If you’re sensitive about bodily functions or easily grossed out, skip this post. I’m going to talk about poop.
I’m 30 weeks pregnant, and I’ve been having problems with constipation throughout my pregnancy. It started almost as soon as I got pregnant, actually. Initially it was due to hormonal changes. It happens to everyone, I’ve been told.
Not only does it happen to everyone, it happens for good reason. By slowing down your digestion, there is more time for you and the baby to absorb the nutrition from the food you eat. The longer it’s in your system, the better for you it is.
As the baby grows, your organs become more and more compressed, putting pressure on your digestive tract, stopping things up even more. In addition to needing more nutrients and providing healthier calories for your baby, this slow digestive tract is a great reason to eat vegetables. Fiber, people! More fiber!
When I was around 4 months pregnant I ate a sweet potato for lunch and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had an easier time in the bathroom later that day. I had a sweet potato the next day for lunch as well, to see if it was a fluke or if I was really on to something. It worked! Sweet potatoes became a staple for me, they served me well throughout my second trimester. If only I had known about them during my first trimester!
In the third trimester, the baby does the bulk of her growing. She’s going to double or triple her weight during that time. Your waistline will grow by about half an inch per week until you
explode give birth. This is when the stretch marks will (hopefully not) appear, and when the major organ compression will start.
For me, it has already begun. I’m got kind of sick of sweet potatoes for lunch, and moved on to having them with my dinner instead, and not even as often as I was. Really, their effectiveness had begun to wane. They still help, sure, but they no longer provide a regular movement the way they did a few months ago. So what’s my answer? Flax seed!
That’s right, flax seed. It’s so good for you, and it’s really high in fiber. I buy small bags of it, in seed form, at my local produce store. It’s best to buy the whole seeds, because when it’s milled it doesn’t hold up to storage. It has an incredibly high oil content, and that makes it prone to spoilage. In fact, flax seeds contain more omega-3 fatty acids than any other natural source. It’s all of that healthy oil that can go rancid once the seed has been cracked, so it’s best to buy the seed and crush it as needed. It’s simple to crush, either with a few pulses in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
The whole seed can be stored at room temperature for a year, but once it’s crushed or milled it only lasts about a week. It can be refrigerated, though, and then it can last up to 4 months. If it’s easier for you, buy the seeds and process a batch at a time, storing however much you think you will use over the course of a few months.
Flax seed is not a grain, though it’s similar. It’s very low in carbohydrates while still being loaded with fiber. This means it’s great for diabetics. All of that fiber helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, which is really important for pregnant women whether they have gestational diabetes or not. The high fiber content also gives flax cholesterol-lowering abilities.
It’s important to drink enough water when eating flax seed, as the high concentration of fiber can actually cause intestinal blockage if you’re not properly hydrated. Being pregnant is also reason to stay hydrated; your baby needs the water as much as you do, possibly even more.
You may be wondering: What does flax seed taste like? Flax seed has a mildly nutty flavor, with an undertone of “plantiness.” I quite like the taste, though it’s so mild that it can easily be overpowered by almost anything you add it to.
You’d probably also like to know how much flax seed to incorporate into your diet. A good guideline is 1-3 tablespoons of ground seed per day. It’s not very much at all, yet it gives you benefits beyond what most foods can do. If you eat much more than 3 tablespoons you run the risk of having loose stool, which is never good.
Now hear this: Since I started eating flax seed I’ve been having regular bowel movements. Perfectly normal, easy, daily bowel movements. It’s like I’m not even pregnant! Well, except for the overactive bladder, swollen ankles, crazy dreams, ribcage pain, sore back, growing boobs, difficulty sleeping, and ravenous hunger, of course.
I use slightly ground flax seeds, rolled oats, dried fruits, and honey to make granola. I add the granola to yogurt, eat it like cereal with milk, or just crunch on it alone as a snack. When I make granola I use 2/3 cup flax seeds to 3 cups of oats, and find it to be a great ratio. I couldn’t eat enough granola in one day to be eating too much flax. I’ll post my recipe for granola here soon. (See end of post for recipe link)
Here are some other ways to get flax seeds in your diet:
Remember, while flax seed oil has a lot of the same benefits and may seem “easier” to deal with, it does not contain the fiber that the seeds themselves do. The fiber is what’s going to help you get regular, so don’t opt for the oil supplement instead!
Also remember to grind your seeds. While chewing your food well can help, the seeds are very small and if they aren’t at least cracked they tend to just pass right through you.
Even if you’re not pregnant or constipated, you should still add flax seed to your diet. I made my husband his own batch of (very plain) granola just so he wouldn’t be missing out on the nutritional benefits. Even though we’re in our early 30’s, it’s really never too early to start thinking about heart health. When you combine flax seeds with the oats in the granola, it’s a really winning combination. Flax seed is so good for you, you should go out and try some as soon as you can. Your body will thank you!
*Note: I am not a doctor, and this should not be taken as medical advice. Some people have concerns about flax seed being a phytoestrogen, which is a plant estrogen, and therefore mimicking estrogen in the body. These people believe that pregnant women should not consume it. Through my research I have found no evidence that would make me believe that flax seed is going to harm my baby, since no human studies have been done and many doctors state that it is safe. Some doctors even say that flax seed could be beneficial for fetal brain development. I personally think it to be healthy for both myself and my unborn baby. If you have any concerns you should certainly ask your doctor before consuming it!