We’ve all dealt with constipation from time to time throughout our lives, and we can all admit that it sucks. It generally doesn’t last much longer than a few days, but some people have it worse, and it can end up becoming a chronic recurring issue. In that case, a person will typically need to treat the problem through maintaining suitable lifestyle choices and a careful diet.
What Is Constipation?
You’re said to be suffering from constipation if you’re unable to go to the toilet as regularly as you do normally, due to one or more days of infrequent bowel movements.
There’s no particular cause of constipation that we can pinpoint, but a combination of several factors can make it more likely to occur. Examples include a lack of exercise, a low-fibre diet, pregnancy, routine changes, travelling, or side effects of certain medications. Digestive disorders like gastrointestinal disease or IBS can also result in constipation.
There are many over the counter drugs available to help treat constipation, but they can potentially bring about many negative side effects. In any case, they aren’t designed for daily use. If you’re seeking to prevent or treat constipation in a risk-free way, choosing the right foods is probably the best thing you can do for long-term avoidance of constipation.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away — and constipation, too! Containing about four grams of fibre per serving, apples are one of the highest-fibre fruits out there. Our bodies need fibre to help food travel through the intestines easier and quicker, helping you not feel bloated or backed up.
The next time you eat apples, don’t peel off the skin. Apple skin contains a special compound called pectin, which has natural laxative properties, stimulating movements and reducing the bowel transit time in the colon. Moreover, pectin also has prebiotic properties and encourages beneficial bacteria growth to promote digestive health in the gut. To include apples into your daily dietary intake, mix them into your breakfast or grab one as a mid-day snack.
Avocadoes are miraculous, and their use cases just keep growing in numbers. They also happen to be great for digestive tract health. Since they’re high in magnesium and fibre, avocados can help intestines retain more water, which makes food’s movement smoother and easier. You can add avocados to your veggie salads, or simply mash it up and use it as a topping on bagels or whole-grain toasts to help keep constipation away.
3. Peppermint tea
You might have known peppermint tea as a great way to treat stomach pain quickly, however, according to experts, it’s also a great cure for constipation. Peppermint, through its antispasmodic properties, has been convincingly proven as a means to relieve constipation.
These antispasmodic properties help relax the digestive tract muscles, loosening the bowels to let food move along smoother and faster. You’ll easily find peppermint tea at a local store, or if you’ve got peppermint oil lying around, use a few drops to make your own.
A bowl of warm oatmeal makes for one of the best breakfast dishes to get your digestive tract health back on track. Just one cup of oatmeal has sixteen grams of fibre, helping to increase the digestive tract’s water content, which lets food move fast through the colon.
It’s recommended to buy your own rolled oats and make oatmeal at home for a more satisfying and healthier alternative to store-bought oatmeal, as the boxed stuff is usually packed with artificial flavouring, sugars and other sweeteners.
Lentils are super fibre-rich, making them a superfood when it comes to reversing the symptoms of constipation. There are over 8 grams of fibre in just half a cup of lentils — along with countless other nutrients that aid your general wellbeing. You can mix in some cooked lentils as a salad topping, or as a base for stews and soups. Try buying dried lentils instead of canned ones to avoid preservatives, and to secure the most health benefits.
6. Rye bread
This one’s for the bread lovers! To help treat constipation through dietary changes, switch up your white bread intake with rye bread for your colon’s betterment. Not only does it taste amazing, but rye bread is super-rich in fibre, which quickly combines with water molecules in your digestive tract. This helps in pushing food along the digestive tract easily.
Eating rye bread as a white breaf alternative is a quick way to get some relief from constipation and should prevent you from feeling uncomfortably backed up, full, or bloated. It’s darker or pale in colour as compared to white bread, and you’ll easily find it in your local supermarket.
7. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes — everyone loves them, especially because of their deliciously sweet, starchy flavour and countless health benefits. No matter how you choose to eat your sweet potatoes—baked, mashed, or added to your oven dishes as a key ingredient—your digestive system will greatly benefit from it. Just one serving of sweet potato has about 4 grams of fibre, alongside natural laxative compounds like cellulose and pectin.
8. Leafy greens
If you’ve been dealing with constipation, stock up on leafy green veggies like a rocket, spinach, and more. These plant foods have lots of insoluble fibres and ease the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Rocket, kale, and spinach make for fantastic salad bases, and you could also mix them into your curry or pasta dishes for a twist.
9. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are particularly known for their benefits against constipation. They’re one of the richest foods available when it comes to fibre content. Just one spoonful of these miraculous seeds contains over 5 grams of fibre—let that ratio sink in.
When they’re wet, chia seeds absorb moisture and achieve a gel-like consistency, aiding a smoother movement and elimination of food across your digestive tract. When you consume chia seeds, make sure you drink lots of water to prevent them from over-absorbing water in your digestive tract.
