The best foods that relieve constipation are not difficult to find and, more importantly, they're delicious and a pleasure to eat.
If our diet is to blame for the prevalence of this problem, does it not stands to reason that the best way to prevent the problem is to alter our diet?
We owe much of our understanding on the importance of diet on the digestive system to Dr. Denis P. Burkitt, an Irish researcher who studied bowel habits of Africans living in small towns and large cities.
He found that people who ate indigenous, local foods had an average of a pound (half a kilo) of feces each day; with twelve hours transit time.
Burkitt found that those who lived in cities on Western diets only excreted 5 1/2 oz. (150 g.) of stool each day, with average transit time of 48 to 72 hours.
The interesting point was that people on native diets, which included plenty of foods that relieve constipation, had extremely low incidences of diseases common to Western civilization, such as appendicitis, diabetes, diverticulitis, gallstones, coronary heart disease, hiatal hernia, varicose veins, haemorroids, colon cancer and obesity.
When people moved into cities and ate a Westernized diet, they too developed these diseases.
Dr. Burkitt attributed much of this disease to poor dietary fiber intake in a modernized diet.
We eat lots of meat, dairy and fatty foods - the perfect formula for constipation. You'll agree that cheeseburgers and fries, ribs and chicken, and greasy pizza offer little or no fiber and are not the best foods for constipation.
No wonder more than four millions Americans suffer with chronic constipation!
For most people, a diet high in fiber and fluids would solve the problem and would be sufficient for constipation prevention.
All fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole-grain foods contain healthful amounts of fiber and can all be considered excellent foods for constipation.
High-fiber foods work as a natural laxative in several ways:
1 - High-fiber foods such as bran and vegetables add bulk, mostly by absorbing and retaining water, producing softer stools that pass through the colon more quickly and gently.
The fiber bulks up the stool because most of it is undigested, both soluble and insoluble. Unlike small stools that can accumulate for days before moving on, large stools are moved out of the intestine much more quickly and, as they're much softer than smaller ones, there's less straining when they do move.
2 - Fiber's coarse particles also mechanically activate nerve reflexes in the colon wall, triggering bowel movements.
If you have chronic constipation try eating five fruits and five vegetables every day - but start gradually.
Eating a lot more fiber than your body is used to can bring on cramping and gas. Begin slowly by adding more fiber to your constipation diet over the course of several weeks or months.
(Also find out what is the Best Fiber Supplement.)
Water must have an important place amongst the foods that relieve constipation.
We often think of water as an add-on to a healthful diet, not an essential ingredient in its own right.
But not getting enough water is a very common cause of constipation.
After all, stools can absorb large amounts of water. When they don't get enough, they get hard, sluggish and more difficult to pass.
This is particularly true when you're eating more fiber, which must be accompanied by fluids in order to keep things moving smoothly.
You can't depend on thirst to tell you when it's time to drink, says Dr. Marie Borum, M.D., MPH, professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center.
The thirst mechanism isn't all that sensitive to begin with, and often it stays silent even when your body needs more fluids. What's more the urge to drink naturally gets weaker with age, which is one more reason why constipation is more common in older people.
The best way to avoid the problem is to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. If you don't want to drink that much water, make up the difference by having soups, herbal teas and natural fruit juices diluted with water.
Beverages containing alcohol or caffeine, however shouldn't count toward your daily fluid intake because they're duiretics, meaning that they actually remove more fluids from your body than you put in, according to Dr. Borum.
Several studies have proven the link between not drinking enough water and constipation.
Scientists in Germany, for example, gave eight men 2,500 ml. (85 oz.) of water each day for 1 week and then 500 ml. (16 oz.) of water each day for another week.
The researchers found that even this relative short period of fluid deprivation decreased stool frequencey and weight.
In another study carried out in Italy, researchers divided 117 people with chronic constipation in two groups. For 2 months, both groups ate a standard diet with about 25 g. of fiber per day.
The first group was allowed to drink as much water as they wanted (which turned out to be not too much), but the second goup drank 2 litres (about 2 quarts) of mineral water each day.
The researchers found that the 25 g. of fiber each day relieved the people's constipation, but their constipation was relieved even more when they drank 1.5 to 2 litres of water a day.
So fiber is good and water is good, but both together are much better and should be included amongst the foods that relieve constipation!
On the next pages you'll find discussed the following foods that relieve constipation - follow the links for a detailed description for each one of them:
Best Foods for Constipation (Part 1) - Discussing apples, beans, berries, flaxseed and dried fruit.
Best Foods for Constipation (Part 2) - Discussing dark leafy greens, ginger, honey, rhubarb, squash and coffee.
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Best Foods for Constipation
(Part 1) - Discussing Apples, Beans, Berries, Flaxseed and Dried Fruits
Best Foods for Constipation
(Part 2) - Discussing Dark Leafy Greens, Ginger, Honey, Rhubarb, Squash and Coffee