Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal/digestive problem in the general population. You may have constipation if your bowel movements happen less than three times a week or your stool becomes hard and painful to pass. It can cause discomfort, gas, cramps, belly bloating, and strain when passing stools.
Changes to what you eat and insufficient water or fibre in your diet are common causes of constipation. Nonetheless, getting relief from constipation can be as simple as tweaking your meals and dietary habits. One of the healthiest steps is to choose foods that relieve constipation or prevent it in the first place. However, diet may not be everything.
For those with chronic constipation, the condition may stem from an underlying medical condition, medication side effect, or anatomical problem. In such cases, there arises a need for stool softeners, fibre supplements, or other medications.
With that being said, let’s see what is the best diet for when your digestive system demands special care in the form of constipation.
The Mediterranean diet is an easy-to-follow diet for constipation. It comprises predominantly plant-based foods with high fibre content which help improve gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation. Another study reported that people with lower adherence to a Mediterranean diet often face constipation compared to those following the diet. It can be due to consuming far less than the recommended portions of fibre-rich fruit and vegetables.
As per RDA, women should consume around 21 to 25 grams of fibre daily, while men should aim for 30-38 grams daily. The Mediterranean diet can provide over 30–50 g/day of fibre.
The flexitarian diet plan is another diet suitable for preventing and managing constipation. It is a flexible vegetarian diet comprising mostly fibre-rich vegetarian meals while saving animal proteins for special occasions. Including beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts, nut butter, and seeds make it a healthy diet.
Studies show that a high-fibre diet can boost digestion, while a poor-fibre diet induces constipation. The results also convey that diets with soluble fibre lower the symptoms of chronic constipation.
Here are some high-fibre foods you can include in a constipation diet plan:
Prunes and prune juice are an old home remedy for constipation. A study shows that prunes or dried plums can be the first line of therapy for treating mild to moderate constipation. It is safer, palatable and more effective than psyllium.
The laxative effect of sorbitol and fibre in prunes can improve the frequency and consistency of stool. You may eat around 8-10 prunes daily or drink a glass of unsweetened prune juice for effective results.
Nuts and seeds contain fibre, protein, and other nutrients to improve digestion and prevent consumption. While most nuts and seeds contain reasonable amounts of fibre, chia and flax seeds are on top of the leaderboard of fibre.,
You can try the following:
The fibre, protein, and other plant-based bioactive compounds make beans and legumes the perfect veggie alternative to meat. You can add them to soups, salads, pulav, and curries for an easy fibre boost to your meal.
Fibre-rich beans and legumes include:
Apples, pears, ripe bananas, oranges, strawberries, and raspberries have 3-4 grams of fibre per serving. Plus, the skin of the apple contains most of the fibre. Further, dark-coloured vegetables like artichokes, carrots, beets, and broccoli tend to have more fibre.
Always choose whole grains over refined grains when planning a high-fibre diet for constipation. The germ, endosperm, and bran in whole grains are important sources of nutrients and fibre. Bran flour like wheat bran flour, oat bran flour are a better choice for constipation.
Good choices of whole-grain foods include:
Dehydration can cause and aggravate constipation. Therefore, always stay hydrated. Water, coffee with less sugar and cream, clear soups, and fruit and vegetable juices (unstrained to retain the fibre) with no added sugar are healthy liquids for your diet. These drinks can make the dietary fibre work better and soften stool.
Before turning to laxatives and other medications, following a balanced, fibre-rich diet plan for constipation is helpful. You can include more fruits, vegetables, pulses, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Further, liquid meals also play a significant role in managing constipation. Instead of sugary drinks, drink water, herbal tea, fruit, and herb-infused water.
Just as there are foods to relieve your constipation, there are foods that can worsen your constipation. You must avoid foods with a binding effect or those with zero or very little fibre.
You may want to avoid the following foods if you are prone to constipation:
Unripe or under-ripe green bananas have a lot of resistant starch, making it hard for the body to digest. This hard-to-digest starch draws water from the intestines. So, if you are already dehydrated, this can make constipation worse. Unripe bananas also cause constipation in babies.
Persimmon is a popular Asian fruit. The astringent persimmons contain high amounts of tannins. It slows down the movement of food through the intestines and worsens constipation. However, sweet persimmons are usually safe to eat when constipated. So, if you do eat persimmons, stick to the sweet variety.
