Constipation is an unspoken discomfort most people will experience at some point in
their lives. It is a symptom, in fact, that appears for many different reasons but is not a disease on its own. Slow transit of stool can be caused by medications, health conditions, a sedentary lifestyle, hydration status, hormonal shifts and certain foods. Constipation strikes women more often than men; they are at 2.5 times more likely to report this symptom. Constipation can be cured or lessened with natural remedies including food and certain types of activity.
Constipation can be different for each person but generally means passing small amounts of hard, dry stool infrequently or fewer than three times a week. Constipation can be an uncomfortable or painful condition, particularly in relation to having a bowel movement which can lead to straining, bloating, and the sensation of a full bowel. Read on to learn more about foods that cause and also cure constipation:
Banana: studies have shown that bananas have mild laxative properties and can help to cure constipation. Used in ancient medicine to cure constipation in children and to heal lesions in the intestines, this soothing food can be good for the gut.
Flaxseed: lack of fiber is a cause and adding fiber into the diet is a cure! Hit the recommended 25 to 35 grams per day easily by adding in ground flax seeds in addition to a high fiber diet that includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and beans/legumes. One Tablespoon of ground flax contains about 2 grams of fiber so it really adds up! Most Americans average less than half of the recommended intake so be sure to increase fiber in your diet slowly so that you don’t cause more gastrointestinal problems by eating too much fiber. Try ground flaxseed mixed into yogurt, smoothies, or sprinkled into cereal, granola or oatmeal.
Milk: excessive consumption of cow’s milk and other dairy products has been linked in some studies to constipation. The combination of fat and protein in milk, cheese, and other full-fat dairy can slow transit time in the GI tract. Limit these foods if you notice they are a problem for you regarding constipation. Even taking a break for a short period of time could provide relief for some.
Prunes: studies have shown that dried prunes outperform psyllium fiber in alleviating constipation. Dried prunes are, in fact, very rich in fiber themselves but they also contain vitamin C, K, copper and potassium so you get more benefit by consuming them!
Water: like fiber, a lack of water can cause dehydration and worsen constipation. Likewise, increasing water consumption can help cure it. At the first signs of constipation, be sure to hydrate your body and bowels by increasing water intake.
Lifestyle plays a role in constipation and can either cause or cure. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t stimulate the bowels and can contribute to painful constipation. Exercise has the power to increase muscular contractions of the intestine, toning the bowel and helping with elimination of stool. Even brisk walking is a start to help alleviate constipation in some people. Stress and mood also play a role in constipation. Anxiety and stress in a person’s life can play out in the bowel. Massage, music, time outdoors, meditation and other stress relieving practices can be part of the answer to improving constipation. If these factors are not addressed and are the root of constipation, they must be taken into consideration before bowel health can return to normal.
If you have chronic or severe constipation or if it alternates with diarrhea, there may be an underlying health condition at play. Keep in mind that many medications cause constipation including anticonvulsants, antidepressants, narcotic pain killers and even supplements such as iron. Make sure to discuss with your doctor for safety. For most people with mild and occasional constipation, hydration, physical activity and adding in certain foods can be incredibly helpful.
Let us know in the comments if you have any suggestions for foods that can cure or cause constipation!
Natural Medicines Database. Constipation. https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/medical-conditions/c/constipation.aspx. Updated 6/17/2016. Accessed 2/11/17.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Constipation Medical Nutrition Therapy. http://www.ghs.org/upload/docs/CIOS/MNT%20constipation.pdf. Published 1/21/14. Accessed 2/11/17.
Arce DA, Ermocilla CA, Costa HI. Evaluation of constipation. American family physician. 2002;65(11):2283-98.
Kumar KS, Bhowmik D. Traditional and medicinal uses of banana. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry. 2012;1(3).
Sandler RS, Jordan MC, Shelton BJ. Demographic and dietary determinants of constipation in the US population. American journal of public health. 1990;80(2):185-9.
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