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5 foods that relieve constipation

Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their lives. Certain medications, lack of physical activity, pregnancy or even dehydration can trigger the condition. If left untreated, constipation can lead to hemorrhoids, anal fissures or even fecal incontinence — the inability to control your bowels.

While suffering from painful, infrequent bowel movements is unpleasant, most cases of constipation can be treated by eating the right foods. Kristen Smith, MS, R.D., a bariatric surgery coordinator at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, shares five foods that can help relieve constipation.

1. Oatmeal. “Oats are loaded with soluble fiber, which is a type of fiber that allows more water to remain in the stool,” says Smith. “This makes the stool softer and larger, and ultimately easier to pass.”

2. Chia seeds. Chia seeds are packed with calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. They are a great source of fiber and can help stave off hunger.  Add two tablespoons of chia seeds to your smoothie, yogurt, salad or oatmeal.

3. Prunes. Eat a few dried or stewed prunes. “One prune has 1 gram of fiber, so it's a fiber powerhouse,” says Smith. “Prunes also contain fermentable sugars such as fructans and sorbitol that offer a laxative effect.”

4. Beans. Beans contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, and that combination helps stool move through your intestines. Consider eating three servings of beans each week to prevent constipation.  

5. Raspberries. Berries, specifically raspberries, are a great way to relieve constipation. One cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber, double the fiber found in strawberries. Sprinkle a few raspberries on top of your yogurt, smoothie or salad.

How to prevent constipation

Constipation can be a real pain. To prevent the condition, Smith recommends the following:  

  • Increase your fiber intake. “Slowly increase your fiber intake over the course of a week,” she says.  “The maintenance goal for fiber intake is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men, or 21 grams and 30 grams daily, respectively, for those over the age of 50.”

  • Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight cups of water per day.

  • Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five times per week.  You don't have to do all 30 minutes at once. Try accomplishing your exercise in 10-minute intervals.

  • Eat a balanced diet.  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and try to keep the skin on the fruit to maximize your fiber intake. Also, include whole grain sources at every meal, like oatmeal, brown rice and whole wheat bread because they are high in fiber, which can help bulk up your stool.

Try one of these healthy recipes to incorporate more fiber into your diet.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.


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