Foods and Constipation


By Dr. Ritu Krishnatreye, B.H.M.S.

Foods and constipation



Constipation is a nasty side-effect of numerous factors, including:

  • A low fiber diet

  • Dehydration

  • A sedentary lifestyle

  • Medications

  • Medical conditions

Usually, the main reason for constipation is the nature of one’s diet. If we feed ourselves with garbage, our system can become congested, resulting in malfunction.

Lets look at some foods that cause constipation, then at foods that can help relieve constipation.


Foods That Cause Constipation

Caffeine

Like bananas, caffeine can have two different side effects.

  • In some people caffeine may help as a stimulant that increases bowel movements.

  • The caffeine in coffee, tea or cola are diuretics that can cause dehydration, making constipation worse.


Red Meat

There are three traits of red meat that causes it to move more slowly through the digestive tract.

The more slowly it proceeds through the colon, the more water that the colon will extract, resulting in dry, hard stool. This makes red meat one of the top foods that can cause constipation when too much is eaten at a time.

  • Red meat is high in fat. Fat takes more time to be digested.

  • Red meat also contains difficult to digest protein.

  • Red meat is high in iron. If a person is anaemic, the body will slow the progress of iron through the digestive tract in an effort to absorb more iron.

Once again, more time spent in the colon means a dryer, harder, more compact stool.


Dairy products

Dairy is high in fat and low fiber, making it difficult to digest. Even worse, dairy contains proteins that need special enzymes to be digested.

Nature places the needed enzymes in the milk, but when we pasteurize milk, we kill these enzymes. This makes the proteins in milk very hard for our bodies to digest, leading to gas and bloating.

The easiest way to consume dairy yet avoid dairy constipation is to drink health-giving raw milk that hasn't been pasteurized.


Green Bananas

When studying the foods that cause constipation, bananas are an interesting food item. They can both cause constipation and relieve it.

Unripe or green bananas are known to cause constipation, while ripe bananas are known to relieve it. Green or upripe bananas cause constipation because of their high starch content.

Starch takes more time to digest, meaning that feces stays in the colon longer. This can make constipation worse. Also, the pectin in green bananas increases the amount of water that the colon absorbs from stool, making stool dry and hard.

A magnesium supplement can help to balance out this effect by drawing more water into the colon.


Foods That Relieve Constipation

The most important food ingredient needed for constipation relief is fiber.

Here are some foods especially high in fiber.


Beans

Beans are rich in fiber, plus they aid digestion, which makes them one of the great foods to avoid constipation.

Some types of beans contain more than 10 g of fiber per cup. This is significantly more than almost any other food source. Beans contain a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Both soluble and insoluble fiber helps to keep food moving through the digestive tract.

Black eyed peas, baked beans, lima beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans and kidney beans can be added to salads, pasta, casseroles or soups, resulting in a healthy meal that helps to relieve constipation.


Prunes

Prunes and prune juice are a well known home remedy for constipation.

Prunes are rich in fiber.

They also contain sorbitol, a natural laxative. Just be careful not to take too much at a time, as it may result in diarrhea.


Raw carrots

Perhaps Bugs Bunny knew that carrots were one of the great foods to avoid constipation. Carrots are rich in fiber.

As with beans, carrots also aid in digestion. To prevent constipation it is important to eat carrots raw.

For some, cooked carrots may actually cause constipation.


pairs foods and constipation

Pears

Besides fiber, pears are considered to be a natural laxative.

They can help in moving stool through the colon.


Pineapple Juice

Pineapple juice is a great source of fiber and a great option for constipation relief.

Pineapple juice helps in regulating the digestive system, which helps us avoid constipation in first place.


Foods Containing Magnesium

Magnesium functions as a natural osmotic laxative that pulls more water into the colon, thus helping to make stool bulkier (needed for peristalsis), moist, soft and slippery.

Including the following magnesium rich foods in one's diet can help in the fight against constipation. 


Green Leafy Vegetables

Dark green veggies, such as kale and spinach, contain high amount of alkaline nutrients as well as antioxidants.

All these vegetables also contain flavonoids and carotenoids that are powerful anti-oxidants. Green leafy vegetables contain a sufficient amount of roughage to greatly help in proper bowel function. 

Spinach is a rich source of magnesium, potassium and calcium. One cup of boiled spinach contains a whopping 157 mg of magnesium.

Just two cups of spinach provides enough magnesium for the whole day.

Fresh, organic locally grown greens are known to be higher in magnesium than the frozen greens found in the grocery store.

That’s because organic fertilizers generally contain a good amount of magnesium, while chemical fertilizers don’t.

 

Seeds and Nuts

Pumpkin seeds are an important source of magnesium. They also contain other minerals, such as manganese, potassium, iron and phosphorus.

If you don’t like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds are the next best thing. Other nuts and seeds high in magnesium include almonds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and Brazil nuts. 

The nutty taste of seeds adds flavor as well as nutritional value to food. Sesame or pumpkin seeds can be sprinkled on salads, cereals or popcorn, or added to blender drinks or oatmeal.


Beans

Canned or sprouting beans are another magnesium-rich food. They have a high nutritional value and are easy on the digestive system.

The best part is, beans are easy to grow in your own garden


Almonds and cashews

These nuts are a rich source of nutrition and are full of Magnesium.

People tend to prefer one or the other. However, cashews have acidic properties and almonds have alkaline properties, so it is best to eat them together.

Almonds and cashews go well in a salad, in an omelet or in a sauce. They are also a great snack food.

 

Oysters

Most believe that greens are the best source of minerals. However, items from the sea may be even better.

A serving of three and a half ounces of oysters deliver around 76 mg of Magnesium. Whether consumed raw, added to stew or cooked, oysters is a great source of minerals.

Seaweed comes with a rich buffet of minerals from the ocean, including magnesium. A sea vegetable supplement can be a wonderful addition to a healthy diet. 


According to US Dietary Information, a healthy adult needs around 300 to 400 mg of magnesium per day.

However, the typical American diet contains far less magnesium. In fact, 80% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in the foods they eat.

This lack of magnesium contributes to constipation.

Besides magnesium rich foods,  a daily magnesium supplement can provide needed magnesium.


Conclusion, foods and constipation

  • A healthy bowel movement is the result of a healthy lifestyle.
  • A healthy balanced diet is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.

We can help to keep our bodies and bowels in good shape by providing them with the right ingredients, including fiber rich, magnesium rich foods.


(Return from Foods and Constipation to Foods for Constipation)


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