Constipation affects more women than men. While women are starting to open up about their struggles with poop especially during the winter season it’s important to note that the reason why women struggle with constipation more than men is that men aren’t able to birth children, menstruate or experience the joys of menopause. Issues, I am definitely going to take up with God when I get the chance…   

Truth is, talking about poop can be rather awkward for some of us. The patriarchal archetype of ladylike behaviour has some of my sisters backing “That Azz Up” but not quite in the same way as Juvenile meant, lol. All jokes aside, sis stop pretending like you don’t poop when your partner is around and potentially causing harm to your health!

Our physical, mental, and emotional health is of great importance and must therefore be our number one priority. Prioritising your health is how you love your family, friends and community well. Our health is indeed our wealth and that my friend includes having regular and healthy bowel movements. So, let’s talk about the challenges and different lifestyle habits that heavily impact our regular bowel movements, especially in the winter season! 

I’ll be the first to admit that when the temperatures drop my minimum 2.5-litre water consumption decreases to, what water? And let me tell you my bowel movement feels the lack of water intake with a quickness! Don’t even get me started on the sudden cravings for all the rich and carbohydrate-packed meals I can’t seem to stop myself from craving every time winter rolls around. There are valid anthropological reasons why but today we will just stick with what dietician Kelly Francis said. “Carbohydrate-rich foods give us a serotonin boost, so for many people, acting on winter-food cravings provides us with a sense of relaxation and comfort.” See! I knew there was a scientifically backed explanation for my winter greediness. 

Actually, if I had paid more attention in Biology classes I would have remembered that the reason we crave all the carbs and big bowls full of rich and warm yumminess during the winter is that our body temperature drops along with the weather causing us to desire foods that are hot and dense in an attempt to insulate ourselves. When our bodies shiver they cause a signal that lets the body know that it needs to heat up and fast! Not only do our bodies use up more energy trying to regulate our temperature but our mental health is also compromised and can contribute to irregular bowel movements. 

Another contributing factor for me is exercise. I am a runner. And, right before the winter season my 8km – 10km morning runs or online kickboxing classes had become an essential part of my morning routine. I was determined to fiercely guard that part of my morning routine throughout the winter season – then the first cold front hit. Suddenly, going on a 6 am run or waking up for an online class while it’s dark and cold outside my blankets seems like madness! 

Other Common Lifestyle Causes of Constipation       

  1. Increased Alcohol Consumption

Why does it seem like constipation is coming for our best winter life right now? Slow down on the alcohol? How are we supposed to curl up on the couch with a good book or bae without a glass of red wine, old fashioned, whiskey or adult hot chocolate at hand?

So here’s the thing. Alcohol can keep your body from releasing a hormone called vasopressin. Vasopressin helps our bodies hang onto fluid by preventing water from going out when we urinate. The less vasopressin the more we need to pee. The less fluid in us the more constipated we become.  Now you know who to blame when you keep running to the already overcrowded toilets when you’re out on the town. You’re welcome! 

  1. What Happened to all the High Fibre Foods?  

Okay, but who walks into the house after escaping the cold and dry winter environment feeling inspired to eat fresh fruit and raw vegetables? Not me! Have you ever complained about feeling bloated, heavy or constipated after eating fruit and vegetables that were rich in fibre? I highly doubt it.  

A List of Winter Rich in Fibre Veggies and Fruit 

  • Apples: I guess it’s true folks, an Apple a day keeps the doctor away! 
  • Oranges
  • Pears
  • Avocado 
  • Beetroots
  • Turnip 
  • Dark Leafy Greens 
  • Leeks
  1. Mental Health 

To read more on how the cold winter months can impact our mental health read our previous article titled: Sis, Get You Some Rest 

Some Helpful Solutions

  1. Increasing your water intake

I know, it’s cold! But, who said it has to be cold? Boil a pot of filtered water and make yourself a big jug of hot water with sliced fresh ginger and lemons and sip away! Not only will the ginger and lemon aid your digestive system but you’re also consuming water while eliminating toxins. It’s a win, win!

  1. Get You Some High Fibre Veggies & Fruit

In Vol. 1 of our Winter Issue of AoS mag, in her article titled ‘Understanding The Importance & Value In Investing In An Organic Diet’ Dr Geraldine Robson-Parsons breaks down why eating an organic diet is important for our gut and overall health.    

If you are in the Johannesburg area here are some farmer’s market recommendations from Editor in Chief Olwethu Leshabane Here Are 3 Farmers Markets to Peruse This Winter 

Other Rich in Fibre Foods; 

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Split Peas
  • Quinoa 
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Whole Grains
  • Brown Rice
  • Chia Seeds 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of rich fibre foods. 

  1. Exercise

Get back on the treadmill or whatever your workout jam is. As with eating veggies and fruit, I’ve never regretted dragging my butt out of the house for a run or the gym.  

  1. That vitamin D is Crucial

After experiencing the frigid midwestern sub-zero winters for 9 years I always find a way of enjoying the South African winter Sun!

If there’s one thing I’m continuously learning, everything in life is linked. When we let up on one good habit it can trigger health issues that in turn cause us to have to let up on another good habit – next thing we know we are feeling bloated, heavy, uncomfortable and hella backed up when we don’t have to be.