By Dr. Vik, MBBS, MRCP(GB), PhD
An important job of the colon is to get rid of waste that is generated by the body.
When this process doesn’t work properly, we can become constipated. Bowel activity is directly linked to the food that we eat.
In this article we will take a look at how the foods we eat can affect bowel function.
Certain foods we eat may result in sluggish bowel activity and constipation. Below are some of the common ones.
1. A high intake of dairy products
The most common of these are cheese, milk and ice cream.
Cheeses may taste delicious, but they are extremely low in fiber and high in hard to digest fat. Dairy products are a well recognized cause of constipation in children.
2. Junk foods
Potato chips are a good example. Like most junk foods, they taste great, but provide no nutrition.
They have almost no fiber and a good amount of hard to digest vegetable oil, which slows down bowel activity.
3. Red meat
This is a staple part of the western diet. When a lot is eaten without including a healthy portion of vegetables, it can cause constipation.
This because red meat while high in protein and low in fiber. Eating a large amount of red meat can slow down the time for food to move through the digestive system, and may result in severe constipation.
This is another type of junk food, high in sugar and fat but providing little nourishment and possible constipation.
Of course, high fiber “cookies” are now available, but they are a poor way to get needed fiber, since the are high in sugars, which negatively affect the flora of the gut.
5. Fried foods
Fried foods like fried chicken can be a source of constipation as well. These foods have a high oil content, along with not much fiber.
They take a long time to digest and pass slowly through the colon.
A notorious cause of constipation when eaten in large amounts. Light chocolates like milk chocolate are highly processed.
The darker the chocolate, the less of a problem it is. In fact, dark chocolates contain important nutrients and antioxidants.
As a general rule, foods that relieve constipation are those that are high in fiber.
Here are some foods that can help to move sluggish bowels and reduce constipation. Fiber is not easily digested, so it adds bulk to stool, which helps to stimulate peristalsis.
Fiber also acts somewhat like a sponge to hold moisture in the stool. Consider the following food sources of fiber.
1. Whole grain foods
In refined foods like white rice and white flour, the bran and germ have been stripped away, leaving only the white endocrine behind. The germ contains most of the vitamins, the bran most of the fiber.
2. Green beans
These are one of the richest sources of fiber in the plant world. They are also rich in magnesium.
Fiber rich prunes and prune juice have been used to relieve constipation for generations. Most people find them extremely effective as a remedy for constipation.
Of course, eating or drinking too much may result in diarrhea.
4. Kiwi fruit
This delicious fruit is a source of vitamins and minerals, plus a huge amount of fiber.
The fiber in ripe bananas can help with constipation. However, green bananas may actually cause constipation.
This is because unripe bananas are high in hard to digest starches, causing them to be held longer in the colon.
Furthermore, the pectin in unripe bananas can cause water to be pulled from the bowel, resulting in dry, hard stools that are difficult to pass.
As bananas ripen, the pectin is utilized to break down the starch into simple sugars.
Most of us know how a morning cup of coffee can help to get the bowels moving. Just keep in mind that too much coffee can do the opposite.
In individuals who are dehydrated, the caffeine in coffee and tea serves as a diuretic that can result in dehydration and constipation.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient linked to numerous health benefits.
It is also a natural laxative. Doctors use magnesium to completely clean out the bowel prior to surgery.
Magnesium is present in a number of different foods, including:
Due to current farming and fertilizer practices, most foods today have far less magnesium than 100 years ago.
Even when we eat magnesium rich foods it may be difficult to get all the magnesium we need.
Numerous doctors and researchers are now recommending the use of a daily magnesium supplement.
Magnesium supplements are now readily available.
For an adult weighing 150 pounds, taking around 300 mg. of supplemental magnesium a day can bridge the gap to provide the right amount of magnesium for moist, soft and slippery stool that can take away the straining and pain from bowel movements.
The foods that we eat play a major role in our overall health, including our bowel health.
Certain foods can cause constipation if eaten on a regular basis. These foods can be balanced out by eating foods that are rich in fiber and magnesium.
Obtaining a sufficient amount of magnesium through one’s diet can be difficult. Taking a daily magnesium supplement fill in the nutritional gap.