How to Stop Constipation with Adjustments to Your Diet
Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints, affecting around 42 million people in the U.S, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This common condition is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements per week, and having bowel movements that are hard, dry and small, making them difficult to pass.
Constipation can emerge due to a number of factors, such as the medications you take (opioids, calcium channel blockers, iron supplements and others), being inactive, pregnancy, travel, diet, and health conditions that slow digestion (such as disorders and injuries that affect the brain and spinal cord, hypothyroidism and diabetes).
People who are constipated for long periods of time may also experience additional complications like hemorrhoids, anal fissures, rectal prolapse (rectum protrudes out of the anus) or fecal impaction (hardened stool stuck in the rectum).
Luckily, what helps constipation is as simple as paying closer attention to your nutrition intake. And remember, you should always talk to your doctor about any medical issues or concerns you have!
So what are some remedies for constipation?
You may need more fiber! Most Americans don’t get enough dietary fiber.
But what exactly is fiber? Fiber refers to the undigested parts of food, the NIDDK says. It helps make stool soft so it can move smoothly through your intestines.
There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in beans, fruit and oats. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and is found in whole grains and veggies. Both kinds help prevent constipation, the NIDDK says. (Find more examples of fiber-rich foods here and here.)
Most Americans eat 16 grams of fiber a day, but should be getting 22-34 grams a day. But it’s not only the amount of fiber that matters, but also the rate at which you increase your fiber. Ramping it up full tilt can cause gas, bloating and cramps. Be sure to add fiber to your diet slowly so your body can adjust.
Also, make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids (water, fruit and veggie juices, clear soups) to help the fiber work better. And make sure you’re not eating foods that are making constipation worse.
What foods should you avoid if you’re constipated?
If you are constipated, foods with little to no fiber may be working against you, the NIDDK says. You may want to try avoiding cheese, chips, fast food, ice cream, meat, prepared frozen meals/snack foods, and processed foods like “TV dinners” or hot dogs, and see if your constipation improves.
Still facing digestive issues and feel like nothing works?
It’s time to test — don’t guess! Let’s get to the root of the issue with a GI (gastrointestinal) test. You also may want to consider a nutrition test to see if your body is getting and absorbing the nutrients it needs. Read more about constipation here.