Foods to Help with Constipation


By Dr. Julia Lizy, MBBS (KEMU)

Foods to Help with Constipation



“No organ in the body is so misunderstood, so slandered and maltreated as the colon”

Constipation is a condition of decreased bowel movements which generally includes hard stools that are difficult or painful to evacuate. Symptoms may include:

  • Less than 3 bowel movements per week
  • Incomplete elimination of feces
  • Straining to defecate


Constipation is one of the most common disorders of the bowels, and is common in all age groups. 

It is a root cause of many other health related issues. Constipation affects the entire metabolism of the body and is detrimental to overall health.

A proper diet is the first step in avoiding constipation, since constipation effects overall bodily function.

There are many causes of constipation.

These include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Hormonal disorder
  • Pregnancy
  • Illness
  • Intake of certain medications
  • Lack of physical activities
  • Dehydration
  • An improper diet (this is the most common)

Just as a person's diet can result in constipation, a constipation friendly diet can help to relieve the symptoms of constipation.

In fact, changing one’s diet, drinking plenty of water and other fluids, and getting some exercise are the easiest and fastest ways to treat and prevent constipation.

The impact of constipation on a person’s daily life can be as severe as that of Diabetes, IHD, Rheumatoid arthritis, and social and mental health problems. It therefore deserves to be treated with importance. Discovering foods to help with constipation is the first step in giving it the attention it deserves.

Foods to Help with Constipation

A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet is a necessary starting point for dealing with constipation, both for temporary and long-term relief.

The following food items, when included in one's diet, can be quite effective in helping with constipation problems.

Dietary fiber

Adding fiber rich foods into one’s diet and cutting back on items containing very little fiber is the first step in eating foods to help constipation.

Fiber come in two forms:

1.    Soluble fiber. Found mainly in fruit and vegetables, this fiber dissolves in water and creates a soft gel-like material as it passes through the digestive system. This gel-like material mixes with the stool to make it softer and easier to pass.

2.    Insoluble fiber. Found mainly in whole grain products, this fiber is not digested, but retains most of its structure as it passes through the digestive system. It adds bulk to the stool, naturally stimulating peristalsis, the wave-like action of the colon muscle that moves the stool through the colon. 

Fiber is very helpful in easing constipation.

Both soluble and insoluble fiber helps to make stools soft and bulky, making them easier to pass through the rectum. Fiber rich foods should make up between a third to a half of a person’s diet.

Vegetables

Vegetables,  either cooked or raw, can help in reducing the symptoms of constipation. Vegetables highest in fiber include broccoli, carrots, spinach, cabbage, green beans, peas, radishes, cucumbers, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts.

Fruit

Most fruits are a rich source of dietary fiber, plus they contain vitamins and other nutrients. Some of the best fruit choices to help with constipation are:

  • Apricots
  • Figs
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Prunes

Legumes and beans

Eating beans helps us avoid constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system. Have you heard beans referred to as the magical fruit? Most varieties are rich in fiber and magnesium.

Fiber helps to relieve constipation, and magnesium is a relaxing mineral that helps to relax a tense colon to restore better functionality. Good legume choices include black beans, lentils and kidney beans.

Nuts and seeds

These are a good source of fiber, making them helpful for constipation relief. Besides this, they contain highly beneficial fats and oils.

Whole grains

Eating whole grains has many health benefits. They are a very good source of insoluble fiber to help with relieving constipation.

They also contain many vitamins and minerals. Whole grain breads, oatmeal, barley, and wheat bran cereals are good choices.

Cultured and fermented foods

Although dairy products are usually considered a source of constipation, yogurt and kefir are different, especially when they contain no added sugar.

Yogurt provides transient probiotics, while the probiotics in kefir help to populate the gut.

Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that are present in the digestive system and help to maintain proper function. When choosing yogurt, try to find one that contains 5 or more strains of beneficial bacteria. Kefir may contain 30 or more beneficial strains of probiotic bacteria.

For gut health, it is better to have a good variety of beneficial bacteria, not just a monopoly of a few good strains. Sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha bring their own strains of beneficial bacteria to the flora in the gut.


Flaxseeds

These are tiny golden brown seeds that are a rich source of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids, and are a great choice among the list of foods to help with constipation.

These can be used in a variety of ways. Ground flax seeds can be added to smoothies, cereals, or yogurt, or they can be added to baked foods.

They may also be stirred into a 3 or 4 ounces of water, allowed to sit for 45 seconds, then drink them down. They provide a delightful sensation on the throat as they go down. Flax seed act as stool softener and prove quite effective in helping to relieve constipation.

Olives and olive oil

Olives have been used for a long time to help stimulate the liver to produce bile.

Bile is needed for healthy digestion and for relieving constipation. Olive oil is usually taken on an empty stomach to coat the intestines and ease constipation.

Plenty of fluids

With all the above recommendations, remember to drink plenty of fluids. Since fiber needs water to make it effective against constipation, as one increases fiber they should also increase their water intake.

No doubt you have heard that we need 8 glasses of water a day. To add more variety, you may also include fruit juice, vegetable juice and herbal tea.

More Tips for Relieving Constipation

Sometimes eating the right diet just isn't enough to remedy constipation. Here are some more things that may be done.

  • Adequate hydration: dehydration can cause severe constipation. Therefore it is helpful to limit the amount of caffeinated and carbonated drinks one consumes. These act as diuretics that flush an excessive amount of water out the kidneys.
  • Scheduled bowel movements: helping our body by establishing a regular time for bowel movements can help to reduce constipation. Our bodies like routine. Therefore we can train our bodies by setting aside a time each day for defecation.

  • Use of Magnesium: Magnesium serves as an osmotic laxative that can be quite effective for ongoing constipation relief. It helps to relax tense colon muscles, plus it attracts water into intestines to help make stools soft and easy to pass. We can get magnesium through foods, including spinach, figs, nuts and seeds, and by taking a daily magnesium supplement.

  • Physical activity: These days more and more people have a sedate lifestyle. Incorporating a regular exercise program into the daily routine helps to tone up the muscles in the abdomen. This, in turn, helps with regularity.

  • Management of stress: Mind relaxation helps to relax the body, which can aid in regularity. Identify any areas of stress and try to reduce them as much as possible.

pretty mountain - foods to help with constipation

Conclusion:

Preventing constipation is much better than treating constipation with laxatives.

Above I have listed foods to help constipation. I hope that these recommendations can help you to end any constipation problems you might have.


(Return from Foods to Help with Constipation to Foods that Relieve Constipation)

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