By Dr. Jeeno Jayan, MBBS
Food for constipation
Constipation is a common concern for many.
While it may be the side effect of medications, caused by stress, or the result of certain diseases, for most people, their constipation is a result of what they eat and drink.
Although laxatives are available for dealing with constipation, most are only for temporary use. For instance, stimulant laxatives irritate the gut as a way of artificially causing the colon to contract and eject stool.
Prolonged use of stimulant laxatives diminish the colon’s normal muscular function, which can result in chronic constipation.
Fortunately there are foods that can help. In this article I will discuss some of the foods that can incorporated into one’s diet as a way of treating or preventing constipation.
Fiber-rich foods can help with constipation relief. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Most of our food is broken down and absorbed into the body, leaving very little residue to be excreted. Fiber, on the other hand, passes through the digestive system largely undigested.
Where there is too little fiber, stool doesn’t have enough bulk to stimulate peristalsis, the wave-like contractions of the colon that moves stool along.
As a result, stool tends to stay longer in the colon, giving more opportunity for water to be extracted and for stool to become dry, hard and difficult to pass.
Fiber makes stool bulkier, which helps the colon to move it along.
Without fiber to hold in moisture, stool tends to be dry and hard.
Fiber helps to keep stool moist.
Note the amount of fiber in ½ cup of each of the following:
These have been known to be a remedy for constipation for many years now. They are rich in fiber and have laxative properties.
Although prunes contain a good amount of fiber, they also contain a form of sugar called sorbitol that is not well digested, and helps with constipation relief.
A study done by the University of Iowa found that people who eat prunes or pitted plums saw more constipation relief than those who took certain types of commercial laxatives.
Leafy vegetables tend to be high in fiber
Fiber in vegetables can be found in the skin of fruit, in the stem and the leaves. The stalks of broccoli are high in fiber.
Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, swiss chard, collard greens and spinach have a dual purpose. They are both high in fiber and also high in magnesium.
For those who find it difficult to get enough fiber in the foods they eat, there is another option. There are numerous fiber supplements and laxatives on the market that can supply needed fiber.
Increasing the amount of fiber in our diets too rapidly may result in bloating, cramping and gas. Hence, the American Academy of Physicians recommends a gradual increase of fiber in one’s diet.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that a lack of magnesium in one’s diet tends to promote irregularity.
In a 2007 study published by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition women whose diet contained the least amount of magnesium had a greater probability of constipation.
Therefore, increasing our daily intake of magnesium can help to prevent and treat constipation.
It can be difficult to get enough fiber in the foods we eat. Fortunately, a magnesium supplement can help to meet this need.
Foods containing fiber and magnesium can be an effective alternative to taking a laxative.
Including certain food items in the foods we eat can therefore help to remedy constipation. Of course, staying hydrated is also important for healthy bowel movements.