7 Diet Tips for Chronic Constipation
The number of bowel movements considered normal per week varies from person to person but having fewer than three is generally considered constipation.
When symptoms of constipation last for several weeks or more, it’s considered chronic constipation. Symptoms may include:
- Fewer than three stools per week
- Straining to go
- Hard or lumpy stools
- Feel like you can’t completely empty your bowels
- Feeling blocked
Chronic constipation is uncomfortable and can make it challenging to manage your day-to-day life.
Although there are many causes, diet is an essential factor in maintaining healthy bowel movements. Sometimes, making a change in your diet can make all the difference. Here are some diet tips that might help to keep you moving:
7 Diet Tips for Chronic Constipation
Certain foods relieve or prevent constipation by softening stool, increasing the frequency of bowel movements, stimulating faster emptying, or adding bulk.
If you’re suffering from chronic constipation, try one or more of the following:
- Increase your fiber intake – Fiber helps make stool easier to pass. Healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole-grain cereals are good sources of fiber. Adults should try to eat 25-31 grams of fiber every day. For example, this could be adding a big handful of leafy greens, 1/2 cup cooked beans, and 2-3 servings of fruit to your daily diet. However, if adding fiber makes you feel worse, don’t add more.
- Try fermented foods – Fermented foods are made with a controlled process that encourages microbial growth. These foods contain probiotics – good bacteria that may improve gut health and soften stool. In one study, eating yogurt every day shortened how long it took to move waste through the bowels. There are many types of fermented food, including kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso.
- Avoid refined sugars – Foods like white bread, white rice, chips, and packaged baked goods may be convenient, but the processing they undergo turns them into empty calories. They won’t have the fiber or nutrients you need and can disrupt healthy gut bacteria.
- Stay well hydrated – Dehydration can cause constipation. Adding more healthy liquids to your diet may make the fiber you eat work better and soften stool. Healthy liquids include clear soups, fruit and vegetable juices with no added sugar, and water.
- Drink coffee – Your morning cup of coffee can help keep you regular. Caffeinated coffee stimulates the digestive system, increasing the urge to go. For best results, pair it with a healthy breakfast that includes fruit or whole-grain cereal.
- Mix in some flaxseed – In seed form, flour, or oil, flaxseed has proven to improve constipation symptoms, increasing the number of bowel movements per week. It also contains fiber, protein, and other nutrients. Flaxseed can be added to soup, cereal, or smoothies, for example.
- Try prunes or prune juice – There’s a lot of science behind this old home remedy. Prunes are high in fiber, contain sorbitol which may have a laxative effect, and have compounds that stimulate good gut bacteria. Eating 3.5 ounces of prunes (or about 10) every day can significantly affect the frequency and consistency of stool.
Occasional constipation is nothing to worry about, but chronic constipation can disrupt your life. If you’re concerned about chronic constipation, changes to your diet may help.
When diet changes don’t work, your doctor can help determine the cause of your constipation so it can be treated.
Don’t let chronic constipation cause you discomfort any longer – schedule an appointment today!