Each year millions of Americans spend over $725 million for over-the-counter laxatives to relieve constipation. But did you know that you can prevent constipation by paying attention to your diet and eating foods that are high in fiber?
Constipation without an underlying medical cause often occurs as a result of not eating enough dietary fiber. The American diet, which tends to be high in fat and refined carbohydrates, often leads to constipation. On the other hand, people who eat a diet that is rich in fiber are less likely to become constipated.
Dietary fiber is the part of plant foods that cannot be digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. This fiber, sometimes referred to as roughage, provides the bulk that you need to form stool and move it along the digestive tract. You can get lots of fiber by eating foods that are minimally processed, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried beans and peas.
Water is essential for keeping stool soft and easy to pass. Of course, you can get fluids from other foods as well. What is important is that you drink enough liquid to prevent dehydration and keep your stool soft. Certain foods and drinks, such as coffee or other caffeine-containing beverages can increase urine output and lead to dehydration. Excess sweating can also lead to dehydration if you do not drink enough fluids. Keep this in mind, as you will need to replace the fluids you lose daily in order to avoid becoming dehydrated.
High Fiber Foods
It is important to eat foods that are high in fiber in order to prevent constipation. The good news is, you have lots of foods to choose from. Here are just a few: Whole wheat bread, wheat bran, brown rice, corn, barley; apples, okra, pears, watermelon, mango, papaya, guava, pineapple; broccoli, spinach, collard greens, pumpkin, sweet potato; red beans, garbanzos, pigeon peas; almond, walnuts, pumpkin seed, flaxseed and sunflower seed.
Eating foods that are high in fiber can help to promote regular bowel movements, prevent constipation and promote overall health and wellbeing.
Warning. If you are constipated despite eating a diet that is high in fiber, you may need to discuss the problem with your doctor to rule out any serious medical condition or other causes, such as prescription medications, psychological problems or other conditions requiring medical attention. For diet-related constipation, talk to a registered dietitian about how to get more fiber and fluids in your diet.
The information provided on this site is for education and general information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Please see your appropriate medical authority for personalized medical attention.
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About Dr. Dorene E. Carter
Dr. Dorene E. Carter is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant with over 25 years of experience in nutrition education, counseling, training, consulting and writing. She is founder and CEO of CHANA Project, the Child Health and Nutrition Access Project, a nonprofit organization serving children and families. Dr. Carter received her PhD in Nutrition from the University of California, Berkeley.