Have you ever had those days where every trip to the toilet seems like a tug-of-war between you and your stomach, where you push, strain, and groan, but it all seems futile? Then you already have an idea of what constipation is.
In this post, we’ll discuss how fiber helps with constipation, and examples of high fiber foods for constipation.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a reduction in bowel movement or difficulty passing stools. Defining constipation is a little tricky because bowel habits vary with individuals.
Notwithstanding, the medical community considers constipation to be bowel movements fewer than three times in a week. The severity of symptoms can vary with individuals.
What are the causes of constipation?
- Narcotics: codeine, hydromorphone
- NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs): Ibuprofen, Naproxen
- Blood pressure drugs: Beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers
- Anticonvulsants: Phenytoin
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
How does fiber impacts constipation?
Dietary fiber is the non-digestible carbohydrate in plants. There are two types – soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Both types can help to treat and prevent constipation, but they do it differently.
Soluble fiber traps moisture in stool, making the stool larger and softer, which in turn facilitates its movement through the colon.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, bulks up stool, and this makes it move through the intestines faster.
Although your body cannot digest fiber, it is essential in your diet. Eating fiber-rich foods can not only relieve constipation, but it can also prevent it altogether.
High-fiber foods for constipation
Pulses, like beans, peas, lentils, are rich in fiber. You can add them to your diet in many different ways, and they are also cheap too.
Pulses have both soluble and insoluble fibers. This implies that they can relieve constipation by bulking up stool, and by softening the stool to ease its movement in the colon.
Kiwis are very useful in fighting constipation. A kiwifruit, on the average, will supply nine percent of the RDI of fiber.
Kiwi also has an enzyme known as actinidine, which is also believed to help in the fight against constipation.
An average pear, when eaten with the skin, can provide between five and six grams of dietary fiber. This calculates to around 22% of the RDI of fiber.
Pears can be used in a variety of ways, meaning you will have little problem incorporating it into your diet. They are also perfect for babies with constipation.
A study over four weeks, showed that people who drank 500 ml of kefir after their meals in the morning and evening had improvements in the frequency of their stools and needed fewer laxatives.
Prunes are the dried form of plums. Fresh plums are not as rich in fiber as prunes, with prunes having as much as 12 grams of fiber per cup.
Prunes help to alleviate constipation in several different ways. They have both insoluble and soluble fiber, which both help to relieve constipation by bulking up the weight of stool.
They also contain sorbitol and some phenolic compounds that help to relieve constipation. This makes it one of the best high fiber foods to ease constipation.
You can get as much as 17% of the recommended daily fiber intake in a medium-sized apple. Apples have both soluble and insoluble fiber.
The soluble fiber in apples, present in the form of pectin, is fermented by microorganisms in the gut to short-chain fatty acids, which improve water retention in the stool and also make stool move faster in the gut.
There you have it, another reason to have an apple a day.
7. Whole-grain bread
Whole grains are rich in fiber. Rye bread and wheat bread, in particular, are two of the best ways whole grains are taken as bread to relieve constipation.
They both help to bulk up the stool to facilitate easy movement in the colon. Although, studies have shown that rye bread is better at alleviating constipation than wheat bread.
Some greens, like spinach and broccoli, are excellent sources of fiber. They help to bulk up and increase the weight of stools.
4.3 grams or a cup of cooked spinach can give you as much as 17% of your RDI of fiber, while 150 grams of broccoli will supply about 16%.
These greens are also rich in vitamin C and vitamin K.
9. Sweet Potato
Pectin, lignin, and cellulose are all important in increasing the weight of stools to make them move easily in the colon.
Studies have also confirmed the use of sweet potatoes in relieving constipation.
You can easily add sweet potatoes to your diet because of the variety of ways you can eat them – mashed, roasted, steamed, you just name it.
Flaxseeds are natural laxatives, so their use in the treatment of constipation is not surprising. They are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber.
One tablespoon of whole flaxseeds, both brown and golden, will supply about eleven percent of your recommended daily fiber intake. Flaxseeds are also rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
You can add them to smoothies, salads, or use their oil in meals.
Figs are excellent sources of fiber. Half a cup of dried figs can meet as much as 30% of your daily needs of fiber.
Figs also contain the enzyme fiacin that also assists in alleviating constipation.
Well, you weren’t exactly expecting to see water on this list, were you? But it only makes sense to have it on here.
Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water from stool, and that may occur when an individual is dehydrated.
It’s always important not to overlook the ‘little’ things like drinking enough water.
You don’t always have to turn to medications when you have constipation. Many times, you can prevent it altogether with a healthy diet. Eat these high-fiber foods we’ve discussed to ease constipation.
Note, though, that if your constipation lasts longer than three weeks, you should seek medical attention.