Constipation is defined as having less than 3 bowel movements per week. This uncomfortable and even painful condition is determined by a number of different factors including diet, stress, dehydration, exercise and even dietary changes while traveling. There is a commonly held misconception that you should have one bowel movement per day.
This may be true for some people, but every person is different and should try to figure out what is “normal” for them. Constipation happens to everyone at some point, most often due to a poor diet. Choosing to eat foods that relieve constipation is key to feeling better quickly and preventing future constipation.
Foods that relieve constipation are high in dietary fiber. Conveniently, foods that are high in dietary fiber not only relieve constipation but are also good for your overall health. Fiber comes from plants and is a material which cannot be digested by the human gastrointestinal tract. Since fiber cannot be digested, it absorbs liquids in the intestine thus softening the stool and building bulk to allow the stool to pass more easily.
Fiber intake should be spread throughout the day and should be accompanied with lots of caffeine-free liquids since dietary fiber does its job more effectively when there are liquids in the intestine. The American Diabetic Association recommends a daily intake of 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Fiber intake should be increased slowly, as a rapid increase may cause bloating. It is also important not to overdo the fiber since excessive intake can lead to gas and bloating. These are not the only constipation remedies for adults.
Fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains are foods that relieve constipation due to their high fiber content. Fast food and packaged foods are generally low in fiber because when foods are processed or refined, the natural fiber is removed. Some fruits and vegetables are higher in fiber than others, though all foods derived from plants naturally contain fiber. Fruits in the berry family, like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and cranberries are high in fiber.
Cantaloupe, apples with the skin, oranges, pears and kiwis are also high in fiber. Prunes are well known as another good choice to relieve constipation. As for vegetables, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, spinach, potato with the skin, and peppers are among the richest in fiber. Dried fruits like apricots, raisins, figs and dates make a portable, high fiber snack. Beans, chickpeas, and lentils are high in fiber as well as nuts like walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and almonds.
In general, whole grain products have more fiber than products made with refined white flour. Whole grain cereals and breads are a healthier choice than white breads and high sugar cereals with a low fiber content. The best breakfast cereals have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving, no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, and whole grain or whole wheat listed as the first ingredient. Typically, cereals with higher sugar content have lower fiber content. Raisin Bran, Shredded Wheat, Kashi GoLean, and Fiber One are all cereals with at least 8 grams of fiber per serving. A bowl of high fiber cereal with raisins or berries is an excellent high fiber breakfast. Oatmeal, wheat bran, and 100% whole grain breads are also foods that relieve constipation.
A diet rich in foods that relieve constipation can be varied and delicious. Some ideas for a high fiber meal are chili, baked eggplant, brown rice and beans, roasted vegetables and bean quesadillas. Eating an orange instead of drinking a glass of orange juice provides more fiber, as does choosing whole grains over refined grains, brown rice over white rice, leaving the skin on an apple, pear, or potato, and adding berries to yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal.
There is a wide variety of foods that are high in fiber and thus help relieve constipation and by making small dietary changes, constipation can be relieved and avoided in the future.