Constipation is passing stools infrequently. It is a very common problem. It leads to abdominal discomfort, bloating and pain. If left untreated it can lead to diverticular disease, haemorrhoids and colon cancer. It is mainly caused by the Western diet and lack of exercise. Other factors may cause constipation, such as: stress, a change in daily routine or medication.
For bowels to function normally and regularly we need to eat plenty of high-fibre foods plus plenty of fluids to help bulk up the stools.
The total amount of fibre we require has been set by the UK department of health (DOH) at 12-18 grams per day. Some people may need more than this to maintain a regular bowel action, especially if constipation has been a problem in the past or if they are relatively inactive.
In order to consume this amount of fibre you need to make an effort to include some high-fibre foods with each meal. Rhubarb and prunes are known to contain special compounds which have a laxative effect.
Fibre is found in all fruits and vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and pulses. There is minimal fibre in animal products so the best diet to avoid constipation is one that contains lots of natural unrefined plant foods. Foods which are refined such as sugar, white breads, white rice and manufactured cakes and biscuits contain much less fibre than their unrefined counterparts.
Examples of foods which are a good source of fibre include:
Haricot beans, butter beans, pot barley, “All Bran”, wholemeal bread, peas, mango, papaya, parsnips, “Shredded Wheat”, wholemeal pasta, Brussels sprouts, dried apricots, dried figs, blackcurrants, pear, spring greens and oranges.
Generally high fibre foods from plant sources are fine to eat if you are following an acid reflux diet. Some people add a spoonful or two of bran to their daily diet to ensure they are “regular”.
Dry bran is an excellent source of fibre but it is better to get your fibre as a natural part of foods because bran may reduce the absorption of minerals. If stress is a problem and causing constipation, then a mild herbal relaxant, such as chamomile tea or kava kava, may help. Exercise not only helps bowel movement but is also good for stress.