Fiber Prevents Constipation


By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, B.D.S.
Fiber prevents constipation


Most doctors and researchers agree that fiber prevents constipation. But in what way does it help to prevent constipation?

Dietary fiber is the part of a plant that digestive enzymes are not able to easily break down. Much of it passes right through the intestines, adding much needed bulk to stools.

Including 20 to 35 grams of fiber in our diets each day may be helpful in reducing symptoms of constipation.


Fiber Prevents Constipation

Two Types of Constipation Fighting Fiber

Insoluble fiber

This type of fiber helps to prevent constipation by increasing stool volume. Since insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water, it adds bulk to the stool. A bulkier stool stimulates the colon’s wavelike motion, called peristalsis, needed to move the stool through the colon.

One of the colon’s jobs is to take wet mush and extract water from it in order to form more of a solid stool. By helping to stimulate peristalsis, the bulk that insoluble fiber adds to stool helps to decrease the amount of time stool spends in the colon.

Less time in the colon means the colon extracts less water from the stool. This results in moister, softer stool, which requires less pressure while defecating, and little or no straining.

Insoluble fiber is found in nuts, wheat bran, whole wheat flour, beans, dark green leafy vegetables, cauliflower, potatoes (mostly in the potato skin), celery and carrots.

Soluble fiber

As the name indicates, soluble fiber can be absorbed by water. Soluble fiber mixes with fatty acids that creates somewhat of a gel that helps to keep stools soft. The resulting softer, larger stool means less constipation. When a person doesn't have to strain, most hemorrhoids tend to go away on their own.

In the colon, soluble fiber promotes the growth of gut-friendly bacteria like lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These help in maintaining gut health. Soluble fiber is found in oats, legumes (like peas, beans and lentils), barley, vegetables, and fruit.

Besides preventing constipation, dietary fiber offers other health benefits. For one, in the colon bacteria feed on fiber, producing the B Complex of vitamins.

Increase fiber slowly

Dietary fiber should not be added too rapidly to the diet, as this may lead to gas. If beneficial bacteria in the gut have not had time to multiply, yeast will ferment the fiber.

A by-product of fermentation  is gas, which can result in gas pains. This is why it is best to not go too rapidly in increasing one’s intake of dietary fiber.

To help increase good gut flora, a person may choose to take a probiotic. Another choice is to eat fermented or cultured foods, including sauerkraut, pickles, Kombucha and kefir.

Magnesium

Magnesium helps with digestion and can boost the good effects of fiber in relieving constipation.

  • Magnesium is an osmotic laxative that helps to pull water into the colon, resulting in softer, easier to pass stools.

  • Magnesium is a much-needed nutrient that most people don’t get enough of.

  • A magnesium supplement may be taken daily. The increase in magnesium may result in long-term constipation relief.

  • Calcium can make a colon tense, restricting peristalsis.  Magnesium helps to relax a tight colon.

  • Taking a magnesium supplement may be one of the best kept secrets to soft, regular bowel movements.


Note:
 You might want to talk with your physician before starting to take magnesium each day. Magnesium can affect the absorption of some medications. Those with kidney disease shouldn't begin taking a magnesium supplement unless instructed to do so by their doctor.

(Return from Fiber Prevents Constipation to Fiber and Constipation)

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