There’s no pretty way to say it: constipation is the worst. And whether you call it irregular bowel movements or pooping trouble, constipation problems are all the same. There’s usually an inability to “go” regularly along with extra effort and straining. Luckily, the remedy might be as easy as changing your diet!
Your Diet Determines Your Bowel Movements
The UK National Health Services (NHS) lists inadequate fiber intake as the main reason for constipation. The importance of fluids is also mentioned. This is necessary for keeping bowel movements nice and regular. A third reason is a change in eating habits or diet. Of the six possible reasons for constipation, that’s already three that involve your food! Constipation can also be the result of medications, anxiety, and depression, or simply ignoring the urge to poop, though these reasons aren’t as common. Changing your diet can ease the problem even if you also have these other underlying issues.1
Eating Fiber-Rich Food Is Key To Relieving Constipation
Getting fiber through your diet is vital for a healthy gut and regular bowel movements. So, if you want to poop right, eat smart by focusing on fiber. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 (released by the US Department of Agriculture and the US Department of Health and Human Services), you need between 22–34 grams of fiber every single day. Unfortunately, many of us don’t meet this recommendation.2 Not sure where to start? Here are foods that are jam-packed with fiber.
Aside from treating your body to vitamins and minerals, fresh vegetables are a great source of fiber. For example, a half-cup serving of cooked winter squash contains about 2.9 gm of fiber. A small baked potato with skin has 3 gm of fiber, while a baked sweet potato with skin has 3.8 gm. Finally, half a cup of cooked green peas can have anywhere from 3.5–4.4 gm of fiber.
Other fiber-rich veggies include broccoli or green leafy vegetables like collard greens, turnip greens, or spinach. These leafy greens all have between 2.5–3.5 gm of fiber in a cooked half-cup serving.3
Fruits such as pears with skin have about 5.5 gm of fiber per medium-sized fruit.4 On average, a medium apple with skin contains 4.4 gm of fiber.5 If berries are more your style, enjoy half a cup of raspberries for about 4 gm of fiber.6 And we can’t forget about prunes, the legendary constipation remedy. There’s about 7.7 gm of fiber in a 248 gm cup of stewed prunes.7
The winner of the fiber department might surprise you. Avocados have a whopping 10 gm of fiber in a 150 gm cup of cubed fruit.8 Bananas, of course, are another good choice for getting in that fiber. However, it’s the green banana with its resistant starch that may catch your eye.
3. Whole-Grain Foods
The American Heart Association considers whole-grain foods as a great source of fiber. And aside from being heart-friendly, they also make you poop! It’s a good reason to enjoy a bowl of brown or wild rice. Whole-wheat and rye bread are also fair game. Corn and popcorn count, too. You can also experiment with other whole grains like buckwheat, quinoa, millet, sorghum, or bulgur/cracked wheat.9
Eating whole grains doesn’t have to be tedious. Ready-to-eat cereal, like shredded wheat, contains between 2.7 gm and 3.8 gm of fiber in half a cup. A third of a cup of 100% bran has an impressive 9.1 gm of fiber. You can even enjoy a delicious muffin and get 4.4 gm of fiber, as long as it’s a whole-wheat English muffin.10
Avoid Peeling Your Fruits And Vegetables
If a fruit or vegetable has a thin edible peel, eat it with the skin intact. This is the best way to get a higher level of fiber per serving. If you can, avoid processed foods and stick to fresh homemade meals. Processing often removes the skin and peel, both of which are full of fiber and other nutrients. For example, when you peel a grapefruit and remove the membranes, each serving has 0.4 gm of fiber. But if you leave the membranes? Your fiber intake shoots to 1.4 gm for that same serving.11
Even the common apple benefits from its vivid skin. Leave it on and you’ll get 4.4 gm of fiber. Peel it off and you’ll get just 2.1 gm in the same medium-sized fruit.12
Make Use Of Resistant Starch In Produce And Whole Grains
Interestingly enough, some fruit and veggies have resistant starch which behaves like fiber. It’s technically an indigestible carbohydrate, though. Different foods in this category include legumes, seeds, whole grains, and unripe bananas. You can also create “retrograded starch” when you cook a starchy food and then cool it down. These foods work by maintaining normal, healthy gut function. They also combat the bad bacteria that cause digestive problems or inflammatory bowel disease. Try adding cooked and cooled potatoes in a salad, for instance.13 You can also toss it with some wild rice and fresh herbs for a fiber-rich meal.
Staying Hydrated Is Just As Important As Your Fiber Intake
The NHS suggests drinking fluids to keep constipation at bay.14 After all, when it comes to pooping, staying hydrated is just as important as fiber. In fact, if you load up on a ton of insoluble fiber but don’t back it up with a robust amount of water, you might actually be more clogged up than before!
On the bright side, if you drink plenty of water, you won’t have those hard and dry stools. Pair it with a meal that’s high in fiber or resistant starch. You should see that bowel movement soon enough!