Skip to content
    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Eat Healthy to Avoid Constipation

    No one likes to think -- let alone talk -- about constipation, but most everyone has it at one time or another. More than 40 million people in the U.S. have it pretty often. So if you're dealing with tummy troubles, you're not alone. Most of the time it doesn’t last long, and simple changes can help your digestive system run smoothly again.

    Common Causes of Constipation

    To understand how to prevent constipation, it helps to know what causes it. As food passes through your colon, your body absorbs the water from it, and what's left forms into stool. Your muscles move it through the colon to the rectum, where you pass it. When this movement slows down, your colon draws too much water. Stools get dry and hard to pass, causing constipation.

    The problem often happens because of a low-fiber or high-fat diet, lack of exercise, and not drinking enough fluids. Certain medications, not going when you feel the urge, laxative abuse, and pregnancy can also lead to constipation.

    Fiber Helps Relieve Constipation

    If your bowel habits get sluggish, you don't have to rush out to buy a laxative. Most people don't need them for mild constipation. Instead, look at your diet. Are you getting enough fiber?

    Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body can't break down. When you eat foods that have a lot of it, the extra bulk helps keep stools soft and speeds digestion.

    All plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, have fiber. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 25 grams per day for women and up to 38 grams for men. After age 50, we need less fiber -- about 21 grams for women and 30 grams for men. Unfortunately, most of us only get about 15 grams per day, which may help explain why so many people get constipated.

    Examples of high-fiber foods include:

    • 1/2 cup navy beans: 9.5 grams
    • 1 small pear: 4.4 grams
    • 1/4 cup dates: 3.6 grams
    • 1 medium apple: 3.3 grams
    • 1 medium sweet potato: 4.8 grams
    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    man holding his stomach
    Get the facts on common problems.
    blueberries in a palm
    Best and worst foods.
     
    woman shopping
    Learn what foods to avoid.
    fresh and dried plums
    Will it help constipation?
     
    diverticuliltis illustration
    Slideshow
    couple eating at cafe
    Article
     
    sick child
    Slideshow
    Woman blowing bubble gum
    Slideshow
     

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

    Thanks!

    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    Woman with crohns in pain
    Slideshow
    Woman with stomach pain
    Slideshow
     
    diet for diverticulitis
    Video
    what causes diarrhea
    Video