Almonds are perfect for snacking, as they’re low in salt and sugar, but high in protein, healthy fat, and most importantly for constipation—fibre!
Almonds are also quite high in magnesium, which helps to loosen the digestive muscles to let food pass through smoothly. You can choose to add these tasty nuts to your stir fry or curry dishes for a nutty delight, or snack on them on their own.
Dates contain healthy sugars, which makes them a great carbohydrates source. They’re also rich in fibre, with one date containing as much as 7 grams of fibre! But apart from that, dates can also help control your blood sugar level. To add dates into your diet, enjoy them on their own, or use them as an alternative to sugar in your baked dishes.
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Oranges taste amazing, while also being a fantastic food to help move food along the digestive system. Since they’re high in vitamin C and fibre, they can make foods softer, easing their transit through your digestive tract.
As a bonus, oranges also help the body to absorb more iron and promote teeth and gum health through their vitamin C content. For treating constipation, orange juice isn’t as effective as eating whole oranges, as the fibre mainly comes from the pulp!
Pears can help get rid of constipation symptoms quickly. Not only are they high in fibre, but they’re an excellent source of sorbitol.
Sorbitol is a compound that certain fruits contain, and has natural laxative properties. It’s also included as a key ingredient in many over the counter prescription drugs for treating constipation. You can enjoy pears in slices as a snack or add them to your dessert recipes.
A bit like chia seeds, flaxseeds are tiny laxative superfoods with a huge nutritional range. Only one tablespoon of these seeds can have over 3 grams of insoluble and soluble fibres, both of which are vital for smooth digestion.
Apart from preventing constipation, flaxseeds’ fibre content can also help you feel full after meals, making you less inclined to reach for a sugary snack that won’t do any good for your digestive system. Plus, helping you feel satisfied after meals should also help with weight loss, if that’s your goal. Add a spoonful of flaxseeds to your smoothies, salads, breakfast dishes, or stir-fries.
Saurkraut, along with a number of other picked foods, pack lots of healthy probiotics that can help prevent and treat constipation. They stimulate healthy bacteria growth in the gut, which helps maintain better digestion and cleanses the body from toxins.
Not only that, but sauerkraut also helps us to digest dairy lactose, which can often be a factor that contributes to constipation. Make your own sauerkraut by using carrot, fresh cabbage, caraway seeds, and sea salt and add it to your regular diet.
16. Olive oil
Olive oil’s health benefits are countless and widely known, but their potential in treating constipation isn’t talked about as often. Olive oil is a natural laxative that encourages healthy digestion in the body.
If you’re dealing with constipation, or simply want to prevent getting blocked up in general, try to replace your cooking oils with fresh olive oil. You could also drizzle it over salads to boost your daily intake. Remember to always go for extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil, which is healthiest.
Almost all types of beans can help your digestive tract get its functioning back on track. Be it black, brown, cannellini or pinto beans, they’re all super high in fibre, with an amazing average of over 7 grams of soluble and insoluble fibres per serving.
This, as we’ve learned by now, helps keep things moving smoothly through your digestive tract. Feel free to add beans to your salads, or as a replacement for meat in your curry dishes. For a quick fibre boost, you can even enjoy them in your Mexican recipes.
18. Clear soups
If you’re looking to get rid of that bogged up feeling quickly, a clear soup might be your best bet. It’s a gentle yet effective treatment to aid food’s movement through your digestive and intestinal tract. Warm liquids easily add moisture to the digestive tract, making constipation issues easier to resolve. You can go for clear vegetable soups that you can easily make at home to secure the maximum amount of nutritional benefits.
Lastly, there’s water—the fluid of life. Upping your fibre content is only a facilitator in preventing constipation, but drinking sufficient amounts of water and making time for regular exercise are basics, and they’re incredibly important in finding relief from constipation.
Water is essential to encourage food’s movement through the colon. When you’re dehydrated, the colon can’t absorb sufficient water, resulting in irregular and infrequent bowel movements. In addition to increasing your water intake, try including more water-based foods in your daily diet such as zucchini, lettuce, watermelon, tomatoes, or celery, and so on.
Constipation is not the world’s most appealing topic to discuss, but knowing how to prevent and treat it can do wonders for your quality of life on many occasions. It can hit at the worst possible times, such as on vacation, where you’d do anything to get things back to normal as soon as possible.
If you are dealing with chronic constipation, make sure you add lots of the aforementioned foods into your diet. Aside from that, practice regular exercise and drinks lots of water. It’s recommended that you put in at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily to improve digestive function, reduce stress levels, and maintain your overall wellbeing. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or spend your lunch break walking around rather than sitting at your desk. Every little helps.
If you’re not getting any better no matter what you try for your constipation, it’s advisable to immediately visit your doctor to discuss your situation. While constipation is generally related to poor lifestyle choices or an unhealthy or unbalanced diet, there could be underlying causes that your doctor can address.