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Foods that Cause And Relieve Constipation


Foods that Cause And Relieve Constipation

Constipation can have many causes, but diet is always an important factor. There are certain foods that cause constipation in many people, just as there are foods that relieve constipation just as effectively as—although much more slowly than—fiber supplements, laxatives, and stool softeners.

What are the foods that cause constipation?


In people who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the nerves in the lining of the bowel react to lectins, or identifying proteins, in certain foods. The lectins make these foods have the same effect on the bowel as a medication containing opium, such as paregoric. Commonly constipating foods in IBS include wheat, dairy products, beef, pork, and lamb.

People with a sensitivity to the gliadin or gluten protein in wheat, barley, and rye can experience alternating constipation and diarrhea, along with varying degrees of intestinal inflammation, weakened immunity, and chronic headaches. These symptoms can be relatively mild but still caused by celiac disease.

When the problem is celiac disease, the answer is eliminating ALL gluten protein from the diet. Other foods do not aggravate condition.

What about the rest of us? For most people, constipation has more to do with not drinking enough water or not getting enough exercise, taking too many laxatives or avoiding trips to the bathroom. There are, however, foods that can cause constipation, as well as foods that relieve constipation, in nearly anyone.

Some foods cause constipation if you don’t drink enough water, but are foods that relieve constipation if you do. Foods containing inulin (a starch not to be confused with insulin), such as bananas, chicory, leeks, and onions, provide food for the helpful bacteria that live in the gut.

These bacteria form a mass that makes the stool easier to move, provided there is enough water available to soften it. When there is adequate hydration, inulin helps the lining of the colon absorb calcium. And when the colon absorbs calcium, the risk of colon cancer is reduced.

Fiber supplements to treat constipation, incidentally, can cause constipation if you don’t drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day.

What are the foods that relieve constipation?


The best-known of the foods that relieve constipation is that old standby for relief of irregularity is the prune.

Prunes are dried plums. Dried prunes are approximately 6 percent fiber, but prune juice (which is made from dried prunes) contains no fiber at all.

Prunes promote regularity by providing simple sugars that draw fluid into the intestine. The additional fluid makes stool softer and easier to expel. Prunes do not cause spikes in blood sugar, because their natural sweetening agents are fructose and sorbitol rather than sucrose, better known as “white sugar.” Too much sorbitol, of course, can cause diarrhea.

If prunes are overly effective for you, consider this list of high-fiber foods.

Soluble fiber is found in barley, beans and peas, apples and oranges, carrots, flax seed, oatmeal and oat bran, and psyllium (the fiber source used in Metamucil).

Insoluble fiber is found in peels and skins of fruits and vegetables, corn bran, flax seed, vegetables such as green beans and cauliflower, and whole-wheat products.

Fiber from fruits and vegetables is always more beneficial than any fiber supplements. That’s because fruits and vegetables offer fiber in small doses. There’s enough fiber to contribute to regularity but not so much fiber as to create its own clogs in your colon.

Wheat bran is considered a popular food that relieves constipation in adults, but it may not be best. Many people suffer mild sensitivity to gluten that can cause alternating constipation and diarrhea. For people with this condition, called celiac disease, wheat products aren’t the solution, they’re the problem.

Even if you aren’t sensitive to wheat, the fiber in wheat bran is only effective if you eat the bran by itself, not if you eat it with other foods. Eating any bran food by itself can aggravate constipation.

Better than wheat bran are psyllium, citrus fiber, or slippery elm. For more information on these, see Herbs for Constipation.

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