Managing Constipation

Constipation means that you have a hard time passing stools (bowel movements). People pass stools from 3 times a day to once every 3 days. What is normal for you may be different.

Constipation can be caused by a number of factors, but some of the most common reasons include inadequate dietary fiber intake, inadequate fluid intake, lack of physical activity and disruption to usual dietary routine.

Fiber

Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body cannot digest. It is found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (dried beans and peas), nuts and seeds. Spread high-fiber foods throughout your day.

The Institute of Medicine recommends:

  • Men < 50 years of age should consume 38 grams of fiber per day
  • Women <50 years of age should consume 25 grams of fiber per day
  • Men >50 years of age should consume 30 grams of fiber per day
  • Women >50 years of age should consume 21 grams of fiber per day

The average American adult consumes only 15 grams of fiber per day

Children > 2 years : age + 5 grams

Tips to increase the fiber in your diet

  • Choose whole grain products instead of more refined grains. Try barley, bulgur, quinoa, wild rice, and couscous. Also try other pasta varieties such as whole grain, brown rice or quinoa pastas.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables – aim to include at least 2 cups of fruit and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Choose whole (fresh, frozen or dried) vegetables and fruits over juices, which have most of the fiber removed. Add frozen vegetables to soups, casseroles and pasta dishes.
  • Add fresh fruits such as bananas or berries, or dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries or apricots, to high fiber cereal (with at least 3g of fiber per serving).
  • Include legumes (i.e., dried beans and peas) with your meals regularly; increase your intake of these foods gradually to limit the gaseous side effects.
  • Include nuts and seeds several times a week, which also contain monounsaturated fats and can help control blood cholesterol levels.
  • Sprinkle flax meal, wheat germ, nuts and seeds onto cold or hot cereal, yogurt, cottage cheese or frozen yogurt.
  • Substitute whole wheat flour, spelt flour or oat bran for at least 1/3 of the all-purpose flour in baked goods recipes.
  • Make your own pizza with a whole wheat crust and with vegetable toppings such as mushrooms, onions, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, roasted red pepper and green peppers.
  • Snack on whole wheat crackers, air-popped popcorn, dry-roasted nuts or seeds, whole-grain cereal, fresh or dried fruit, and raw vegetables dipped in hummus.

Fluid

Consume more water. Drink at least eight 8-ounce glass of fluid per day. This helps enhance fiber’s effectiveness and prevent constipation.

Exercise

Try to include at least 150 minutes moderate activity each week.