Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their lives. Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water from the stool which makes it hard, dry, and difficult to expel.
Although occasional constipation is very common, some people may experience chronic constipation that can interfere with their daily tasks. More importantly, if left untreated, constipation can lead to serious complications such as hemorrhoids, anal fissure (torn skin in the anus), or even rectal prolapse, a condition in which the lower portion of the rectum slips down through the anus. Fortunately, most constipation is not serious and can often be relieved by increasing fluid and fiber intake.
Dietary fiber is classified as either soluble or insoluble, and both types of fiber are helpful in managing constipation. Soluble fiber allows more water to remain in the stool, making it softer, smoother, and thus easier to pass through the intestines, while insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stool, which hastens its passage through your intestines.
According to the Institute of Medicine, men should eat at least 30-38 grams of fiber per day, while women should aim for 21-25 grams a day. Pregnant and lactating women need 28 and 29 grams per day, respectively.
Here 10 high-fiber foods that you can add to your diet to relieve or prevent constipation.
Oats are packed with both soluble and insoluble fiber, which work together to bulk up stool, soften it, and make it easier to pass.
One cup of oats gives you a whopping 16.5 grams of fiber and there are many ways to include them into your diet. To relieve and prevent constipation, eat a bowl of oatmeal every morning. You can also eat breakfast cereals that contain oats.
Lentils are among the richest sources of dietary fiber. A one cup serving of cooked lentils contains 15.6 grams of fiber – nearly two-thirds of the daily recommended requirement.
Additionally, lentils contain substantial quantities of other nutrients that help to ease constipation, including vitamin B6, potassium, folate, and zinc. Consider eating three servings of lentils each week to prevent constipation.
Prunes are a natural source of sorbitol, which has a laxative effect that can help in regulating digestion by drawing water into the large intestine.
They’re also high in fiber. In fact, a 100-gram serving of raw prunes provide approximately 7 grams of dietary fiber.
A 2014 review concluded that eating prunes every day may improve stool consistency and frequency in patients with constipation. You can enjoy prunes on their own or add them to your salads, cereals, oatmeal, and savory stews.
4. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are one of the most fiber-dense foods available. Just 1 ounce (28.4 grams) of chia seeds contains 10 grams of fiber, meeting 40 percent of your daily needs.
Chia seeds also expand and turn into a gel-like consistency when they’re wet. This chia gel then moves food along your digestive tract, helping you eliminate it more quickly and easily.
Moreover, chia seeds are very versatile and can be added into many different foods. You can easily add these tiny black seeds into a smoothie, cereal, yogurt, or mix them into dips, salad dressings, or desserts, to increase your fiber intake.
Broccoli is a fiber-rich vegetable, providing about 16 percent of the daily value in one stalk – raw. Broccoli also contains sulforaphane which may promote digestion and ease constipation. It aids in digestion by keeping your stomach lining healthy. The sulforaphane in broccoli helps prevent the overgrowth of some intestinal microorganisms that can interfere with healthy digestion.
Get the most nutritional benefit by eating broccoli raw as cooking it can reduce its fiber content. But if you prefer it cooked, try steaming or broiling to avoid extra calories. You can toss it with a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper for additional flavor.
Berries, particularly raspberries, are rich in fiber and water, which can both ease constipation and maintain a healthy digestive system.
One cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber, double the fiber found in strawberries. Sprinkle a few raspberries on top of your breakfast cereal, smoothie or salad.
Apples are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which can promote gut health and aid digestion.
Eating one medium apple (182 g), with skin, can provide you with 4 grams of fiber, which is 17% of the recommended daily intake. Approximately, 1.2 grams is soluble fiber and 2.8 grams of that fiber is insoluble.
To get the most benefit from apples, eat them raw with the skin intact.
Not only are they delicious, almonds are also good for digestive health due to its high fiber content. A 1-oz (28.4 g) serving of almonds provides 3.5 g of fiber.
You can add a handful of almonds to your smoothies, oatmeal, or just munch on them as a midday snack for a fiber boost.
Remember that almonds are high in calories, so keep portions small. Choose those that are raw or dry roasted, rather than roasted in oil.
Avocados are packed with fiber and essential nutrients, such as potassium, which helps promote healthy digestive function. It’s also a low-fructose food, so it’s less likely to cause gas. Try topping your breakfast toast with slices of avocado, or use fresh avocados to make a smoothie or milkshake.
10. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit, are high in fiber and vitamin C, which helps make poop softer and easier to pass.
Plus, citrus fruits contain a flavonol called naringenin, which has been shown to have laxative effects, making it useful to treat constipation. You can simply eat a whole orange or toss a few chopped pieces into your salad or yogurt to get things moving.