How Food Can Help
What you choose to eat determines the regularity of your bowel movements. While a well-balanced diet, rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes is essential for preventing constipation, natural laxative foods can be used for treating constipation. These foods help to promote a bowel movement by increasing the bulk and water content of the stool. Unlike other types of laxatives such as stool softeners and stimulants that irritate the intestinal wall, these bulk-forming foods are safe enough to be used regularly. If constipation persists be sure to see your doctor to find out what the underlying cause is.
Foods High in Insoluble Fiber
The following are some of the best foods to promote a bowel movement. The more effective natural laxatives are good sources of insoluble fiber, which binds with water and creates bulk but also softens stools. The cell walls of these fibers do not break down during digestion, allowing the material to retain water and move through the body. Cellulose and plant lignin are types of insoluble, bulk-forming fiber.
- Wheat bran
- Flax seeds
- Bitter gourd
- Apples, with skins
Cereals, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and the skins of fruits and vegetables in general are rich in insoluble fiber. When consuming these foods for their laxative effect it is important to drink plenty of water to help create the bulk.
Prunes and Other Fruit
Prunes are often thought of as one of the best natural remedies for constipation. They are a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, with 12 grams of dietary fiber for one cup of fruit, but more importantly they are one of the best sources of sorbitol. Sorbitol is a sugar found in
fruit that acts as a natural laxative. Aside from prunes, apples, pears, peaches, and cherries are good sources of this sugar. While sorbitol is beneficial for addressing constipation, consuming these fruits in excess can also cause digestive problems such as gas.
Simply drinking plenty of water can also have a natural laxative effect. While fiber is important for increasing bulk and promoting a bowel movement, fluids are just as important. Be sure you are drinking six to eight glasses of water to help prevent constipation. Drinking more water, as well as fresh juices can help to treat constipation.
Adding extra fiber to your diet from natural laxative foods, such as those high in insoluble fiber and sorbitol-rich fruits, can help to treat constipation. Staying hydrated is essential as well. To maintain a healthy colon and digestive system make sure you are always eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in sources of both soluble and insoluble fiber, nutrients, and fluids. Keep foods that are difficult to digest and that can lead to constipation, such as dairy products, processed foods, and meats to a minimum. If problems are chronic and dietary changes do not seem to help, be sure to see your doctor as constipation can be a sign of a greater health concern.
Colorado State University Extension <https://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09333.html>
Dietary Fiber Food <https://www.dietaryfiberfood.com/fiber-content.php>
Balch, Phyllis, CNC. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition." (The Penguin Group, 2006).
Page, Linda. "Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-Healing for Everyone, 11th Edition" (Traditional Wisdom, 2003).
photo by Jenny
photo by Jules
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