Constipation, although a somewhat taboo subject, affects a large number of people. Stress, lifestyle, nutritional changes as well as certain life stages (pregnancy, menopause) may affect bowel movement and lead to stomach pain. Fortunately, in most cases, an appropriate diet and a few simple measures can put your bowel movement back in order. Here are some tips on how to get relief from constipation.
Diversify your sources of fiber
In addition to controlling appetite, fiber increases stool volume by retaining water in the intestine, which speeds up transit. However, our western diet generally contains too little fiber: on average, we consume 6 to 20 g per day, while the recommended intake is at least 30 g.
To correct the situation, it’s important to increase your consumption of foods rich in fiber.
Foods to favor in case of constipation
Vegetables are rich in fiber. Since these are not absorbed or digested, they remain in the intestine and help to soften the stool. This is not a miracle food, the effect can be quite slow with constipation, but it is advisable to include vegetables in your daily menu to relieve constipation.
Red fruits, apricots, kiwis, and fruits rich in fiber such as citrus fruits and mango are anti-constipation foods. Prunes also contain a substance that stimulates transit, called dihydroxyphenylisatin.
Coffee and tea
Coffee, in addition to waking us up in the morning, helps stimulate the digestive system. Be careful, this effect is more significant in people who rarely consume this drink. If you’ve been drinking coffee every day for a long time, it may be less effective.
Tea is also a laxative drink. In addition to its L-theanine content, which is beneficial in relieving stress, it also contains caffeine. Tea, especially green tea, thus has the same effect as coffee to speed up transit.
Seeds and nuts
Nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, and seeds such as flax or chia seeds promote transit. However, it is recommended to consume them in small amounts.
Dried fruits and legumes
Dried fruits and legumes are rich in fiber. You can eat dried beans, lentils, or flageolet beans to fill your fiber intake. Likewise, dried fruits like apricots, grapes, or prunes can help boost transit.
Whole grains such as whole-wheat flour or brown rice help fight constipation. Thanks to their cell walls, they are not completely absorbed by the body and thus promote transit by softening the stool. In addition, they retain water, which makes them particularly laxative foods. Don’t hesitate to add oat or wheat bran to your compotes and yogurt if you are constipated.
Yogurt with probiotics
Indeed, taking probiotics is not always recommended for people with constipation. However, probiotics are beneficial in improving intestinal flora (microbiota) and helping to balance intestinal disorders. Consuming yogurt with probiotics allows you to tone up the intestinal transit and fight against constipation or diarrhea.
Psyllium is a medicinal plant with a scientifically proven effect to improve transit and relieve constipation.
Water and fruit juice
Water is highly recommended in cases of constipation. Drinking 2 to 3 liters of water would be ideal to supplement the effect of fiber and better hydrate the stool. Magnesium is known for its laxative effect, so it is advisable to use mineral water rich in this trace element.
To vary the taste a little, you can use infused water, herbal tea, or vegetable broth instead of plain. Fresh fruit juices also help improve transit. Apple, grape, or citrus juice is particularly recommended in cases of constipation. It is best not to add sugar to your drink.
Video – What to eat to prevent or relieve constipation
Foods to avoid in case of constipation
While some foods help to relieve or prevent constipation, others will worsen the situation. Here is a list of the most common foods that you should avoid if you suffer from constipation.
White rice, unlike brown rice, does not contain enough fiber. It should therefore be banned from your diet if you are constipated. On the contrary in the case of diarrhea, the effect will be beneficial since white rice leaves hardly any residue in the intestine, which reduces the contraction of the colon and the increased need to go to the toilet.
Slower to digest than other foods, red meat is not recommended in cases of constipation since it slows down transit. If you want to continue red meat, it is recommended to accompany it with plenty of vegetables to make up for the lack of fiber. As much as possible, prefer lean meat to fatty meat which can increase the slowing down of gastric emptying.
Rich in starches, potatoes, especially eaten without the skin such as in French fries or chips, slow down transit and is not conducive to a good defecation process. It is, therefore, necessary to reduce its consumption in the event of constipation.
Baked goods are high in fat, with very little water and fiber. They can indeed constipate you. It would be best to combine them with other sweets such as a serving of fruit and not to consume them with soda, but with water or fruit juice preferably without added sugar.
Sweet and carbonated drinks
Sugary and carbonated drinks such as soda and foods high in sugar such as cookies or candy are also constipating. It is better to use water or pure fruit juices for better hydration of the stool.
Even though the banana is a fruit, unlike other fruits, it is not recommended because it tends to absorb water and dehydrate the stool. In addition, when it is not yet fully ripe, the sugar it contains is still in the starch state and is considered by nutritionists to be a starch. An excellent provider of potassium, bananas should not be banned from the diet, you just need to choose them ripe so that they are less constipating.
Although carrots are vegetables, when cooked, you should be wary of them if you have a transit problem. In fact, just like bananas, they absorb water and slow down transit.
Video – Foods to avoid if you have constipation
In case of constipation, do not hesitate to drink even more than usual. Proper hydration increases the volume of intestinal contents and promotes regular bowel movements. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain between 80 and 95% water, it is advisable to drink one to two liters of unsweetened and non-carbonated drinks every day: water, herbal teas, soups, etc.
Gastroenterologists are talking more and more about the benefits of probiotics. These living microorganisms have a beneficial effect on the digestive system since they strengthen the flora already present in our intestine, made up of some 100,000 billion bacteria essential for digestion!
Each probiotic has its own action, some are effective against diarrhea, allergies, lactose intolerance. Others have been proven to work in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, characterized by stomach aches and transit disorders.
Probiotics are found in dairy products, the most “famous” being lactobacillus and bifidobacteria. Thus, to facilitate transit, regular consumption of yogurt and fermented milk is a habit to take.
While a good diet is necessary to fight against constipation, exercise should not be neglected. Physical activity stimulates intestinal transit, especially when the abdominal muscles are used.
In practice, it is advisable to do at least the equivalent of 30 minutes of brisk walking each day. All choices are recommended, starting with jogging, swimming, and anything that strengthens the abdominal strap.
Adopt an ideal position on the toilet
Taking the correct position on the toilet would help transit in case of constipation. The ideal is to adopt a 35-degree angle between the legs and the trunk to free the rectum and thus facilitate the evacuation. This corresponds in practice to put a stool for example under the feet to raise them as in a squatting position.
Eat at regular times
Constipation is defined as less than 3 bowel movements per week, most of the time of hard consistency, with a feeling of incomplete evacuation and excessive exertion. Normal transit consists, ideally, of one to two stools per day, well molded and easily evacuated. Eating at regular times allows the intestine to get used to regular times to have a bowel movement and therefore to go more often.
Do not delay going to the restroom
Delaying a bowel movement over an extended period of time can cause constipation. Having a bowel movement as soon as the need arises is a natural reflex to gently evacuate the feces. Otherwise, this evacuation may be more difficult.
Betsy is a true science nerd, down to the glasses. Her words, not mine! She works as a nurse specializing in pediatric nursing. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She is passionate about all thing pregnancy and baby-related.