While it may not be something that comes up in everyday conversation, constipation affects as many as many as 42 million people in America, based on findings by the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Turning to over the counter medication or laxatives may be a temporary solution, but the ultimate cure is prevention through a healthy fiber rich diet.
Since the problem is focused on your digestive system, it makes sense to find a solution by looking at your diet and making simple necessary changes. There are several foods that can help to improve your digestion. Below are some of the ways to cure constipation without the need for laxatives or over the counter medicine.
How important is fiber in your diet to avoid constipation
Everyone has probably heard that they should eat more fiber-rich foods. But why is fiber so important? There are two types of fiber: Soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is the type that dissolves in water to create a gel-like solution. This type of fiber is important to help lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. It is found in foods such as beans, oats, apples, carrots, psyllium, and peas.
Insoluble fiber focuses on healthy digestive system movements. It helps to increase your stool bulk, making it ideal for people who suffer from irregular stools and constipation. Think of it as a way to wash your digestive system by absorbing water and solidifying your stool. By adding fiber to your daily diet, it helps to keep you regular too.
The majority of plant-based foods that contain soluble fiber also contain the insoluble fiber type. Each type of food may vary in the amount of each fiber it has, and it is important to have a healthy balance of each.
High-fiber foods to help prevent constipation
Fruits are an excellent way to get a lot of your dietary needs. However, they are also usually rich in fructose, or fruit sugars, which can lead to a buildup of gas and increase your risk of diabetes. One of the best fruits to have that is high in fiber but do not contain excessive amounts of fructose are kiwis. Packed full of fiber, kiwis are also filled with other healthy nutrients such as vitamin C, offering you double your daily recommended amount. Kiwi fruit has an average of 5.5 grams of fiber according to Livestrong.
Prunes or druid plums have a reputation for being good for your digestion and with good reason. Prunes are fiber-rich with as much as one gram of fiber in every prune. Not only do prunes have a concentrated amount of fiber, but they also contain sorbitol and fructans that act as natural laxatives, further helping healthy digestive function.
Popcorn shouldn’t just be reserved as a movie snack but rather seen as a healthy savory snack. Instead of having potato chips, have a bowl of popcorn instead as they can help reach your daily fiber intake while being very low in calories when air-popped. Three cups of popcorn can have as little as 93 calories and as much as three grams of fiber.
Flaxseeds are another fiber-rich food. While they may not be a meal in themselves, it is easy to add flaxseeds to other foods to turn it into a fiber-rich meal. They can be added to your breakfast cereal, smoothies or on top of a salad. Ensure that you do not eat flax seeds whole as they can’t be broken down by your digestive system, passing without giving you any nutrients. They often come pre-ground or alternatively, you can put them into a spice or coffee grinder to unlock their nutrients.
While a tall glass of orange juice is great, peeling and eating your own oranges is even better. One orange can have as much as four grams of fiber and very little calories. The citrus fruit is famous for having vitamin C but it also has naringenin, which can act as a natural laxative.
According to a study in Japan, if your diet is high in rice, it can lower your risk of constipation by as much as 41%. White rice does not contain a lot of fiber but its cousin, brown rice, does. Brown rice is the highest in fiber, boasting around four grams of fiber in each cup.
When to see your doctor for constipation
While prevention is usually the best cure, there are times that a visit to your local doctor is advised. If constipation remains a problem even after altering your diet, then it is possible that it is a symptom of another disease. A thyroid disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis are some of the diseases that need to be checked for by a doctor as constipation is one of their symptoms.
If your constipation persists for three or more weeks, then it is advised to go see your doctor and have a check-up. Other indications that there may be a bigger problem with your digestive system other than regular constipation is if you’ve never had constipation before, you notice blood in your stools, you have abdominal pain along with constipation and you suddenly begin losing weight even though your diet hasn’t changed.
If left unchecked, constipation can lead to other complications such as rectal prolapse and hemorrhoids as a person puts too much strain on their digestion from pushing.
When constipation warrants a visit to the ER or urgent care
While the majority of constipation passes naturally by changing your diet, there are times when constipation can warrant a trip to the ER. According to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, around $1.6 billion was spent to treat patients for severe constipation in the ER in 2011.
If your constipation is coupled with a combination of not being able to pass gas, stomach bloating, vomiting and severe abdominal pain that is far more painful than normal constipation, there may be a bowel obstruction present. These symptoms can warrant a visit to an emergency room to ensure that the situation does not escalate.
Regular constipation can be easily dealt with through the addition of fiber rich foods in your daily meals. Being healthy starts with the food you put into your body.