Do you want free weekly help? Get
the next healthy recipe or nutrition tip

Q&A: Can I Treat Constipation through Food and Diet?

Question:

I suffer from constipation. Can I do something about my diet to get some relief?

Answer:

Yes, you can do something about your diet to get some relief. In general, there are four tips that will help with constipation:

1. Eat consistent meals

It’s simple. You have to eat food so you can make waste so you can go. When you skip meals, your digestive tract does not work, gets lazy, and becomes weak. Eat consistent meals–don’t go more than 4 to 5 hours without eating a meal or a snack. And don’t skip breakfast.

2. Increase the amount of fiber in your diet

Eating food is good, but not any food. Your meals and snacks should be rich in foods high in fiber because it increases stool bulk and frequency.

How much fiber? Women should get 20-25 grams a day, and men should get 30-38 grams. However, if your diet does not usually include high-fiber foods, I recommend that you take it slowly. Gradually add these foods to your diet as tolerated until you get to the numbers above.

This article from mayoclinic.com lists foods with the amount of fiber in each to help you add up the numbers. They are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Some tips to add these foods to your daily diet:

  • Eat popcorn for a snack instead of potato chips
  • Switch to whole wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Switch to bran cereal. If you don’t like the taste, mix equal amounts of bran with your regular cereal until you get used to the taste
  • For a snack on the go, pack some nuts and dried fruits, like almonds, pistachios, raisins, figs, prunes, and dried apricots
  • For a snack at home, drizzle some lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin on a cup of garbanzo beans and enjoy
  • Instead of white rice, try brown rice. Or, eat beans, lentils, peas, or corn instead
  • Eat your fruits and vegetables with the skin–even potatoes, just wash well
  • Skip the juice and eat wholesome fruits

Fiber has showed up in some of my previous posts. Here they are if you are interested in reading more:

Fibered-Up Food Products: Friends or Foes?

The Best Cereal for Your Kids

3. Stay hydrated

If you add fiber and don’t drink enough fluids, you will get constipated. Having enough fluids in your colon (part of the digestive tract) helps soften the stool and let it pass. Water should be your most preferred drink, but other fluids, like juices, milk, soups, tea, and coffee also contribute to your total fluid intake. Fruits and vegetables also contain water and contribute to the total amount of fluids.

How many cups of water do you need to drink? There’s really no one number that works for all. The 8-cups-a-day is not based on real evidence. Be your own judge. If you’re thirsty, then your body is already dehydrated. If your urine color is dark, then you need to drink more.

4. Be active

Exercise helps you go. Don’t exercise immediately after a large meal, wait an hour. And it doesn’t have to be intense. A 10 to 15-minute walk several times a day will do the job. Of course if you’re fit and can do more intense and longer activity, your should aim for that.

Coming up next: free radicals and antioxidants. Are all free radicals bad? Are all anti-oxidants good? How do they related to cancer?

Have a great weekend!

Let's stay connected. Sign up for weekly updates!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • rebecca subbiah July 4, 2010, 4:20 pm

    hi Nour on the clip I used the webcam on my laptop he he hence the poor quality looking forward to seeing yours good info but not a bit wierd following a great recipe LOL

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD July 7, 2010, 9:04 am

    LOL Rebecca… when you put it this way, it does sound weird but I did get this question and I wanted to share 🙂 I’ll be looking forward to more videos from you!

  • The Food Hunter July 8, 2010, 2:23 pm

    very helpful…and so true.

  • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD July 9, 2010, 1:13 pm

    Thank you, The Food Hunter!

  • RD Wannabe July 21, 2010, 10:58 am

    i have just learnt that eat at constistent time could fix constipation. i don’t have any problem with it though even my meal plan ois not that consisten (on time). i have a quite high fiber daily intake and consume probiotic milk too!

  • Natasha August 13, 2010, 8:17 am

    How much food should one eat in one day? I have severe IBS constipation and have trouble eating more than a little since I have severe bloat and trapped gas problems. Since I hardly eat the constipation is super bad.

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD August 19, 2010, 10:48 am

      Natasha: I think you need to consult with a dietitian who is specialized in gastrointestinal issues or IBS. I don’t have that much experience working with IBS patients and your needs might be different from the general population. Sorry I can’t give you an answer here. To find a dietitian where you live, go to the American Dietetic Association’s website: http://www.eatright.org and click on “Find a dietitian” tab in the upper right corner. I hope that helps!

  • mrs ali September 15, 2010, 9:15 am

    hi i have this problem of constipation more after miscarriage as well as taking medicines for the recovery now my metabolism rate has become slow m gainning weight so many issues it upsets me i am taking lemon olive oil dry fruit kindly u suggest please thanks

    • Nour El-Zibdeh, RD September 24, 2010, 9:40 am

      Mrs Ali,
      I think in your case, you will benefit from seeing a dietitian who can look at the whole picture, including your medical history and medications. I can’t give you any suggestions without a full assessment. To find a dietitian, go to the American Dietetic Association website (http://www.eatright.org/) and click on ‘Find a Registered Dietitian’ in the top right corner.
      Best of luck.

  • Natasha October 27, 2010, 7:55 am

    I can’t go no matter what I do.

  • Natasha October 27, 2010, 7:56 am

    I can’t afford a dietian. I live in a crappy city in Canada .