We have all been there. Constipation has probably affected everyone at some point in time or another.
It is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal conditions and affects millions chronically worldwide.
How does it happen?
As food moves through our digestive systems, our bodies absorb nutrients, and the food moves from the stomach to the small intestine and into our colon also called the large intestine.
The colon absorbs water from this food waste, creating a solid matter; stools.
If your food moves too slowly through the digestive system, the colon has more time to absorb water from the waste, making it dry and difficult to expel.
This annoying gastrointestinal condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Older age – A lower metabolism and a more sedentary lifestyle might contribute to constipation.
In addition, seniors have less muscle strength along the digestive tract to help move the food throughout the system.
Pregnant women – The fetus can press on the intestines and slow the food from moving through the digestive tract.
Fiber intake – Folks with a low fiber intake might have some problems with bowel movements.
Fiber is essential to maintaining a healthy gut.
Alcohol – Excessive alcohol intake can contribute to constipation.
Water – Dehydration is one of the primary causes of constipation.
Ensure you are adequately hydrated to keep the food waste nice and moist.
Stress – High amounts of stress can prevent you from maintaining a healthy system.
Dairy – Cheese, milk, and other dairy products can inhibit the food from moving.
Exercise – Not getting enough exercise might contribute to constipation.
Several underlying medical conditions can also cause chronic constipation like diabetes, hyperthyroidism, intestinal obstruction, and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
Symptoms of constipation can include:
- Bloating and abdominal cramps
- Stools are hard, dry, and difficult to pass
- Less than three bowel movements a week
- After a movement, you feel like you haven’t emptied your bowels.
As always, websites are not a substitute for medical information, so please check with your medical professional if in doubt.
Foods To Avoid When Constipated
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal upset that affects us all at some point in our lives.
Here are some of the foods to avoid while you are constipated.
- Alcohol is one of the most common causes of bowel problems. The dehydrating effects of alcohol are widely known, while insufficient water consumption can easily lead to hard, dry stools.
- Processed grains like white bread, rice, and pasta have the husk, bran, and germ removed during manufacturing. This leads to a lower fiber content which is essential for moving the food along the digestive system.
Folks with chronic constipation can opt for whole grains to up their fiber intake.
However, if your fiber intake is already high yet you are still constipated, it might be caused by another reason, and adding fiber might worsen the problem. (Source)
- Dairy products like milk and cheeses are also a common cause of constipation. Multiple studies on children between the ages of 1 and 12 found that reducing the intake of cow’s milk and replacing it with soy milk can reduce symptoms of constipation.
- Fried or processed foods have high fat content and are low in fiber. The high sodium content also absorbs water, making the stool harder and more difficult to pass.
- Red meat and poultry are similarly high in fat and contain no fiber. They also have a high caloric content, making you feel full and unable to eat other fiber-rich foods. By substituting red meat with foods like fruits and vegetables, you can significantly improve your bowel movements.
- Sweet snacks like chocolate, cakes, and cookies also can contribute to irregular bowel movements, especially if eaten in large quantities. They are high in carbohydrates, low in fiber, and have high sugar content. Consider substituting refined sugar with natural sugars found in fiber-rich fruits.
- Unripe bananas can surprisingly give you constipation. In comparison, ripe bananas are a great source of fiber and other beneficial nutrients, so make sure your bananas are fully ripe before consumption.
Food To Eat When Constipated
The current average fiber intake of the average American is 15 grams, way below the recommended daily intake of 25 to 30 grams.
Fiber is necessary for optimal digestive health.
The soluble fiber dissolves, creating a gel that improves digestion and has been credited for reducing cholesterol and improving glucose control.
Insoluble fiber helps the movement of food through your digestive system and increases the bulk of the stool, helping with constipation.
Some insoluble fiber also feeds the healthy gut bacteria in your colon called probiotics, the trillions of bacteria lining your gut and maintaining a balanced system.
Specific categories of foods are known to be rich in fiber.
Vegetables – Most vegetables have high fiber content and are low in fat. In addition, vegetables are rich in nutrients and other minerals that will help keep you in good health.
Veggies high in fiber include broccoli, carrots, beets, artichokes, and squash.
Fruits – These vitamin powerhouses deliver not just nutrients but pack a decent amount of fiber.
A medium pear contains 5.5g of fiber, while an apple contains 4.4g.
A couple of fruits thrown into your diet should help you meet the minimum 25g of recommended daily fiber intake.
Legumes – The unsung heroes of fiber-rich food, legumes like navy, pinto, black, and kidney beans often contain about 15 to 20g of fiber in a one-cup serving.
In addition to fiber, legumes are rich in protein.
The USDA classifies legumes in both the “vegetable” and the “protein” groups.
Cereals and Oats – Most cereals and oats contain both insoluble and soluble fiber.
Oats also contain a fiber called beta-glucan, an excellent source of soluble fiber linked to lowering cholesterol and improving skin conditions.
Nuts and Seeds – Most nuts and seeds are also high in fiber content and can be found in the health food section of most grocery stores.
Because of the added effects of sodium or artificial seasonings, it’s best to buy them raw and uncooked.
Whole Foods – Brown pasta, quinoa, brown rice, and brown bread are higher-fiber options than the white varieties.
White grains have their fiber-rich husk, bran, and germ removed during processing.
Despite the many benefits of fiber-rich foods, it is worth noting that people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or any other digestive problems might experience adverse effects when upping their fiber intake.
Those with IBS or other conditions have to look for low FODMAP foods for their dietary requirements. FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols”.
These are a group of carbohydrates and sugars that can cause problems in those with sensitive stomachs.
What Foods Will Make You Poop Right Away?
In addition, constipation sufferers can try the following foods:
- Prunes contain sorbitol and a high amount of fiber. Four medium-sized prunes contain 2g of fiber.
- One tablespoon of flax or chia seeds contains about 3g of fiber and can be sprinkled onto oats and cereals.
- Apples, pears, and kiwis are nutritious fruits excellent sources of fiber.
- Add beans to your salads, soups, and stews to up your fiber dosage. A single cup of navy beans can contain up to 20g of fiber.
- Figs are an excellent source of fiber. A cup of figs can contain 15g of fiber.
- A medium sweet potato contains 4g of fiber.
- A cup of avocados contains 10g of fiber.
Natural Laxatives That Work Fast
Here are some natural laxatives you can try before heading to the nearest pharmacy.
- Chia and flax seeds
- Beans like navy, pinto, black, and garbanzo
- Castor oil
- Dark leafy greens with high fiber content
- Olive oil
- Aloe vera
- Oat, bran, and cereals
- Whole grains
- Fruits high in fiber like apples, kiwis, and pears
Dehydration is also one of the primary causes of constipation, so make sure to get plenty of water!
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.