Have you ever been constipated, waited on the toilet and strained to release, or passed hard, painful stools? I’m here to help – with foods that promote regular bowel movements to prevent and treat constipation.
Everyone has experienced constipation at some point in their life. Constipation is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week, with hard stools, difficulty passing stools (straining), or a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. Constipation can leave you with stomach pain, bloating, gas and poor appetite.
Fibre and Constipation
Foods that prevent or treat constipation usually contain fibre. Fibre is the part of plants that our bodies cannot digest, and there are two types of fibre – soluble and insoluble:
- Soluble fibres help to control diarrhea by thickening the stool and prolonging travel time of foods through the bowel.
- Insoluble fibres help to reduce constipation by decreasing the time foods move through the bowel and help to create a bulky stool that is easier to pass.
Foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains contain fibre, whereas animal foods such as meats and eggs have no fibre. Insoluble fibre is important in maintaining a soft, bulky stool and diets that are low in insoluble fibre can, therefore, cause constipation.
Did you know? Canadian women need 25 grams of fibre/day and men need 38 grams of fibre/day. Most Canadians only get about half that amount!
Foods to help you poop
Here is a list of 5 foods which are high in insoluble fibre and may help prevent or reduce your symptoms of constipation:
- Bran Buds
Bran cereals are a concentrated source of bulk-forming wheat bran. My favourite is Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds – 1/3 cup of this cereal provides 11 grams of fibre (of which 8 grams is insoluble fibre). I like to have these every morning mixed with fruit and added to yogurt, milk or a smoothie.
- Kidney beans
½ cup of canned/cooked kidney beans gives you 6.6 grams of fibre (of which 5.1 grams is insoluble fibre). Add these to a chili, soup, casserole or salad – you can even mix it in with rice. For more ideas on cooking with beans, click here. If you’re not a fan of kidney beans, try pinto beans, navy beans or lentils – they each have between 4.2 and 4.7 grams of insoluble fiber per half-cup cooked serving.
Need a quick and healthy snack? Almonds not only pack healthy fats, they are also high in insoluble fibre with almost 5 grams per ounce. Just remember to eat them with their skin on.
You can get around 2.5 grams of insoluble fibre from:
- ½ cup raspberries
- ½ cup blackberries
- 1 cup of strawberries
- 1 cup blueberries
Add fresh or frozen berries to cereal and yogurt, or eat them on their own. Other high-insoluble fibre fruits include pears, apples and oranges.
- Whole grain products
Increase your fibre intake by swapping your grains to whole grain products. Refined products mean the germ and bran is removed, which removes fibre, protein, and other key nutrients. High-fibre grains include amaranth, barley, oats, teff, bulgur and quinoa.
For more foods high in insoluble fibre, see below:
|Vegetables and Fruits||Fresh fruits with skins and seeds: pears, berries, kiwi, apples, oranges, guava, passion fruit, star fruit, dried fruits (raisins, apricots, dates, prunes)
Fresh vegetables with skin and seeds: peas, corn, carrots, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, celery, cabbage, parsnips, pumpkin, spinach, taro, cucumbers with skin
|Grain Products||Whole grain products: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta and brown rice, wheat bran – 100% bran cereal, All Bran cereal, natural bran, bran bread/muffins|
|Legumes, Nuts & Seeds||Legumes: kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, navy beans, chick peas, green peas, lentils, black beans, hummus
Nuts & seeds: peanuts, almonds, flax seed, sunflower seeds
Source: Unlock Food
Other tips to help with digestion:
- Gradually introduce/add high-fibre foods into your diet, especially ones that may cause gas such as legumes
- Drink plenty of water (unless your doctor has you on a fluid-restricted diet), as fibre and water work together to keep you regular
- Exercise regularly
- Go to the bathroom when you feel the urge
Lastly, if you’re wondering whether coffee can stimulate a bowel movement – the simple act of drinking any beverage (including coffee) in the morning stimulates a defecation reflex which helps jump-start your bowels. However, coffee is more likely to cause dehydration and induce constipation than trigger a bowel movement, so stick to drinking water and increasing fibre intake.
What are some foods or remedies that have helped you with constipation? Let me know in the comments below!