Ideally, we should be clearing our bowels daily, and if you are, thank your lucky stars.
Others might go only three times a week, but that is a big indication of constipation ~ a condition where you are unable to empty your bowels properly or regularly.
Everyone gets constipated every now and then. Symptoms like dry, hard or lumpy stools, bloating, stomach upset and appetite loss are sure signs that you are experiencing it.
Constipation has many causes, including digestive system problems and certain medications. But for most of us, the cause is due to a diet that is low in fibre.
The best way to prevent constipation is to eat a fibre-rich diet, drink plenty of water and exercise.
If you are already experiencing constipation and need additional help to eliminate it, here are some foods that will help ease your potty problems.
Prunes are often seen as a food favoured by senior citizens, but with nearly 12g of fibre per serving, they could be the remedy to your constipation issue. They are high in insoluble fibre and sorbitol, which is a natural laxative.
Tests conducted at the University of Iowa in the United States compared prunes and psyllium (a laxative) for their effectiveness in reducing constipation in 40 adults.
It turns out that those who ate prunes had higher spontaneous bowel movements than those who took psyllium.
Scientists believe that coffee, including decaffeinated versions, either affects the lining of your stomach and small intestine in some way, or triggers a hormone that makes your colon contract, thus helping in relieving constipation.
Even if we aren’t clear about the exact reason why coffee helps, constipated coffee lovers will probably be happy to have an extra excuse to down their favourite brew.
Sweet potatoes are high in fibre, making it a good candidate for moving things along in our digestive tract.
One medium-sized sweet potato with skin on will give you 3.8g of fibre, which will help prevent and relieve constipation. If you don’t like sweet potatoes, even regular potatoes with their skin on are a good source of fibre, with 3g in a small potato.
Whole grain bread
Whole grains not only have lots of fibre, but are good for heart health, so you are killing two birds with one stone by adding whole grain bread to your diet.
This includes bread made from sprouted whole grains, known as ezekiel bread.
Research done at the University of Finland in Helsinki found whole grain rye bread to be better than wheat bread and laxatives for relieving constipation.
This is as arabinoxylan, the main component of dietary fibre in rye, helps keep food moving through the intestine.
In general, fruits and vegetables are the perfect types of food to consume daily if you want to prevent constipation.
Here are some specific types of fruit that are especially good for helping with constipation problems:
- One cup of papaya consumed on an empty stomach may help clean toxins from the digestive tract and ease bowel movement, thanks to the papain enzyme.
- One pear with skin on provides 5-6g of dietary fibre.
They are also great for constipated babies, who can be fed pear puree and juice.
- One large apple has more than 5g of fibre.
- Berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are easy to snack on and full of fibre.
For example, just half a cup of raspberries contains 4g of fibre to help relieve constipation.
- Watermelon helps with constipation not because of its fibre content, but because it is 92% water, which also can promote bowel movement.
- Kiwi is a high-fibre, lower-sugar fruit that doesn’t cause a bloated tummy.
One cup of kiwi offers 5g of fibre, and more than double your daily recommended intake of vitamin C.
Half a cup of cooked broccoli has 2.8g of fibre to help with constipation relief. It’s also full of vitamin C.
Broccoli is very versatile when it comes to cooking: it can be eaten raw with hummus or a low-fat dip, stir-fried with other vegetables, steamed or baked.
Beans contain more than 10g of fibre per cup. They also contain a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre, both of which helps keep the movement in your intestines going and relieving constipation.
Try kidney beans, baked beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, lima beans or pinto beans.
Having rice in your diet keeps your gut happy. In a Japanese study, people who ate the highest intake of rice had a 41% lower chance of being constipated.
The fibre in rice may play a role, but it may also be that those who ate rice also had healthier diets. Brown rice offers 4g of fibre per cup.
Half a cup of dry oats contains 2g each of insoluble and soluble fibre. Insoluble fibre helps food pass more quickly through the stomach and intestines, while soluble fibre forms a gel-like material in water.
Having the two types of fibre together help to bulk up stool, soften it and make it easier to pass out.
Yoghurt contains live bacterial cultures known as probiotics that replenish the good bacteria in your gut. A healthy gut helps your entire gastrointestinal system.
In a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, probiotics were found to increase the number of bowel movements by 1.3 per week. Stool consistency was improved as well.
Plain popcorn is not only a healthy snack option, but also an easy way to add more fibre into your diet.
One serving, or five cups of popped corn, contains 12g of fibre and just 150 calories. It is also full of folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, and vitamins B6, A, E and K.
Whole flaxseed will pass through your system without absorbing nutrients, but one tablespoon of ground flaxseed has 2g of fibre. You can add ground flaxseed to smoothies, oatmeal, coffee or on top of a salad.
Drinking plenty of water will help with your constipation issues.
In fact, constipation can be a symptom of dehydration – another common problem that occurs when you aren’t drinking enough fluids.
You can stay hydrated with filtered water and other drinks, soups, and even fruits and vegetables.
By Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar
Published in Star Newspaper, 21 Sep 2020