What to Eat if You Get Constipated
Constipation is the opposite of diarrhea - it's when stool tends to stick around longer than necessary. Often it's drier, lumpier, and harder than normal, and may be difficult to pass.
Constipation often comes along with abdominal pain and bloating. And can be common in people with certain gut issues, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
About 14-24% of adults experience constipation. Constipation becomes chronic when it happens at least three times per week for three months.
Constipation can be caused by diet or stress, and even changes to our daily routine. Sometimes the culprit is a medical condition or medications. And sometimes there can be a structural problem with the gut. Many times the cause is unknown.
Whether you know why or not, there are some things you can do if you get constipated.
1 - Eat more fiber
You've probably heard to eat more prunes (and figs and dates) if you get constipated.
Why is that?
It comes down to fiber.
Dietary fiber is a type of plant-based carbohydrate that we can’t digest and absorb. Unlike cows, humans don’t have the digestive enzymes to break it down. And that’s a good thing!
Even though we can’t digest it ourselves, fiber is very important for our gut health for two reasons.
First, fiber helps to push things through our system (and out the other end).
Second, fiber is an important food for feeding the friendly microbes in our gut.
There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water to make a gel-like consistency. It can soften and bulk up the stool; this is the kind of fiber that you want to focus on for helping with constipation. Soluble fiber is found in legumes (beans, peas, lentils), fruit (apples, bananas, berries, citrus, pears, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, carrots, spinach, etc.), and grains like oats.
Psyllium is a soluble non-fermenting fiber from corn husks. It’s been shown to help soften stools and produce a laxative effect.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, holds onto water and can help to push things through the gut and get things moving. It's the kind found in the skins and seeds of fruits and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, celery, zucchini, as well as the skins of apples, pears, and potatoes.
It’s recommended that adults consume between 20-35 grams of fiber per day.
If you are going to increase your fiber intake, make sure to do it gradually. Radically changing your diet can make things worse!
And, it’s also very important to combine increased fiber intake with my next point to drink more fluids.
NOTE: There is conflicting evidence on how fiber affects constipation. In some cases, less insoluble fiber may be better, especially if you have certain digestive issues. So, make sure you’re monitoring how your diet affects your gut health and act accordingly. And don’t be afraid to see your healthcare provider when necessary.