Celiac disease, vegetarian Diet and Constipation
By following a gluten-free diet, we must eliminate several foods from our diet. If they are not replaced this can cause deficiencies and for some people, constipation. This text explains 3 key elements to get regular bowel movements: fiber, hydration and physical activity.
Constipation is having less than 3 stools per week that are hard, dry, difficult or painful to pass, or having a feeling that you still have stools after defecation (1). Definitions vary and it may be that for a person having 3 or fewer bowel movements per week is normal.
A Vegetarian can be rich in fiber !
Since many cereal products contain gluten, it is possible that a celiac person no longer consumes these products or consumes too little of them. These products contribute a large part of the fibers that we ingest. These fibers help in having regular bowel movements. Not enough fiber in your diet can cause constipation. Good news, the vegetarian diet is rich in fiber, since fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes occupy a large place in this type of diet. To add fiber, gluten-free oats can be incorporated as soon as the disease is well controlled. Also, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, teff and chia contribute to having a sufficient amount of fiber in our diet. Also, a benefiber supplement can be tried.
The recommendations of EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) are to consume approximately 2 L of water for women and 2.5 L of water for men. 20% of this water comes from food. So the recommendation for women would be to drink around 1.6 L of water and men around 2 L of water (2).
Tips for staying well hydrated
Outside, in hot weather, stay in the shade;
If it's too hot, stay indoors;
Always carry a bottle of water with you on outings or at work;
If you sweat a lot, take drinks with electrolytes;
Flavor your water with lemon juice, frozen berries and mint;
Do not wait to be thirsty to drink;
Set a SMART goal. Example, drink 2 bottles of water of 700-800 ml per day;
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables ;) (Watermelon, cantaloupes, oranges, peaches, cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, etc.).
To improve bowel regularity, we can increase our level of physical activity. Prioritize aerobic activities. If you are sedentary, walking at certain times of the day can help. If you are already active, prioritize more intense physical activities such as running, swimming or dancing (3).
If your constipation persists after changing your diet and or level of physical activity, talk to a healthcare professional.
Karine Drouin, Registered Dietitian RD
1 National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Constipation. Retrouvé le 22 mars 2022 en ligne au https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation
2 EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition, and Allergies (2010). Scientific Opinion on Dietary reference values for water. EFSA Journal; 8(3):1459. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2010.1459. www.efsa.europa.eu.
3 Robinson, J. (2020). Exercise to Ease Constipation. Retrouvé le 22 mars 2022 en ligne au https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/exercise-curing-constipation-via-movement