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