Constipation is a common issue faced by many people of varied ages. It is a condition where a person passes stool less than three times a week.
Other than this, there are some characteristic changes in the stool they pass, such as a lumpy or hard stool. You may feel strained, blocked, or even have a sensation of incomplete emptying of your intestines.
Constipation could be due to dehydration, medication, stress, illness, or changes in the body during pregnancy or postpartum.
Thankfully, you can consume various foods to make sure the digested food gets cleared out at proper intervals. Here are some of the foods you can include in your diet if you’re feeling constipated lately-
Best Foods For Constipation
A medium-sized pear contains around 5.5 grams of fiber, which is about 22% of the daily required value for fiber. Pears are also good sources of natural sugars such as fructose.
Fructose is usually not absorbed by the body in most of the population. So, it becomes part of the food in the intestines.
Inside the intestines, due to its high concentration, it pulls in water by osmosis, which makes the stool soft and easy to pass.
It also contains a sugar alcohol called sorbitol which is related to diarrhea issues in children. Sorbitol may improve gut health and relieve constipation as well.
Oat bran is the outer covering of oat grain and has more fiber than the commonly used quick oats. 31 grams of raw oat bran can provide up to 4.8 grams of fiber, while quick oats provide only 2.7 grams.
According to a study, it was observed that oat bran significantly increased bowel movement in adults aged between 60-80 and also reduced the pain associated with passing stool.
Oat bran can be easily incorporated into the diet, and you can add it to granola bars, smoothies, fruit bowls, and yogurt.
Pulses like beans and lentils are one of the best pocket-friendly sources of fiber. They contain a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibers which are essential as they can offer a whopping 2 to 3 times the amount of fiber present in edible options for daily staples.
99 grams of cooked lentils include 7,8 grams of fiber while a cup of cooked beans (182 grams) contains around 19.1 grams of fiber which is around 76% of the daily required value.
Prunes or other dried fruits like apricots and figs are a great source of dietary fiber. As per this nutritional data, 160 grams of dried prunes contain about 11.4 grams of fiber per cup. Prunes could be used as a natural remedy for constipation.
Prunes contain two types of fibers. The soluble fiber is fermented into short-chain fatty acids in the intestines which may increase the weight of stool.
The insoluble fibers, like cellulose, increase water retention and bring more water into the intestines. This makes sure that the stool is not lumpy and hard.
Other than that, prunes also have sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect on the stool. This makes sure that the stool can pass out easily without straining the sphincters in the anus.
However, this systematic review of prunes on gastrointestinal functioning is considered weak and requires further research.
Jerusalem Artichoke And Chicory
Jerusalem artichoke and chicory are a part of the sunflower family. These are an important source of soluble fibers known as inulin. As per this research by the National Library Of Medicine, Inulin is a rich prebiotic, fat replacer, and sugar replacer which could improve gastric health.
It may increase gut motility, increase the frequency of passing stool, and may improve consistency. Inulin is also a prebiotic and it significantly increases the growth of Bifidobacterium in the gut.
Jerusalem artichokes are tubers and they can be cooked, mashed, boiled, or steamed like a vegetable. They have a nutty flavor and are easily available in the market.
Apples are rich in soluble fibers called pectin which pulls in a lot of water into the intestines and this results in softening of the stool adding to intestinal solubility.
In a study conducted in a randomized clinical trial done on adults, it was seen that pectin also increases stool movement in the intestines in around 80 people with constipation. One medium apple, with skin, contains around 4.8 grams of fiber.
It is a green leafy plant that is well known for its bowel stimulation. This is because of the presence of a compound called sennoside A or senna which is a botanical laxative used traditionally to treat constipation.
It works by decreasing the activity of aquaporins in the intestines, specifically aquaporin 3 which regulates the water movement. Lower levels of aquaporins 3 do not allow water to leave the colon and go back into the bloodstream.
It also contains some amount of fiber. A cup of raw Rhubarb (122 grams) retains 2.2 grams of fiber.
Chia Seeds Or Flaxseeds
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are rich in fiber. Only 1 ounce of chia seeds (28 grams) has 9.8 grams of fiber. 85% of the fiber is insoluble while 15% is soluble.
Inside the intestines, when chia seeds come in contact with water, they absorb it and form a gel-like consistency that acts as a laxative and smoothens the texture of stool so that it is easily passed. Chia seeds can absorb water up to 12 times its own weight.
On the other hand, 100 grams of flaxseeds contain 45.9 grams of fiber. They have been traditionally used as natural laxatives and they also add bulk and weight to the stool.
You must have noticed that okra has a slimy texture in the center and when cooked, it becomes gooey.
This is because of the presence of a mucilaginous fiber in it. It is a soluble fiber that turns mucus-like in the intestines when mixed with water.
This acts as a natural laxative during constipation when dehydration has caused reduced mucus secretions. These fibers also soften the stool so that it isn’t lumpy and can be easily passed.
Berries are rich in tiny seeds that are highly fibrous. They may enhance water retention inside the intestines. 1 cup of blueberries, around 148 grams can provide about 3.55 grams of fiber.
They could keep the GI tract healthy so that proper absorption of food occurs and the stool may be easily passed.
Sweet potatoes are rich in soluble and insoluble fibers and one medium sweet potato includes 3.6 grams of fiber which is 14% of the RDV.
Sweet potatoes mostly contain insoluble fibers in the form of lignin and cellulose. They also contain soluble fibers called pectin.
In a study, it was observed that people who experienced constipation due to chemotherapy showed a significant increase in bowel movement after eating sweet potatoes.
Only after 4 days, they started showing improvement and reported less discomfort while passing stool.
Spinach contains a good amount of fiber. One cup, around 180 grams of cooked spinach can provide about 4.7 grams of fiber. This may add bulk and weight to the stool and the stool is easily passed. Other than fiber, spinach is also rich in magnesium. Magnesium is said to increase bowel movement by increasing the water in the intestines. It is added to synthetic laxatives as well.
Certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are rich in fiber which can help relieve constipation. It can interfere with your daily life activities but you could tackle it by bringing changes in your diet.
In case, even after adding these foods to your diet, you still feel constipated and it is accompanied by abdominal/lower back pain and bleeding, immediately consult a doctor.
Do not consume or discontinue medicines on your own, if you feel they’re the reason for your constipation.
Also, drink plenty of water and try to stay as active as you can. Hydration and physical activity may also significantly improve constipation.
Rachel has been a freelance medical writer for more than 18 years. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2005 and is currently practicing as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at a Level I trauma center.