The first thing you need to include in your high fiber diet plan is foods rich in fiber, and particularly effective in relieving constipation are cereal bran such as oat, rice or wheat.
Bran is the outer layer of the kernel which is often discarded when processing the grains. Bran has no nutrients as such but is primarily fiber.
It's true that strictly speaking fiber is not a food, because it doesn't get broken down by the digestive juices and is not absorbed through the digestive system, but it's absolutely essential to health.
Why is that? Simply put, nothing matches bran's purgative stool-bulking capabilities.
When fiber absorbs water, stools gradually swell, getting bigger and wetter, and this is good because larger stools are moved out of the intestine much more quickly than smaller and drier ones and with less straining.
A little daily bran could restore normal bowel movements in, conservately, 60% of those who suffer from common constipation, says British authority Nicholas W. Read, M.D., director of the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Sheffield.
There's no doubt that much constipation comes from a deficiency in high fiber foods.
Dr. Denis Burkitt notes that our ancestors ate about a pound and a quarter (about 600 g.) of whole grain, high fiber bread a day. We only eat 1/5 of that - a mere quarter of a pound (about 120 g.) and most of it made from highly refined white flour that is fiber-depleted.
Natural laxatives like bran, which bulk-up the stool instead of simply stimulating the bowel nerves as many over-the-counter drugs do, are much safer and gentler and can be easily included in the High Fiber Diet Plan.
"Bran is the safest, cheapest and most physiological method of treating and preventing constipation" agrees Dr. Grant Thompson, M.D., gastroenterologist at the University of Ottawa, and author of the book Gut Reaction.
On average we only get about 11 grams of fiber a day, a lot less than the Daily Value (DV) of 25 grams and even that seems quite conservative to many researchers.
So what can we do?
For a start you can try to include
high-fiber wheat-bran cereals in your High Fiber Diet Plan, beginning
with 1/3 to 1/2 cup a day, adding more as needed, say authorities - read more about Whole Grain Cereals
Also, choose heavy, whole-grain breads. Look for the words "whole wheat" as the first ingredient on bread labels.
Or, even better, bake your own bread using whole-grain flour.
Another quick and easy solution is to add raw unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereals or other foods. Add it to a recipe when breadcrumbs are required, or when you're baking muffins and cookies. It's very easy to find it in any supermarket these days.
Classic British studies indicate that eating about 1 1/2 oz. (about 42 g.) of miller's bran a day doubles the weight of the stool.
What makes this bran so powerful is its raw, coarsely ground particles.
Cereals like All-Bran have been processed, which slightly lessens their lassative powers, meaning that you have to eat somewhat more to have an effect.
"If the bran is not chewy, it probably won't work" says Dr. Read.
Research shows that bran's rough-edged particles mechanically stimulate the nerves of the bowel lining, promoting colonic movement.
The bowel's nerve endings are so exquisitely sensitive that merely touching them with a soft brush induces muscular contractions and secretion, according to Dr. Read.
So, coarse, raw bran flakes have double-laxative activity - by increasing stool bulk and stimulating the colon wall.
To buy organic wheat bran on line go to Goodness Direct.
Find out what the Best Fiber Supplement is.
Not everyone likes wheat bran or, indeed can tolerate it, so is there an alternative for you High Fiber Diet Plan?
Indeed there is. Dr. Read found rice bran surprisingly superior even to wheat bran as a laxative.
He had eight healthy young men eat either 15 grams of fiber in wheat bran or powdered rice bran or no supplement for ten-days periods.
Both bran boosted stool frequency and output of feces, but rice bran was clearly superior.
Rice-bran eaters had about 25% more bowel movements. All had greater stool output. Both wheat and rice bran reduced intestinal transit time equally well. Neither produced any change in intestinal gas, stool consistency or ease of defecation.
Dr. Read speculates that the high starch in rice bran may spur colon bacteria to greater activity, increasing stool bulk.
He also says that oat bran has some laxative properties.
To buy either rice bran or oat bran, or both, on line go to Goodness Direct.
First start with a heaped tablespoon of miller's bran a day. You can sprinkle it on cereals or other foods at each meal.
However, there's no single right "dose" of bran for everyone.
Most people need a tablespoon a day to pass soft stool without straining, but others need less and some need several tablespoons.
To find out what is the right amount for your particular case, test it on yourself, wait to see what happens and then raise or lower the dose as needed.
When you start including more high fiber foods in your High Fiber Diet Plan, you can experience some discomfort - bloating, cramping and gas initially, says John Hopkins professor Marvin Schuster, M.D., although the distress usually disappears in two or three weeks. So don't conclude too quickly that bran is not for you.
Add fiber slowly, increasing it as needed and cutting back if your discomfort level is high. After all, a lifetime of not getting enough fiber can't be fixed in a week.
An overdose of fiber can be a sudden shock to the system, so increase your intake gradually over a period of four to six weeks to give your system a chance to adapt.
And drinking six to eight glasses of water a day usually is enough to prevent hard stools, says Dr. Schuster.
The insoluble fiber mainly found in whole wheat is not the only choice for beating constipation.
All fruits, vegetables, legumes, along with whole-grain foods contain healthful amounts of fiber.
So include a variety of high-fiber grains, fruits and vegetables in your High Fiber Diet Plan.
Also soluble fiber (the kind found primarily in legumes, oats and many fruits) can help the intestine working smoothly.
Fiber is particularly dense in the skin, stems and leaves of fruit and plant, so don't peel that apple or toss those broccoli stalks. Rather buy organic and just wash and eat your fruit without peeling and try to use as much of the vegetables you buy as possible.
I've experimented with various types of fiber-rich foods in my high fiber diet plan and I've come to like this particular blend of milled flaxseed, nuts and seeds from Linwoods.
I sprinkle it on my breakfast and my salads, or add it to my baking - it's simply delicious.
You can find the complete range of Linwoods Flaxseed from Goodness Direct or you can find it at your local Health Store.
Best Foods for Constipation (Part 1) - Discussing apples, beans, berries, flaxseed and dried fruit and how they help relieve and prevent constipation.
Best Foods for Constipation (Part 2) - Discussing dark leafy greens, ginger, honey, rhubarb, squash and coffee.
1) Carper, J., (1993) Food Your Miracle Medicine: How Food Can Prevent and Treat Over 100 Symptoms and Problems, New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
2) Duke, J.A., Ph.D.,(2008) The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods: Proven Natural Remedies to Treat and Prevent More Than 80 Common Health Concerns, New York; Rodale
3) Yeager, S., (2207) The Doctors Book of Food Remedies, New York: Rodale Inc.
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.