By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS
One of the main causes of constipation is the food we eat. What we eat and even how we eat has a far reaching impact on bowel function.
Many of the foods that Americans normally eat tend towards constipation.
According to the American Dietetic Association, we need 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day from plant sources, including both soluble and insoluble fiber. But most Americans get only half this amount.
These days people eat way too many refined and processed foods from which the natural fiber has been removed. They also tend to be high in sugar and salt, both of which tend to produce constipation.
Cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products act as “binding” or constipating foods. This is due to their hard to digest fat and lack of fiber.
Oily fried foods like french fries, doughnuts, onion rings, and heavily breaded foods like fish have a tendency to slow down the movement of the bowels. Potato chips are especially high in fat, causing a delay in digestion.
Consuming too much zero fiber meat can lead to constipation, especially if it isn’t balanced out with other fiber rich items. Besides a lack of fiber, meat is hard for the body to digest, causing it to linger longer in the colon. This slows down the whole digestive process, resulting in constipation.
Pastries, cakes, and many crackers cause constipation, since they are low in fiber, have little fluid, and are high in fat.
These can either be a cause of constipation or a source of constipation relief, depending on their ripeness. Unripe bananas contain 40% hard to digest starch.
In ripe bananas, most of this starch has been broken down to sugars, so that the banana’s high soluble fiber content can effectively help to push waste through the bowels, and relieve constipation.
Research studies have shown that the amount of magnesium in food sources is dropping.
Magnesium deficiency has been detected in people with numerous chronic diseases, including constipation.
Inside the gut cavity, magnesium ions (and other ions like sulphate) exert an osmotic effect and cause water to be retained in the lumen. This causes an increase in the moistness of the stool, resulting in the stool being softer, slicker and bulkier, which greatly helps with elimination.
Thus, when our magnesium intake is deficient, it can easily result in constipation.
Over-the-counter osmotic laxatives like Milk of Magnesia and Epson Salt, plus those prescribed by a doctor, are not recommended for continued use.
However, a magnesium supplement is safe to use over long periods of time due to its comparatively lower magnesium content. Yet, magnesium supplements may still prove quite effective in solving chronic constipation problems.
Plus, since most Americans don’t get the magnesium they need, taking a magnesium supplement may result in numerous health benefits.
Since magnesium may interfere with certain medications, consult your doctor before beginning a magnesium regimen. Diseased kidneys may have trouble processing excess magnesium from the body, and magnesium toxicity may result. Don't take a magnesium supplement if you have kidney disease unless it is recommended by a physician.