10 Mar What to Eat, Drink and Do to Relieve Constipation
Did you know that constipation affects over 20% of the population each year?1 Several factors influence the nature of a person’s bowel movements, including activity and eating habits, gender, age, and overall health status.
It’s important to remember that there is no standard for the amount of bowel movements you should have. Most people have their own routine, but straying significantly from their regular pattern can indicate something is wrong.
Here are my TOP nutrition tips for relieving constipation:
- Throughout the day, drink lots of water or other non-sweetened liquids. Fluids aid in the softening of your stool, making it easier to pass. Including prune juice in your daily diet may also help you maintain your regularity. Starting the day with a hot beverage might also be beneficial. High fiber diets may actually raise your risk of constipation if you don’t drink enough water so if you have recently increased fiber intake to combat constipation then definitely make sure you are getting adequate hydration.
- Eat regularly. Even if that morning meal brought some relief, plan on putting something in your belly every few hours throughout the rest of the day. Eating meals regularly and consistently can help encourage your system to keep moving along in a smoother way.
- Consume more fiber. Add fiber-rich foods to your diet, such as raw fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, prunes, or bran cereal. Your daily intake of fiber should be between 20 and 35 grams. Psyllium husk is a fiber supplement that has some of the best evidence to support its use.2 Partially hydrolyzed guar gum (PHGG), a water-soluble fiber with prebiotic activity, also has some of the best research supporting its use to relieve constipation, as it improves transit time and stool consistency and stimulates growth of beneficial gut microbes, such as Bifidobacteria and butyrate-producing flora.3,4
- Prioritize exercise. Walking and other types of exercise may stimulate motility. Aim for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, with a goal of 30 minutes per day at least five times per week.
Methylcellulose vs. Psyllium Husk Fiber Supplements
Methylcellulose and psyllium husk are two of the most popular fiber supplements. These commonly used bulk-producing fiber laxatives absorb fluids in the intestines and produce a soft, thick stool.
Methylcellulose is a chemical compound derived from cellulose and a gelling agent that increases the amount of water in stool making it softer and easier to pass5. Psyllium husk or Psyllium Fiber is derived from the seeds of an herb called plantago ovate that is grown mainly in India.5 Methylcellulose is mainly insoluble fibers that are nonfermentable, so it’s less likely to contribute to bloating and gas. Psyllium husk is rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber and can be gassier than other types of fiber supplements. Generally, fiber supplements with mainly insoluble fiber may be a better option for constipation.
If the tips above aren’t solving the problem, your constipation may be characterized as chronic. It’s important to see a doctor if constipation or any other physical discomfort is interfering with your daily life.
- Constipation: What to do if you can’t poop. Cdhf.ca. Published July 23, 2021. Accessed August 14, 2021. https://cdhf.ca/health-lifestyle/constipation-what-to-do-if-you-cant-poop/
- Eswaran S, Muir J, Chey WD. Fiber and functional gastrointestinal disorders. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(5):718-727.
- Polymeros D, Beintaris I, Gaglia A, et al. Partially hydrolyzed guar gum accelerates colonic transit time and improves symptoms in adults with chronic constipation. Dig Dis Sci. 2014;59(9):2207-2214.
- Ohashi Y, Sumitani K, Tokunaga M, Ishihara N, Okubo T, Fujisawa T. Consumption of partially hydrolysed guar gum stimulates Bifidobacteria and butyrate-producing bacteria in the human large intestine. Benef Microbes. 2015;6(4):451-455.
- Khillar S. Difference Between Citrucel and Metamucil. Differencebetween.net. Published January 22, 2021. Accessed August 14, 2021
|Maryann Walsh, MFN, RD, CDE
Registered Dietitian/ Consultant