Before we dive into the foods which can help you relieve constipation, it is necessary to understand the factors which contribute to this. Constipation in simple terms means the inability to empty the by-products or waste matter of digestion from colon due to peristalsis – a process in which muscles in the intestine contract and relax to cause a wave-like motion. As 1food passes through the colon(large Intestine), water gets absorbed and the remaining matter forms stool.
Constipation is not a disease but may or may not be a symptom of other underlying conditions. It is a very common complaint especially where:
- Diet is low in fibre
- Improper food sequencing and food combining
- More of mucus forming foods
- Lack of exercise
- Low hydration levels
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High intake of processed foods
- Stress, emotional eating
- Delay in using the bathroom when you feel the urge
- Using Western toilets as opposed to the Indian ones
Constipation is said to be experienced when:
- Stools are painful or difficult to pass
- Stools are hard and dry
- Feeling of incomplete emptying
- Fewer than 3 bowel movements a week
Having 1-3 bowel movements in a day and or after a meal is considered normal. Just remember that frequency of bowel movements is not the only aspect to consider when it comes to Constipation. Other important points are – the bowel movements shouldn’t be uncomfortable, no blood in the stools, stools should not be black or tarry in appearance.
Diet and Constipation
It is proven that what we put inside the body has a lot to do with the way it comes out. The foods listen below help in preventing or treating constipation:
1. Dietary Fibre: It’s simply the indigestible part of plants. Fibre cannot be digested or absorbed. It’s also known as roughage. It adds bulk to the waste matter. It exists it two types:
- Soluble Fibre – it’s the type of fibre which gets dissolved and broken down in the colon. It forms gel like substance.
- Insoluble fibre: It does not get dissolved or broken down during the process. The main function of this is to add bulk and make the last part of the digestion process easier.
Both these fibres are essential for treating constipation and found in almost all plant foods.
Apart from keeping the digestive tract healthy and aiding in easy bowel movements, fibre also has other benefits like maintaining blood sugar levels, lowering cholesterol levels, weight management and so on.
2. Hydration: plays an extremely important role in managing constipation. It helps in forming softer stools and makes transit easy. At least 2-2.5 litres of fluid/day is recommended. Choosing high water content fruits and veggies help a lot.
Foods Which Help Relieve Constipation
- Fruits: All fruits are good sources of fibre but there are a few sources which have proven to give amazing results, such as apple, pear, papaya, melons, guava, figs, plums, peaches, kiwi, dragon fruit, citrus fruits, berries.
- Dried Fruits: But be sure to avoid sugar dipped or coated variants.
- Veggies: Fill your plate with greens. One of the best strategies to keep your digestive system healthy is including lots of fresh and seasonal veggies. Along with a good dose of fibre, they provide other nutrients as well. Add veggies such as spinach, kale, broccoli, lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, sweet potato, peas, corn, asparagus, green beans, etc.
- Grains and Millets: such as brown rice, oats, quinoa, barley, jowar, bajra combined with veggies.
- Beans and Pulses: such as chickpeas, lentils. Hummus is a good option to have during constipation.
- Nuts and Seeds: such as walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, chia seeds (either soaked in water or over salads and smoothies), flax seeds (sprinkle over salads/smoothies or just consume it in powdered form), fennel seeds (Just chew after meals or can also be boiled with water or in the form of tea)
Other Tips That Help With the Condition
- Eat a well balanced diet. Pay attention to DDR – Daily Diet Routine – Meal timings, foods that you choose and portion size.
- Fill your plate with colourful and seasonal fruits and veggies. They also provide a good amount of micronutrients.
- Add an adequate amount of fibre in your meals. Choose salads, smoothies and soups. A bowl of papaya with chia or flax seeds proves to be an excellent way of adding fibre to your meals.
- Keep a check on hydration levels. Lime water, coconut water, herbal and green teas, sugarcane juice, soups, veggie juices works good for increasing total fluid content.
- Exercise is a must. Make it a part of your routine.
- Junk and processed foods can upset your stomach so keep them at bay.
- Limit the consumption of caffeine rich drinks.
- Avoid emotional eating.