Fruits, vegetables, and beans ease constipation?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
One way to get relief from constipation is to be sure to eat a diet high in fiber, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.
WHAT WE KNOW
Almost everyone experiences constipation (difficult or infrequent evacuation of the bowels) at some point in their lives. Estimates are that it affects 2% to 27% of the population in the U.S., with most estimates at 12-19%. Women are twice as likely to suffer from constipation as men, as well as those over the age of 65.1, 2 Though not usually serious, constipation can be uncomfortable.
The normal length of time between bowel movements is different for everyone. Some people have bowel movements three times a day; others, only one or two times a week. Going longer than three days without a bowel movement is too long. After three days, the stool or feces become harder and more difficult to pass.
The longer feces stay in the large intestine, fluid is increasingly absorbed leaving feces dry and hard, causing constipation. Symptoms include infrequent bowel movements and/or difficulty having bowel movements, feeling full or bloated, or feeling pain when having a bowel movement.
Constipation can result from a variety of factors, with lack of fiber and adequate fluids as the top reasons. Other factors include …
- Ignoring normal urges to have a bowel movement, perhaps due to inconvenient timing
- Medications such as antacids
- Calcium or iron supplements
- Excess consumption of dairy products
- Irregular meals
Generally, drinking plenty of water and eating fiber-rich foods help draw water into the large intestine, which aids in the formation of a bulky, soft stool that stimulates contraction for ease of elimination. But all of the following will help keep things moving …
7 Ways to Avoid Constipation
- Water. Drink plenty of water.
- Fiber. Eat a high-fiber diet rich in whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans & nuts.
- Eat regular meals. Eating is a stimulant for the bowels, so get in the routine of eating meals at roughly the same time each day to help train the body to respond on a regular basis.
- Exercise. Regular activity helps move food and nudge the bowels into action. Moderate activity is sufficient.
- Stress. Reduce stress in your life and relax more.
- Dairy. Avoid large amounts of dairy products.
- Don’t overuse laxatives. Stool softeners, over time, weaken the bowel muscles.
In rare cases, constipation is a sign of other medical illnesses, so keep your doctor informed if you continue to have problems.
¹ Schmidt F.M., V.L. Santos. “Prevalence of constipation in the general adult population: an integrative review.” J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs.
2014 Jan-Feb;41(1):70-6; quiz E1-2. doi: 10.1097/01.WON.0000438019.21229.b7. Accessed 2/15/14. View Article
² Higgins P.D., J.F. Johanson.” Epidemiology of constipation in North America: a systematic review.” Am J Gastroenterol.
2004 Apr;99(4):750-9. Accessed 2/15/14. View Article