Gluten is a protein present in barley, wheat, and rye. Gluten-containing products can be problematic for people with celiac disease, sensitivity or allergies to it. However, a study shows that people without underlying conditions can also experience constipation from gluten consumption.
Gluten-related conditions can trigger both gastrointestinal symptoms and non-gastrointestinal symptoms. The gastrointestinal symptoms of gluten include constipation, bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain.
In rare cases, swallowing multiple pieces of chewing gum in a short time blocks the digestive tract. This digestive blockage can cause constipation. It can also happen when you consume several pieces of gum with other indigestible foods.
These food categories have a limited amount of fibre to begin with. Plus, processing, refining, and frying makes them much harder to digest.
It is best to avoid the following foods:
Be sure to choose fibre-rich foods over refined and processed foods. Foods like chips, burgers, white bread, and packaged foods may be convenient. However, they do not have enough fibre content or nutrients you need to relieve constipation.
To permanently relieve constipation, you must focus on treating its root cause. A constipation diet chart should include plenty of fluids and dietary fibre since the problem often arises due to the lack of these two elements.
The HealthifyMe Note
Diet plans may vary for every individual, however, the sample diet plan can act as a guideline. It is always recommended to make any diet changes under the supervision of a qualified Nutritionist.
Here is a sample of constipation diet plan for you to try:
Occasional constipation is nothing to worry about. However, chronic constipation might require an intervention. You can talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist if your diet is the prime cause of constipation. With data-driven suggestions and real-time guidance, HealthifyMe coaches can advise healthier choices to get things moving again.
Constipation can make it uncomfortable to manage your day-to-day life. Although there are multiple causes, diet can be the primary factor in maintaining healthy bowel movements. Most times, changing your diet can make all the difference. Adding enough fibre and fluids to your diet is often enough to avoid constipation altogether. For better results, you can try the Mediterranean, flexitarian, or a simple diet focusing on plant-based foods.
A. Fibre has a major role to play when considering what to eat or not when you’re constipated or are prone to it. Thus, foods that lack sufficient fibre content should be avoided. These include processed, refined and baked foods. Unripe bananas and gluten also cause digestive problems that may lead to sporadic bowel movements.
A. Depends on the type of banana you choose. While ripe bananas can help prevent and relieve constipation the situation is different in case of unripe ones. The soluble fibre in ripe bananas improves the movement of stool through your digestive tract. However, unripe or green bananas have high levels of resistant starch. Therefore, it can be very binding and slow down bowel movement. Thus, unripe bananas are ideal to treat diarrhoea but not constipation.
A. Foods with binding effects cause constipation. Some are unripe or under-ripe green bananas, refined grains, and gluten-rich foods. In large quantities, dairy products also make you feel constipated. Apart from that, low-fibre and high in fat fast food can cause constipation by slowing down the digestive system.
A. Yes, the beneficial and gut-friendly bacteria in yoghurt make it suitable for constipation. However, not all kinds of yoghurt can be a good source of probiotics that help relieve constipation. It is healthier to choose low-sugar Greek yoghurt or unsweetened, unflavoured varieties.
A. High-fibre breakfasts are good for constipation. Cereals, whole wheat bagels or toast, and oats are easy sources of energising carbohydrates and healthy fibre. You can also add prunes, yoghurt, seeds, nuts, and smoothies on the side for added benefits.
A. Most of the time, constipation goes away on its own. Or you can make simple dietary and lifestyle changes to treat it. For example, eat high-fibre foods and drink plenty of water and other liquids. Also, if you think certain supplements are causing constipation it’s advisable to speak with your healthcare provider and discuss the issue.
A. Prunes, in particular, are great for constipation. Also, they are a rich source of fibre and sorbitol, a natural laxative. Other dried fruits like dates, figs, apricots, and raisins are good dietary fibre sources for constipation relief. However, due to their high calorie and sugar concentration, eat dried fruits in moderation.
A. Plain Water and prune juice are the best remedies for constipation. You can also try fermented beverages containing many probiotics to relieve constipation and bowel issues. Green tea, coffee, lemon juice, apple juice, and aloe vera juice can help without overdoing it.
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