Chicago Health | Homepage
Five natural ways to fight constipation

Five natural ways to fight constipation

Environmental Nutrition

By Judith Thalheimer, R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter

Americans spend nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars a year trying to deal with constipation. It’s a side effect of certain drugs, a complication of some medical conditions, and a common complaint of aging, but constipation can also be caused by dehydration, a low-fiber diet and/or a sedentary lifestyle. Here’s what you can do to keep things moving naturally.

1. Eat more plants

“An increase in fiber can improve constipation,” says Emily Haller, R.D.N., a dietitian with the University of Michigan Health System’s Division of Gastroenterology. “Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds.”

But how much do we need? “Most studies suggest that dietary fiber in the range of 20-30 grams per day is ideal,” says William Chey, M.D., professor of gastroenterology at the University of Michigan. If you, like most Americans, are not reaching this goal, ramp up the amount of your fiber intake slowly to avoid discomfort. There may be added benefits to getting fiber from fruit.

“Many fruits contain sugars like fructose and sorbitol that can increase the frequency and soften the consistency of stools” says Chey. Chey and Haller particularly recommend dried plums (prunes), kiwi, blackberries, mangos and peaches.

2. Hydrate

“Eating too much fiber without drinking enough water could worsen constipation, so drinking adequate fluid is also important,” says Haller. While how much fluid any individual needs varies, the general recommendation is 64 ounces per day.

“Urine color can be a good indicator of hydration status,” says Haller. “Light or clear indicates a person is drinking enough fluid. If urine is dark I would recommend increasing intake by one to two glasses and see if that helps.” Water is the beverage of choice, but other fluids, such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups will also help the fiber in your diet work better.

“Some people find drinking a warm beverage in the morning helps decrease their constipation,” says Haller, “and caffeine can have a laxative effect, so drinking coffee or tea in the morning may be effective.”

3. Try yogurt

Cultured and fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut, and Gouda cheese contain beneficial microorganisms known as probiotics. A 2014 scientific review of all available studies concluded that probiotics may help with constipation.

“Probiotics may improve gut transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency,” says Kevin Whelan, professor of dietetics at King’s College London and one of the authors of the study, “but we need better quality studies to be sure, and also more studies on different strains of probiotics, as many act differently in the body.”

Research on Bifidobacterium lactis, found in some yogurts, kefir, buttermilk and unpasteurized fermented vegetables, seems particularly promising.

4. Get Moving

“Movement is essential for regularity,” says Haller. Aerobic exercise helps stimulate contraction of the intestines, moving food along more quickly. This faster transit time also means less time for water to be pulled from the stool, so it stays softer and easier to pass.

Jogging, swimming, or dancing are great, but even walking 10 to 15 minutes at a time several times a day can help, as can stretching and yoga. An after dinner walk is fine, but wait an hour after a big meal before taking on any particularly vigorous exercise; drawing blood away from the digestive tract to fuel the heart and muscles can actually cause constipation.

5. Limit Triggers

According to Chey and Haller, some people find red meat and dairy constipating, and bananas (typically thought of as a good source of stool-softening soluble fiber) can actually be constipating for some people. Pay attention to your body to figure out what works best for you, or seek out the help of a registered dietitian for tips on making the changes you need to get things moving.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384. www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com.)

(c) 2017 BELVOIR MEDIA GROUP. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Similar Articles

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Make your diet more nutrient-dense

Environmental Nutrition By Matthew Kadey, M.S., R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter There is only so much food you

Gluten related symptoms: Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

Gluten related symptoms: Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity?

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I seem to be very

Start treatment now to prevent spring allergy symptoms

Start treatment now to prevent spring allergy symptoms

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts By Howard LeWine, M.D. Q: I have spring allergies. Every

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

Does your doctor’s gender matter?

By Robert H. Shmerling, M.D. Harvard Health Blog I've read medical research studies that surprised me. I've

10 tips to fight osteoporosis

10 tips to fight osteoporosis

Environmental Nutrition By Carrie Dennett, M.P.H., R.D.N., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter Because 70 percent of our bone destiny

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

May 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
April 30, 2017 May 1, 2017 May 2, 2017 May 3, 2017 May 4, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6, 2017
May 7, 2017 May 8, 2017 May 9, 2017 May 10, 2017 May 11, 2017 May 12, 2017 May 13, 2017
May 14, 2017 May 15, 2017 May 16, 2017 May 17, 2017 May 18, 2017 May 19, 2017 May 20, 2017
May 21, 2017 May 22, 2017 May 23, 2017 May 24, 2017 May 25, 2017 May 26, 2017 May 27, 2017
May 28, 2017 May 29, 2017 May 30, 2017 May 31, 2017 June 1, 2017 June 2, 2017 June 3, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Fund a Cure Night | The Griffith Family Foundation

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives