Some people may have a bowel movement more than once a day while others may have one every 2 to 3 days. Normal stools should not be painful or difficult to pass. Constipation is defined as bowel movements that are infrequent, hard or difficult to pass. Constipation may be a chronic (long-term) problem or occur occasionally. It may result from medications, a medical condition, not enough activity, or a diet too low in fiber or fluid. If you are using medications that have made you constipated, you may need to limit your use of high fiber foods, as they can make your constipation worse.
If you are not using medications that cause constipation, try using high fiber foods to help soften your stool and increase the fiber in your diet. The most common causes of constipation are a diet low in fiber or a diet high in fats, such as cheese, eggs, and meats.
Diets that are low in fiber or high in fat are thought to be constipating:
- Ice cream
- Cooked carrots
- French fries
- Fried foods
- Processed foods
- White rice
A diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is very effective in treating and preventing constipation. Adequate water intake and excercise are crucial. It is important to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of fluid a day. Exercise helps stools move through the intestines. A healthy diet and adequate activity is especially important for the elderly, for whom constipation is very common.
Foods and drinks that are thought to be important in a constipation diet are:
- Raw Vegetables
- Fresh fruit with high water content like watermelon and honeydew.
- Fresh fruit with skin on them like grapes, peaches and apples
- Whole grain foods like bread
- Fiber wafers
- Bran cereals
- Bran muffins
The National Cancer Institute recommends between 20-30 grams of fiber a day.
Fiber adds bulk and texture to food as it passes through the body, keeping your system regular. Because of this, many doctors recommend fiber for the treatment or prevention of some digestive tract problems, like hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and even rectal cancer. Fiber regulates naturally by adding bulk to the diet. Unlike stimulant laxatives, bulk fiber supplements are not habit forming