, way down. Not only are your intestines being physically displaced, but the increased hormone progesterone acts as a smooth muscle relaxant making regular contracting motions slower and less effective. Thus making it harder to move stool through the colon. Your body does this in order to properly nourish the baby and avoid bypassing his/her needs - pretty cool… for the baby.

My hope is that the tricks I’ve learned will you help you avoid this particular “issue”. If you are already prone to constipation, it is  a good idea to brace yourself.

How To Manage Constipation During Pregnancy (or anytime!):

1) Hydration is key. If you are pregnant and constipated, water is your best friend. Water (some believe warm water, specifically) can help kick start a sluggish bowel. If you choose to add fiber to your diet, water becomes even more necessary since you need to increase fluid intake even more with fiber.

2) Two magical words: Stool Softeners. Stool softeners are NOT the same thing as laxatives. They shouldn’t entice your bowels to contract or give you that crampy feeling you get from laxatives. They simply pull water into your colon to help make the stool softer and more efficient as it moves comfortably through your digestive system . I prefer taking the supplement in capsule or tablet form with 1-2 full glasses of water. I recommend 200-300mg per day of the active ingredient - ducosate sodium, look for it on the back label.. Although it is suggested you take it at bedtime, I personally take it around 6 pm. It takes about twelve hours to kick in and you need to drink a lot of water after. Play with timing and you’ll find what works best for you.

3) Eat prunes and other sources of insoluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber particularly helps with constipation. Try to include at least 2-3 sources a day. Some of my favorite sources: blackberries, beans, bran, bulgur, coconut, cashews, fruit with the skin (apples, pears), figs, lentils, prunes, quinoa, spinach, raisins, and raspberries.  

4) Say yes to healthy bacteria! Taking a daily supplement and/or food source containing healthy bacteria will help your digestion and your immune system immensely. As for food sources, include fermented and cultured foods. If you choose to add a supplement, Nutrition Now PB8 (pictured), Jarrow Dophilus EPS, Nature’s Bounty Ultra Probiotic 10, or Ultimate Flora Adult are my go-to recommendations.

5) Don’t just sit there - squat! It’s been proven that squatting on the toilet streamlines defecation (makes it easier for stool to move through your digestive system) and reduces hemorrhoid risk. Check the research for yourself, or better yet, give it a try! 

6) Drink hot teas.  Gentle teas like peppermint and ginger can be enjoyed on a daily basis, but sometimes laxative teas come in handy. Get Regular by Yogi or Smooth Move by Traditional Medicinals use herbal laxatives that aid in contracting your bowels. Do not use for more than 2-3 days at time.

7) Sometimes you just need a salad. Make sure to buy a variety of dark leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, and chew well to avoid bloat.

8) Iron Be Gone! Most ,if not all, prenatal vitamins have iron. Unfortunately, iron is constipating, especially in the amount provided during pregnancy, which can be up to three times more than the recommended intake! If you are suffering from constipation, make sure to choose Gentle Iron (usually the active ingredient is Iron Glycinate). 

9) Magnesium. This mineral aids in drawing extra water into your bowels  stimulating peristalsis (bowel contractions). I didn’t find it very helpful, but some people swear by it. I would suggest starting with 250-300mg.

10) Last resort: avoid grains. Even though some grains have a ton of fiber, they can also be very binding. Avoid grains, breads, and cereals for a bit and only include legumes (beans and lentils) for a few days. Most importantly, listen to your body and how you feel.

Good luck!

Gut Flora: The Forgotten Body Organ


During the past few weeks, I have done a little self-experimenting and a lot of reading- mostly about ways to improve our gut. My conclusion? We need to repopulate the healthy bacteria in our gut. Yup. A large dose of healthy bacteria can do the body wonders!

What are probiotics and why are they so important?
Our large intestines are inhabited by trillions of beneficial bacteria or gut flora often referred to as probiotics, literally meaning “encouraging life.” When these are administered in adequate amounts they provide a benefit to the host (i.e. us!). Probiotics are introduced in our system after birth and are available both in the gut and in certain foods. These bacteria are primarily composed of Lactobacillus (L.) and bifidobacterium (B.). Probi’s are essential because they:

  • aid digestion and absorption of key nutrients and vitamins
  • treat severeal digestive problems including infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis
  • are “priming” or training our immune system for contact with harmful bacteria, and learning how to respond to bacteria without having to suffer an infection. It is important to note that approximately 25% of our immune cells and 60-70% of our immune response is located in the gut, therefore this healthy bacteria acts somewhat as a first defense
  • lower our vulnerability to food borne illnesses and prevent spread of opportunistic or bad bacteria such as Enterobacteria, Staphylococcus and Clostridium
  • strengthen our immune system and the bacteria already present in our gut, therefore preventing sickness
  • aid with certain allergies or allergy symptoms such as atopic dermatitis

How much should you consume a day?
There is no set guideline for probiotic intake, however consuming a diet high in probiotics as well as prebiotics (more below) can provide amazing health benefits, as mentioned above. Recommendations can range anywhere from 1 Billion to 30 Billion CFU’s (Colony Forming Units) per day, depending on age and symptoms. CFU’s are the number of dormant bacteria cells. 

A gut flora- stimulating diet would include:

  • Yogurt, brands such as Wallaby Organic, Good Belly, Horizon Organic, DanActive, Trader Joes, Stonyfield Farm, and Brown Cow have shown to have at least 5 Billion CFU’s per serving.
  • Fermented foods:  yogurts, kimchi (Korean pickled vegetables), sauerkraut, kefir (fermented milk), some cottage cheese, aged cheese, and soy products like miso and tempeh
  • A diet rich in prebiotics, which help probiotics grow. Sources include:  kefir, whole grains, barley, flax, oatmeal, onions, green vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens), legumes, berries and bananas
  • A high quality probiotic supplement. A few I like are: Good Belly probiotic powder, Jarrow Formula Ideal Bowel Support, Metagenics, Culturelle, and Nature’s Bounty. Unfortunately, if you are looking for better results, the content of protiotic i.e. CFUs is more important than how it is consumed (food or supplement). The supplement should be “clinically proven” and include: strain, CFUs, expiration date, suggested serving size, health benefits, proper storage conditions, and corporate contact information
  • Homemade cultured foods using acidophilus and bifidobacterium as the starter bacteria or homemade fermented foods. See below for quick recipe!

Certain factors can influence the intestinal flora and increase the levels of harmful bacteria, among those are:

  1. an unbalanced diet- diet high in sugar, fat and processed foods prevents them from growing and thriving
  2. ***antibiotic therapy- kills both good and bad bacteria
  3. stress
  4. fatigue
  5. aging
  6. bacteria-contaminated food
BOTTOM LINE: Crowd out the bad bacteria by improving your healthy gut bacteria and consuming a diet high in pro and prebiotics. 

Pictured Cucumber Pickles Recipe from the book by Chernila A. “The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making." 

  • Especially if you are taking medication or other dietary supplements, talk to your doctor before taking protiotic supplements.
  • Not all probiotics are created equal. Different strains of even the same species can be different and may not produce the same effects. 
If you would like more information on how to improve your health in a safe and efficient way, contact me now!

Pic from Chiot’s Run on Flickr
Palmer S. Probiotics’ Potential: Research Suggests Beneficial Bacteria May Support Immune Health. Today’s Dietitian
The Intestine/Immune Connection. VitaBase.
All About Probiotics. Integrative Therapies Program.