Constipation is one of those topics which rarely crops up in general conversation. But it is a common problem, affecting many people who often suffer in silence. And the longer it continues, the more uncomfortable the symptoms can become. Although there are several over the counter remedies for constipation, these aren’t treating the root of the problem. A far healthier solution for constipation relief is to make a few simple dietary changes.
Causes of constipation
People become constipated for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s only temporary, lasting a few days, but in many cases, it’s an ongoing concern. Typical reasons for constipation include a poor diet consisting of processed foods and animals fats and not enough dietary fiber. Lack of fluids can lead to constipation as can certain medications. For example, some pain relievers and anti-cancer drugs are also known to cause constipation.
Life changes can also lead to constipation. Pregnancy and aging both cause the digestive process to slow down and become sluggish, whereby food takes longer to pass through the intestinal tract. And this slow movement of food means more water is absorbed, leading to small, pellet-like motions.
How to treat constipation
Many people turn to laxatives when they’re suffering from constipation. These stimulate the intestine to get things moving again, but regular use of them can lead to dependence. Preventing constipation by eating a diet with plenty of soluble and insoluble fiber is more effective in the long term and it’s healthier. Fiber works by adding bulk to the stools, making them easier to expel. However, because fiber absorbs water, it’s equally important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
Foods to fight constipation
Fortunately, there are plenty of delicious and healthy high fiber foods which can help fight constipation. Start by switching from refined foods such as white bread, white rice or pasta to high fiber whole grains. Introduce them gradually, for example, beginning with a high fiber breakfast. Choose bran-based cereals and whole grain porridge oats which have the highest amounts of fiber. Make them more tasty while increasing the fiber content by topping with sliced banana, raisins or prunes.
Include lots of fruit and vegetables, particularly those which have a natural laxative effect such as prunes, dates, apricots and apples. When snacking, avoid crisps or cakes and eat dried fruit, nuts and seeds which are high in fiber. However, if weight is a concern, stick to no more than a handful of dried fruit or nuts each day as they are also quite high in calories.
When making a main meal, use whole wheat spaghetti and pasta or brown rice and eat pulses such as lentils, chickpeas, butter beans, kidney beans and black eyed beans which are all particularly high in fiber. By including one or more of the highest fiber vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, peas or artichokes with each main meal, it should be relatively easy to keep constipation at bay.
Drinking enough is particularly important. However, avoid alcohol and stick to water or sugar free drinks where possible. And while some people find drinking coffee stimulates a bowel movement, it’s best to limit caffeinated drinks as they can cause dehydration.
In many cases constipation problems can be successfully treated through increasing dietary fiber and fluid intake. These work to help get the digestive track working efficiently thus enabling easier passing of waste matter. Fortunately, foods which are high in fiber are also healthy so this should help improve overall wellbeing. However, if constipation persists for two weeks or more, even after making suitable dietary changes, it would be worth making an appointment to see a doctor, just to rule out any underlying cause.