Gut Health & Constipation: What You Need to Know

As December marks the Constipation Awareness Month, it is a time to raise awareness and educate people about the importance of healthy gut health.

Constipation is a very common gut problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a symptom that everyone may experience in their lifetime, and it can be caused by an imbalance in our gut bacteria.

Dr Reshad Kurrimbukus, Gastroenterologist and Specialist in Internal Medicine, answers some key questions for us about gut health and constipation.


  1. What is the importance of gut health, and how does it affect overall well-being?


The gut, or digestive system, is the body’s command centre for processing and absorbing nutrients from the food we eat. It is like a bustling city where different processes occur to keep everything running smoothly. Now, the importance of gut health lies in its profound impact on our overall well-being.

When the gut is in good shape, it efficiently breaks down food, absorbs essential nutrients, and ensures the proper functioning of the immune system. Furthermore, a healthy gut contributes to energy production, supporting the body’s vital functions.

Conversely, an unhealthy gut can lead to various issues such as nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and a compromised immune system. This imbalance in the gut microbiome which is the community of microorganisms living in the digestive tract, may contribute to other health problems beyond digestion.


  1. What role does diet play in maintaining a healthy gut? Which specific foods can improve gut health?

Diet is the cornerstone for maintaining a healthy gut. The food that we consume directly affects the gut microbiome, which impacts on the digestive processes and overall well-being. A balanced and varied diet supports a diverse community of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

To promote gut health, include fiber-rich foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet. Fiber acts as a prebiotic, nourishing the good bacteria in your gut.

Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit the gut. Drinking plenty of water is crucial for hydration and maintaining healthy bowel movements.


  1. What are probiotics, and how do they contribute to a healthy gut?

Probiotics are live microorganisms, mainly bacteria and yeast, that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. These friendly bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy gut environment and supporting overall well-being.

Probiotics, which are ingested through supplements or fermented food, help maintain a balance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut, creating an environment that supports optimal digestion and nutrient absorption.

One of the key contributions of probiotics is the enhancement of the gut’s immune function. They also assist in defending against harmful pathogens, preventing infections, and promoting a robust immune response.

Incorporating probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir and fermented vegetables into your diet can lead to a diverse and resilient gut microbiome.


  1. How do lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep, and exercise affect gut health? Are there any specific lifestyle changes that should be made to improve gut health?

Lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep, and exercise significantly influence the health of your gut:

  • Chronic stress can alter the balance of the gut microbiome, leading to digestive issues and inflammation.
  • Adequate sleep is crucial for the body to repair and regenerate, including the cells in the digestive system.
  • Regular exercise promotes a diverse microbiome and helps maintain healthy bowel function.


To improve gut health, consider adopting the following lifestyle changes:

  • Manage Stress through techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Prioritise Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support overall health.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, such as walking or jogging.
  • Balanced Routine: Establish a regular eating schedule and avoid irregular, erratic meal patterns.

These lifestyle factors can contribute to a healthier gut environment, while promoting better digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall well-being.



  1. How does an unhealthy gut contribute to digestive problems like constipation?

An unhealthy gut can be a key contributor to digestive issues, particularly constipation via several mechanisms:

  • Imbalanced Microbiome: It is often caused by factors like poor diet or antibiotic use, leading to dysregulation of digestive processes.
  • Inadequate Fiber Intake: It can result in insufficient bulk in the stool. Fiber adds bulk and softness, to propel stool forward.
  • Slowed Transit Time: It can delay the movement of food through the digestive tract resulting in increased water absorption from the stool.

In summary, maintaining a healthy gut through a balanced diet and lifestyle is crucial for ensuring proper digestion and preventing issues like constipation. Addressing the root causes of an unhealthy gut can significantly improve digestive health.


  1. What are the common symptoms of constipation, and when should someone seek medical advice for these symptoms?

Common symptoms of constipation include:

  • Infrequent Bowel Movements: Having fewer than three bowel movements per week.
  • Straining: Difficulty and discomfort during bowel movements.
  • Hard or Lumpy Stools: Stools that are dry and difficult to pass.
  • Feeling of Incomplete Evacuation: Sensation that there’s more stool to pass after a bowel movement.

You should seek medical advice if you experience:

  • Persistent Symptoms: If constipation persists for more than a few weeks.
  • Abdominal Pain: Especially if it’s severe or accompanied by bloating.
  • Blood in Stools: Consult a doctor if you notice blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.
  • Unintended Weight Loss: If you are losing weight without trying.

Early intervention can help identify underlying causes and prevent potential complications, making it important to consult a healthcare professional if constipation symptoms raise concerns.


  1. What are the primary methods for treating constipation, both medically and through lifestyle adjustments?

Lifestyle Adjustments:

  • Dietary Fiber: Increase your fiber intake through fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to add bulk to the stool.
  • Hydration: Ensure an adequate intake of water to soften the stool and facilitate bowel movements.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to stimulate bowel function and maintain overall health.
  • Establish a Routine: Set a consistent time for bowel movements, promoting a regular and predictable schedule.

Medical Interventions:

  • Over-the-Counter Laxatives: Short-term use of laxatives may provide relief, but long-term use should be under medical guidance.
  • Prescription Medications: In certain cases, your doctor may prescribe medications to promote bowel movements.
  • Address Underlying Causes: Treatments may vary based on the underlying cause, so it’s essential to identify and address any contributing factors, for example thyroid issues and diabetes.

Always consult a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate approach based on individual health needs and the severity of constipation symptoms .


  1. What are some common misconceptions about gut health and constipation, and how can we improve public awareness and education about gut health?

Here are some common misconceptions about gut health and constipation:

  • Gut Health Only Affects Digestion: One common misconception is that gut health only influences digestion. In reality, a healthy gut plays a crucial role in overall well-being, affecting the immune system, mental health, and more.
  • Thinking Constipation is Normal: Some people believe occasional constipation is normal, but persistent symptoms can indicate underlying issues and should be addressed.
  • Overreliance on Medications: Relying solely on laxatives for constipation without addressing dietary and lifestyle factors may provide short-term relief but doesn’t address the root cause.


Here’s how we can improve public awareness about gut health:


  • Education Campaigns: Launching public awareness campaigns to provide accessible information on the importance of gut health, common digestive issues, and preventive measures.
  • Health Education in Schools: Incorporating basic health education, including nutrition and digestive health, into the school curriculum to foster lifelong awareness.
  • Online Resources: Providing reliable online resources and information from reputable sources to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their gut health.

By dispelling misconceptions and fostering a greater understanding of gut health, we can empower individuals to take proactive steps toward maintaining a healthy digestive system and overall well-being.



Author’s profile

Dr Reshad Kurrimbukus is a distinguished medical professional specialised in gastrointestinal endoscopy. With a notable career at CHU Poitiers, CHU Bordeaux and Jeetoo Hospital as a Senior Specialist, he is now a Consultant in Internal Medicine/Gastroenterology at Bruno Cheong Hospital.

Dr Kurrimbukus is also dedicated to teaching, having taught medical students in France and Mauritius. His research includes presentations on topics such as autoimmune disorders and inflammatory bowel disease.