What Is Constipation?
If you experience one or several days of infrequent bowel movements, leaving you unable to go to the toilet as regularly as usual, you’re probably suffering from constipation.
There’s no specific cause of constipation, but there are a number of factors that can contribute to the issue, including a low-fibre diet, lack of exercise, travel or changes to your routine, pregnancy, and certain medications. You may also be constipated as a result of a digestive disorder, like IBS or gastrointestinal disease.
It’s possible to treat constipation with over the counter medications, but these can cause some unpleasant side effects, and aren’t designed for everyday use. If you want to treat your constipation for long-term avoidance, you’ll need to choose the right foods for naturally alleviating the issue over time.
Apples are high in fibre and contain about more than four grams per serving. We need fibre to help food move through the intestines quickly so that we’re not left feeling backed up.
If you’re snacking on apple, don’t avoid the skin. Apple skin contains a compound called pectin, which acts as a natural laxative by speeding up transit time in the colon. Pectin is also a prebiotic, and can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut to promote digestive health. Grab an apple for a mid-morning snack or mix it into your breakfast muesli.
As if we need another reason to fuel society’s ever-growing avocado obsession, the green fruit can also keep the digestive tract healthy. Avocados are high in fibre and magnesium, which helps retain water in your intestines, making it easier for foods to pass through.
Try adding fresh avocado to your salads, or mashing the fruit and using it as a topping on whole grain toast or a bagel for a guaranteed constipation cure.
3. Peppermint tea
A warm cup of peppermint tea is more well-known for alleviating stomach pain, but experts say it can quickly reverse constipation as well. Peppermint has been proven to relieve constipation thanks to its antispasmodic properties, which can relax the muscles in the digestive tract, making the bowels looser to allow food to move through faster.
You can buy peppermint tea from your local supermarket, or make your own using a couple of drops of peppermint oil.
One of the best breakfast dishes to get your digestive tract back in shape is a simple bowl of warm oatmeal. One cup of oats has more than 16 grams of fibre, which can increase water content in the digestive tract, helping food move more quickly through the colon.
Most shop-bought oatmeal is packed full of with sugar and other artificial sweeteners, so buy your own rolled oats and make your own for a healthier and more satisfying alternative.
Lentils are incredibly high in fibre, making them one of the most effective foods for reversing constipation. Just half a cup of lentils contains more than eight grams of fibre, not to mention a whole host of other nutrients to support a healthy colon.
You can use cooked lentils a salad topper or a base for soups and stews. Try to buy dried lentils rather than canned to get the biggest range of health benefits.
6. Rye bread
If you’re a white bread lover, try ditching it in place of rye bread for the sake of your colon. Rye bread has a delicious taste and can be pale or darker in colour depending on the type of flour used.
Because rye is higher in fibre, it quickly binds with water molecules in your digestive tract, helping to push food along your system quickly. This effectively relieves constipation and keeps you from feeling unpleasantly full.
7. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the nation’s favourite superfoods, thanks to their delicious starchy, sweet flavour and numerous health benefits. Whether you prefer to mash your sweet potato, bake it, or add it to your oven dishes, you’ll reap the digestive benefits of including it in your diet.
One serving of the root vegetable contains four grams of fibre, as well as natural laxatives like pectin and cellulose.
8. Leafy greens
If you’ve been struggling with constipation issues, try stocking up on spinach, rocket and other leafy greens. These delicious plant foods contain insoluble fibre and are said to ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Kale, rocket and spinach make excellent salad bases. You could also mix them into your pasta or curry dishes for something a little different.
9. Chia seeds
As one of the highest fibre foods available, chia seeds are particularly beneficial for relieving constipation. Just a single spoonful of chia seeds contains more than five grams of fibre.
When they’re wet, chia seeds expand and turn into a gel-like consistency, which then moves food along your digestive tract, helping you eliminate that food more quickly and easily. Just be sure to drink plenty of water when you’re consuming chia seeds, to keep things moving healthily.
A handful of almonds is a perfect snacking food – low in sugar and salt, but high in healthy fat, protein and fibre. They’re also high in magnesium, which helps to stimulate the digestive tract by relaxing muscles and allowing food to more easily pass through.
Snack on them on their own or in a trail mix, or add them to your curry and stir fry dishes for a delicious nutty twist.
