Best Foods
For Constipation

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.

What I recommend for 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.

Fiber Rich Foods

Soluble fiber

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.

  • The common sources of soluble fiber are:
  • Fruit, including blueberries, apples and oranges
  • Vegetables, including dried peas, carrots, celery and cucumber
  • Oatmeal, lentils, nuts, beans, flaxseeds

These all fall into the group of best foods for constipation.

Insoluble fiber

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

The best insoluble fiber for constipation

Although most plant foods are rich in fiber, whole grain breads, cereals or pastas, or bran cereals excel at easing constipation.

  • Their cell walls resist digestion and preserve water.
  • Dietary fiber helps to normalize bowel movements as it increases the size and weight of stool.
  • A bulky stool stimulates peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the colon that moves waste along.
  • Fiber helps stool to retain moisture, thus making it softer and easier to eliminate.

Fiber also helps to maintain normal bowel health, restricting development of hemorrhoids and diverticular disease in the colon. 

Magnesium Rich Foods

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. 

Foods rich in magnesium

The following foods have a good amount of magnesium, and therefore may be helpful in constipation relief.

Green leafy vegetables

Wheat germ

Soy milk
Dairy products

Nuts and seeds
Whole grains

Beans and lentils

Dried fruits, including figs
Dark chocolate

The most effective of these foods for helping with constipation are:

  • Green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Beans and lentils and avocados
  • Whole grains

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. 

Do I Need a Magnesium Supplement?

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.

Health benefits of a magnesium supplement

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.

  • Magnesium helps with the digestion of carbohydrates, proteins and fats

  • It may help to reduce or eliminate muscle spasms

  • Magnesium may help to quickly remedy bloating caused by sluggish bowel movements

  • Furthermore, a magnesium supplement doesn't pose the health risks of traditional laxatives. 
    However, those with kidney disease should only take supplemental magnesium when instructed to do so by their doctor.

  • A sea mineral magnesium supplement supplies magnesium plus a host of trace minerals.

Conclusion, best foods for constipation

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.

(Return from Best Foods for Constipation to Foods that Relieve Constipation)

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