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May 19, 2024 1:43pm

Constipation - what to eat when having problems with bowel movement?

In constipation a diet rich in fibre is recommended. One should eat products being a rich source of dietary fibre and drink plenty of fluids. It is recommended to eat e.g. wholemeal bread, coarse groats, bran, linseed, vegetables, fruit and eggs. 

In human body intestines work like a perfectly programmed machine. More and more often they are called by scientists the second brain. This organ decides on the proper functioning of the immune, nervous and digestive systems, but also on the proper course of metabolic processes. The problem begins when the intestines stop functioning as they should. Then various ailments appear, such as: flatulence, indigestion, gas, diarrhea or, on the contrary, constipation. They are very dangerous for patient's health and life.

Complications of constipation may be:  

  • hernia,  
  • varicose veins,  
  • hemorrhoids, 
  • and even colon cancer. 

The correct rhythm of bowel movements depends on many factors, among others  

  • personal characteristics,  
  • diet,  
  • temperature,  
  • mental state, 
  • level of physical activity.  

The process of passing the food through the intestines is also very individual. However, in most cases, in a healthy person, stool should be passed no more frequently than 3 times a day and no less frequently than 3 times a week, provided that it has proper consistency, color, and volume, and thus weight.  

Constipation - symptoms

If the frequency of bowel movements differs from the accepted norm of 3 per week and additional symptoms appear, e.g. abdominal pain, flatulence, passing hard stools and the feeling of incomplete defecation during occasional defecation, as well as pain accompanying it, we may talk about constipation. It is then necessary to take action to stimulate intestinal motility and regulate their activity without the use of pharmacological agents. 

Diet for constipation or what to eat when constipated

Constipation and diet - the relation between these two elements is strict. The most effective diet to support intestinal function is a rich-belly diet. It is a special modification of basic nutrition with an increase in the amount of products which are a rich source of dietary fibre and fluids. 

If an adequate amount of liquids, especially water (at least 2 liters per day), is not provided with a starch-rich diet, constipation may worsen.  

A high-fiber diet should be introduced slowly and carefully, especially in patients who have not consumed the required minimum amount of fiber (about 25 g/day), to avoid bloating and abdominal discomfort. The amount of fiber-rich foods in the diet should be gradually increased until a fiber-rich diet is completely implemented, in which the recommended daily portion of fiber is about 50-60 g.  

Initially, it is best to start by introducing cooked vegetables to the diet, and then raw vegetables. Later, wholemeal bread, bran, and dried fruit, such as prunes or figs, may be included in the diet. 

woman holding her stomach

Diet against constipation - what products to eat? 

Products indicated in the diet in constipation are: 

  • wholemeal rye bread, wholemeal bread, pumpernickel, bread with grains, bran, crisp bread, 
  • coarse groats: buckwheat, barley, millet, 
  • cereals, bran, 
  • paddy rice, 
  • fresh and curdled milk, 
  • natural kefirs and buttermilk, 
  • natural yoghurts, 
  • sweet cream, 
  • butter and oil, 
  • eggs, 
  • lean meat and cold cuts, 
  • lean and fatty fish, 
  • legumes and pulses, 
  • vegetables, preferably raw, 
  • fruit, including dried fruit (prunes, figs, dates), 
  • potatoes boiled in water, or baked in their skins, 
  • spices, including spicy ones, 
  • honey. 
  • Products not recommended in a diet rich in carbohydrates: 
  • light bread, wheat rolls, 
  • potato flour, noodles, 
  • small groats: semolina, corn, 
  • white rice, 
  • fatty dairy products: yellow cheeses, melted cheeses, fatty cream, cream cheese, 
  • fatty meat and sausages, offal, pâtés, 
  • French fries, fried potatoes, potato pancakes, 
  • fast food, 
  • sweets, biscuits, rusks, pastries, cakes. 

It is worth paying attention to flaxseed. Flax seeds are not only a great source of omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids, but also B vitamins (especially B1) and many valuable minerals:  

  • phosphorus,  
  • magnesium,  
  • iron,  
  • copper,  
  • zinc, 
  • selenium.  

In addition, they contain a lot of fiber. Ground flaxseed is recommended for people suffering from constipation. You can start with a teaspoon a day, and with time increase its quantity to 2-3 teaspoons. Ground powder can be added to almost any dish.  

Why should flaxseed be ground? Because the nutrients contained in whole grains are difficult to assimilate. They can pass through the digestive system in one piece and then their beneficial effects are not fully utilized. 

Dietary fiber in constipation - why is fiber so important? 

Dietary fiber, or fiber, is not digested in the digestive system. Fiber is the remains of plant cells that are resistant to digestion by enzymes in the human digestive tract. Fiber increases the volume of stool, retains some of its water, improves peristaltic action of the large intestine, and, by stretching the walls of the rectum, accelerates the process of excretion. Thus, fiber shortens the time of contact of potentially harmful agents with the intestinal mucosa by decreasing the duration of intestinal transit. There are 2 fractions of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Each of them has a specific function. 

Insoluble fiber is mainly responsible for: 

  • binding with water - increasing the volume of fiber, 
  • cleansing the digestive tract of toxic substances - collecting everything that should be excreted from the body 
  • stimulating blood circulation in the intestines - improving peristalsis, 
  • preventing constipation, 
  • increasing the secretion of digestive juices, 
  • buffering and binding excess hydrochloric acid in the stomach. 

Soluble fiber is mainly responsible for: 

  • loosening fecal masses, 
  • cleansing of toxins, heavy metals, 
  • binding of bile acids, 
  • slowing down the absorption of glucose and reducing cholesterol levels, 
  • reducing triglyceride absorption, 
  • increasing the excretion of fat in the stool. 

Soluble fiber has a milder effect, while insoluble fiber has a stronger and more irritating effect. 

It is recommended that fiber-rich foods be consumed together with liquid foods. The best method is to combine cereals, bran, and nuts with dairy products, and other cereal products and dry legumes with raw vegetables. 

Examples of products containing insoluble fiber: 

  • whole grain products, e.g. buckwheat groats, barley groats, wild rice, rye and wholemeal bread, 
  • Wheat bran, corn bran, barley bran, 
  • nuts, 
  • pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, 
  • raw fruit: avocados, pears - especially their skin, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, gooseberries, apple peel 
  • dried fruit: dates, figs. 

Examples of foods containing soluble fiber: 

  • legumes (beans, peas), 
  • oats, 
  • fruits: plums, apple pulp, apricots, peaches 
  • vegetables: carrots, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli, artichokes, parsnips, yams 

Fiber also increases the density of the food content and causes satiation, so the energy value of meals can be lower, and at the same time, the feeling of satiation after the meal will not be disturbed. Therefore, increasing the portion of fiber in the diet is also recommended for people who have problems with excessive body weight. 

Increased amount of dietary fiber in the diet may cause a worse absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper. In this situation, it is necessary to increase the amount of products rich in these components. 

Regulation of bowel movement rhythm is crucial for proper functioning of a healthy body. In the treatment of constipation it is necessary to change the diet and increase the amount of fibre in the daily diet. It is also necessary to take adequate amount of fluids, especially water - at least 2 liters a day. In extreme cases, preferably after consultation with a doctor or pharmacist, laxatives in the form of teas or tablets may be used. However their use should be only temporary. Although they are very effective, their long-term use may result in the body getting used to such support and, in the long run, losing the ability to defecate on its own.