I have briefly discussed in my previous articles how coconut products promote digestive health. This article concentrates specifically on one particular digestive disorder - constipation. You will be surprised to know how many of us do not even know when we are in grip of constipation unless it becomes very severe. Let us thus understand a bit about it and then see how coconut helps here.
What is constipation
In simple terms if you suffer from constipation if your bowel movements become less frequent and difficult to pass. When we say less frequent it may vary from person to person as number of bowel movements can vary from 3 per day to 2-3 per week.
When we eat food its nutrition is absorbed in our small intestine, then it moves to large intestine which basically prepare the semi solid feces from largely liquid input it receives from small intestine, thus large intestine absorbs water from feces. Idelaly what we eat should complete the full digestive cycle in 18-30 hrs and then excreted. But, if digested mass from small intestine stays for too long in large intestine it gets hardened (as large intestine keeps absorbing liquid) and becomes tough for intestinal muscles to push it out of body. This is basically constipation.
The biggest issues with constipation is it is so common that people do not realize it they are constipated. One of the reader emailed me that he has bowel movements one is two days and he feel perfectly fine with it! I would not agree to it. If you are eating 3 times a day then you need to have atleast one bowel movement a day.
Coconut for constipation
There are various reasons for constipation - low water intake, low fibre intake, low physical activity, excess refined and processed foods etc. There are several ways coconut and coconut products can help here:
Coconut fibre through coconut meat and coconut flour : Coconut meat is one of the richest natural fibre source. The fibre percentage in coconut is even higher than wheat barn, etc. We need 20-35 gms fibre per day but most of us do not even consume half of this quantity, thanks to highly refined and processed food. Fibre does not provide nutrition but helps in promoting nutrient absorption, intestinal health etc. Fibre also absorbs water providing a moist mass which can be easily moved though intestine. Thus it helps in providing bulk and body to feces. If our diet is low on fibre it is harder for intestine muscles to push it out. The more time it takes, more moisture is absorbed and it gets even tougher to have regular bowel movements. One way of breaking this cycle is to add coconut fibre.
You also get this fibre when you take coconut milk instead of coconut meat as coconut milk is just liquid form of coconut meat.
Coconut water : Coconut water helps in relieving constipation. In fact it has been used as natural laxative too. But for that one has to drink excess of coconut water, which I would not advice. But regular use of coconut water is also helpful because 25% of carbohydrate of coconut water is dietary fibre. While the overall weight of fibre is not large, it can help in constipation if included in diet. One should not forget it has so many other benefits!
Coconut oil : Some people over internet has mentioned that refined coconut oil also provides relief from constipation as it has fibre! I doubt this seriously. Refined coconut oil does not have any dietary fibre in it, virgin coconut oil may have dietary fibre but that too should be very less to make significant impact. So does coconut oil help in constipation? I believe so but maybe indirectly. Here is what I think - Coconut oil has medium chain fatty acids which promote the breeding of good bacteria in our intestine. This not only helps in proper absorption of food nutrients but also helps in keeping a check on disease causing microbes (which are also present in our gut). I have also read that healthy intestine are strong intestines and thus can push matter out more efficiently than weaker ones (excessive use of laxative is one cause of weaker intestine muscles).
Another way coconut oil may help is speeding up the metabolism. This means food we eat is broken and digested faster. When this happens the bowel movements become more frequent thus relieving us from constipation.
How can you use coconut for constipation
Here are some easy ways to use coconut for constipation:
- Include raw coconut in your diet
- Take coconut milk, this would be special benefit if you are lactose intolerant
- Mix coconut flour with your regular four for baking purposes
- Drink coconut water
- Including coconut oil for cooking
I personally include coconut meat in my diet because I like the taste of raw coconut.
I would like to stress one more thing here - just including coconut in your diet will not solve your constipation problem completely unless other factors which cause it are also take care of - low physical activity, unhealthy lifestyle, high refined and processed food etc. (see more details here) Coconut inclusion gives best results when we also do these all with it, else benefits will be limited at best.
If you have tried coconut for constipation share your views here!