Constipation affects about 14 percent of adults in the U.S. and is the cause of over three million medical appointments yearly.
Experts define constipation as less than three bowel movements a week.
Constipation can be caused by certain medical conditions, medications or other factors that are harder to control. But most constipation is caused by what we’re eating, or rather what we aren’t eating. A change in diet can help prevent future constipation or get things moving again if you’re already a bit stuck.
Most of us aren’t eating enough fiber, FACT! The American Heart Association recommends a total dietary fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams a day from real food, not just supplements. The average fiber intake of adults in the U.S. currently averages about 15 grams a day, only half the recommended amount.
As well as reducing the risk of constipation, a high fiber diet can help reduce the risk of many other medical conditions including heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. Getting enough fiber in our diet is important for a healthy digestive system and lowering cholesterol.
Although nobody likes to talk about constipation, it can leave you feeling bloated and lacking in energy with discomfort when you try to go to the toilet to poop. Fortunately most cases of constipation don’t last more than a few days, and there are alternatives to risky over the counter laxatives. By introducing fiber-rich foods into your diet and other foods that have positive effects on your digestive system, you can gently get those bowels moving again.
The Importance of Water
One of the most simple things you can do to prevent or help relieve constipation is to drink more water. Along with getting more fiber and regular exercise, drinking enough water is one of the most important factors for a healthy digestive tract. Your colon’s main job is to reabsorb water and if there isn’t enough water present in the colon your stool will be harder and more difficult to pass. Most doctors recommend drinking eight to 10 glasses of water a day in addition to eating more foods with a high water content.
Drinking more water is only the start though, there’s so much more you can do by introducing any of the foods listed below into your diet. With most of them being natural too, you can benefit your body in many other ways, not only improving your movements in the bathroom, your movements in life may get better too.
Probably the first food most people think of when talking about foods that make you poop are prunes. There’s a reason our grannies ate these wrinkled dried plums to keep them regular; they’re packed with fiber. Each prune has about 1 gram of fiber, a pretty concentrated amount, along with fructans and sorbitol, the fermentable sugars often found in chewing gum that have laxative properties. Prune juice is well known as a natural laxative if you don’t fancy the idea of wrinkly prunes for breakfast, although the juice isn’t much more appealing, just remember it’s good for you!
It’s not just prunes that consist of the natural laxative known as sorbitol. Many other dried fruits including raisins or sultanas in addition to being high in fiber pack a sorbitol punch too. Peaches, pears and apples all have high concentrations of the sugar alcohol sorbitol that helps move things along in our digestive tract.
Probiotics can be essential for a healthy digestive tract and many yogurts are full of them. A 2014 study by Kings College in London found probiotics increased bowel movements by 1.3 movements a week while also softening the stools, making them easier to pass. Always look for yogurts that contain live bacteria cultures or probiotics to replenish the good bacteria that lives in your gut.
Is there anything that chia seeds aren’t good for? Foods that contain more than 5 grams of fiber per serving are considered high-fiber foods and just 1 ounce or approximately 2 tablespoons of chia seeds have twice that amount. The other bonus with chia seeds is when they get wet they turn gelatinous and can help carry away substances that may otherwise be stuck in your digestive tract. Chia seeds are so versatile and can be added to almost anything, at any time of the day in any meal for a boost to your body and your gut.
The high magnesium content of avocados will attract more water to the digestive tract and help to soften stools and increase the flow and regularity. An avocado for lunch could help relieve that afternoon bloating we all suffer from occasionally.
Bananas have high levels of insoluble fiber which can help bulk up the stools and make them easier to pass through your system. When things can get a bit too loose down there, bananas can have a binding action for diarrhea if you’ve overcompensated with the fiber. Probiotics also found in bananas feed the healthy flora of the gut.
Just as we need insoluble fiber to help bulk up stools, soluble fiber is required to attract water and enable your body to process fiber without too much discomfort. Almonds are not only high in heart-healthy fats but despite their size pack a whopping dose of soluble fiber with only two handfuls containing 3.5 grams of fiber. Sneaking a few nuts into your breakfast cereal could give you a fiber boost for the day.
Whole Grain Cereals
Starting the day with a bowl of whole grain cereal can provide a healthy dose of fiber that will keep you regular through the day. Whole grain fibers can be great at relieving constipation as their outer cell walls can be difficult to digest and hold onto water. Breakfast is the ideal time to prompt your body to poop, as the body’s contractions of the colon are at the highest in the morning. High fiber brands or oatmeal are the best but be careful of the sugar content of many popular packaged cereals or oats.
Another breakfast staple that can help with constipation is coffee. Many experts believe coffee stimulates colonic muscle contractions and in turn helps you go to the loo more often. Some researchers believe the coffee cannot reach the colon that quickly and has an indirect effect by acting on closer receptors in the stomach or small bowel with wave-like muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract urging you to poop.
It’s All About the Fiber
If you feel all bunged up downstairs or it’s simply painful when you try to go, don’t immediately reach for the laxatives. Sometimes they can be too strong and the effect can be like a bad teen prank. There are many foods you can eat which can prompt the body into a normal routine of pooping. There are also foods that can cause constipation and should be avoided as shown in the following short Youtube video:
Foods that are high in fiber including whole wheat bread, brown rice, fiber rich fruits, nuts, seeds (like flax or chia), cruciferous veggies like broccoli and many more can boost levels of both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber needed for a healthy and regular toilet routine. Basically if it’s brown or a whole food, it’ll be high in fiber. Just remember to drink that water too.