Dates are a naturally sweet snack that contain healthy sugars, making them a good source of carbohydrates – as well as an impressive seven grams of fibre. Not only can the high fibre content of dates help keep you regular, but it can also keep your blood sugar under control.
You can use dates as healthy alternative ingredients to sugar in some baking recipes, or enjoy them on their own.
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Oranges are a simple on the go snack that are ideal for anyone who needs help moving things along in the digestive system. Because they’re high in fibre and vitamin C, oranges can help make foods softer and easier to pass.
The vitamin C in oranges also supports healthy teeth and gums and helps the body to absorb iron. Go for whole oranges rather than orange juice, as oranges get their fibre from their pulp.
Pears are one of the best fruits for helping you to get rid of constipation fast. In addition to being high in fibre, pears are a great source of sorbitol.
This is a compound that’s found in certain fruits, and acts as a natural laxative, and can actually be purchased as an over the counter constipation remedy. Enjoy sliced pear as a snack to keep you going, or get more creative and add it to a range of healthy desserts.
Flaxseeds are a tiny superfood, a little bit like chia seeds, that pack a big nutritional punch. One tablespoon of flaxseeds alone contains about three grams of soluble and insoluble fibre, both of which are essential for healthy digestion.
In addition to preventing constipation, the fibre content of flaxseeds can keep you feeling full and satisfied after meals, making you less likely to reach for an empty, sugary snack that might do your digestive system more harm than good. Add a spoonful in your daily smoothie or sprinkle onto your breakfast dishes, salads and stir fries.
Pickled foods like sauerkraut are packed full of healthy probiotics to help relieve constipation or even prevent it in the first place. Probiotics promote the healthy bacteria in your gut that which help to maintain healthy digestion and remove toxins from the body.
They can also help you digest the lactose in dairy, which can sometimes contribute to constipation. Try making your own sauerkraut using fresh cabbage, carrot, sea salt and caraway seeds.
16. Olive oil
Olive oil is already much loved for its heart healthy benefits, but it’s a lesser known fact that the Mediterranean staple can keep you regular, too. Olive oil acts as a natural laxative in the body, encouraging healthy digestion.
Try replacing your less healthy vegetable and sunflower oils with fresh olive oil or using it to drizzle over a homemade salad. Always go for cold-pressed olive oils where you can to enjoy the most health benefits.
All types of beans, from black beans to brown beans, cannellini beans to pinto beans, will help to get things working properly in your digestive tract. Beans are some of the highest fibre foods on the planet, with an average of more than seven grams per serving.
Beans contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, keeping things moving through your digestive tract. You can add them to your salads, use them as meat replacements in your curry dishes, or enjoy them in your Mexican foods for a quick hit of fibre.
18. Clear soups
When you’re feeling particularly bogged up, there’s nothing better than a simple clear soup to work as a gentle but effective treatment to get things moving again. Warm liquids help to add moisture to the digestive tract, which makes it easier to resolve constipation issues.
Clear vegetable soups are particularly good for your digestion. Try making your own to get the most nutritional benefits from the dish.
Along with upping your fibre content and making sure to practice regular exercise, drinking enough water is the most important factor in relieving constipation. Water is essential for encouraging the movement of food through the colon.
If you're a bit dehydrated, your colon won’t be able to absorb enough water, resulting in difficulty going to the toilet. Aside from drinking more water in general in your diet, try to include more water-based foods, like celery, zucchini, tomatoes and lettuce.
Constipation might not be the most glamorous subject in the world, but knowing how to treat it will help you out in so many occasions in life. Constipation tends to hit at the worst time, like when you’re on vacation, and you’ll want to get back to being regular as quickly as possible without your digestive issues affecting your wellbeing.
If you’re suffering from chronic constipation, make sure to eat plenty of the foods listed in this video. Aside from your diet, be sure to exercise regularly to encourage your digestive muscles to kick into action.
It’s recommended that you get 30 minutes of mild to moderate exercise a day to stay healthy and improve digestive function. Try walking to work instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the lift, and spending your lunch breaks on your feet rather than at your desk.
It’s also wise to visit your doctor to discuss your symptoms if you’re not getting better. While constipation is usually down to poor diet and lifestyle choices, there may be an underlying cause that your doctor needs to look into.