By Fritz Mequiabas, RN, BSN
Best foods for constipation
Constipation may be just a temporary gastrointestinal problem, or a symptom of a more serious medical condition.
The obvious culprits of constipation include a diet low in fiber, a lack of exercise, dehydration or constantly ignoring the urge to defecate.
However, laxative abuse and some prescription drugs like narcotics and antihypertensive medications can also promote constipation.
As a nurse, my first piece of advice for constipation is that an individual increase their intake of foods that can beat constipation naturally, and to increase fluid intake if dehydration is present.
I do recommend an enema, suppository or a laxative for temporary relief, but not for long-term prevention.
Most foods that help to prevent constipation are
loaded with either fiber or magnesium.
This type of fiber is easily dissolved in water. It delays the emptying of the stomach, which is why it helps a person to feel full longer, thereby aiding in weight control.
These all fall into the group of best foods for constipation.
Insoluble fiber is also gut-friendly. It has a laxative effect and the ability to add bulk to feces, thereby stimulating peristalsis and relieving constipation.
The main sources of insoluble fiber are:
Whole grains, whole wheat, wheat bran and seeds
Broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, dark leafy vegetables
Root vegetable skins, green beans and raisins
Brown rice, corn bran
Although most plant foods are rich in fiber, whole grain breads, cereals or pastas, or bran cereals excel at easing constipation.
Fiber also helps to maintain normal bowel health, restricting development of hemorrhoids and diverticular disease in the colon.
There are ongoing studies about magnesium and its relationship to constipation.
For instance, in 2007 the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition published research confirming that low magnesium intake can promote constipation.
Magnesium plays an important role in initiating peristalsis, the wavelike contractions that moves fecal matter through the intestines.
If there is a low level of magnesium in the body, stools are more difficult to expel. Getting enough magnesium is increasingly important as the colon ages and becomes more sluggish.
The following foods have a good amount of magnesium, and therefore may be helpful in constipation relief.
The most effective of these foods for helping with constipation are:
The magnesium content of these foods helps to relax a tense colon and restore its normal wave-like contractions. Magnesium also draws water into the colon which helps moisten and soften stool.
Around 80% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet.
One reason is that recent farming practices utilize chemical fertilizers that lack magnesium. So even when we eat foods that are supposed to be rich in magnesium, we still might not get enough in our diet.
A magnesium deficiency can create long term health problems in the cardiovascular and nervous systems.
It can even cause frequent constipation. To get enough magnesium, a magnesium supplement may be needed.
Using a magnesium supplement may be the simplest, most efficient way to deal with constipation. As a bonus, taking a daily magnesium supplement may result in numerous health benefits.
It is common knowledge that a fiber rich diet can help to ease constipation, yet few people know the value of magnesium rich foods for dealing with constipation.
A magnesium supplement can help to meet this need for magnesium. It may also help to eliminate constipation problems.