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    Dietary Fiber for Constipation

    How much fiber do we need daily?

    The average American gets about 15 grams of fiber daily, much less than we need, according to the American Dietetic Association. Women younger than 51 should aim for 25 grams of fiber daily. Men younger than 51 should aim for 38 grams of fiber daily. Women 51 and older should get 21 grams of fiber daily. Men 51 and older should get 30 grams daily. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends eating at least nine servings (2 cups) of fiber-filled fruits and vegetables each day, including apples, oranges, broccoli, berries, pears, peas, figs, carrots, and beans. Some people get stomach cramps and gas when they increase their intake of fiber. Change your diet gradually and increase fluids to reduce discomfort.

    Aren't prunes a natural laxative?

    Often called "Nature's Remedy," prunes contain sorbitol, which has a natural, laxative effect in the body. Dried plums (yes, prunes!) are also high in disease-fighting antioxidants and have both insoluble and soluble fiber. One cup of pitted, uncooked prunes contains 12 grams of fiber. Three dried plums have 3.9 grams of fiber.

    What if whole-grain fiber and fruits don't help constipation?

    Then try foods that contain psyllium seed husk, bran, and methylcellulose, or try fiber supplements. These natural products increase stool weight and have a laxative effect. Be sure to drink a lot of water when taking any of these products, as they can clog up the intestines and cause constipation. Fiber must have water in order to sweep the colon and move the stool out of your body.

    When should you use a psyllium powder?

    It's best to get fiber from food. But if you can't eat enough fruits and vegetables to make a difference, then opt for fiber supplements. Examples include psyllium, , methylcellulose, wheat dextrin, and calcium polycarbophil. With psyllium powder, mix the powder in a glass of water one to three times daily. Be sure to drink enough water along with this psyllium powder drink. The drink may cause you to feel bloated until you get used to the fiber.

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