Constipation is one of the most common yet overlooked digestive problems. It affects about two percent of the population, especially women. Common nutrition mistakes, such as skimping on fiber and not drinking enough water, can make constipation worse. Some people experience this problem when traveling or when they’re stressed.
If you’re constipated, you might be tempted to use laxatives. Unfortunately, these drugs may cause addiction and mess up your digestive system. Common side effects include bloating, nausea, dehydration, fluid retention, and electrolyte imbalances. The good news is that you can treat constipation naturally through diet. Certain foods, such as dried prunes, wheat bran, oat bran, psyllium husk, and flaxseeds, stimulate bowel movements and keep your digestive tract healthy.
These fruits have been used for centuries as a natural laxative. Rich in insoluble fiber, they help prevent and relieve constipation. Prunes also contain large amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and other nutrients that support digestive health. To treat constipation, eat at least six prunes twice a day.
Sometimes, constipation is caused by imbalances in gut flora. Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, and other probiotic foods help balance good bacteria in your GI tract, leading to regular bowel movements. Research shows that probiotics improve stool frequency and consistency in constipated patients. To reap the benefits, add these foods to your favorite salads, stews, and side dishes.
Rich in healthy fats, protein, and dietary fiber, flaxseeds are a natural remedy for both diarrhea and constipation. Fiber creates stool bulk and increases peristalsis, while omega-3s reduce inflammation in the GI tract. All you need to do is add a few tablespoons of flaxseeds to your daily meals and smoothies. Sprinkle them over salads, homemade cookies and pretzels, yogurt, or omelettes. Crunchy and full of flavor, they keep you regular.
Chia seeds absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, forming a gel-like consistency. Loaded with soluble fiber and omega-3s, they help relieve constipation and diarrhea. These tiny seeds are also a great source of protein and complex carbs, keeping you energized. They boast two times more protein than any other grain or seed, two times more potassium than bananas, and five times more calcium than milk. Get creative and use them in savory desserts, such as chia seed pudding, homemade protein bars, baked goods, oatmeal, muffins, and strawberry chia jam.
Compared to most foods and drinks, aloe vera juice offers instant relief from constipation. This nutrient-dense beverage works better than phenolphthalein, a popular laxative. Upon ingestion, it draws water into the colon and stimulates peristalsis. Rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, it soothes the digestive tract and improves digestive health.
Studies indicate that aloe vera also increases antioxidant levels in the body, kills harmful bacteria, and protects against infections. Aloin, one of its primary compounds, has a strong laxative effect. To relieve constipation, drink aloe vera juice first thing in the morning or between meals.
Make sure your diet is rich in fiber. This nutrient keeps your digestive system running smoothly and prevents constipation. Also, it’s recommended to limit red meat, cheese, corn starch, chewing gum, white rice, chips, and other “binding” foods.