I’m sure we’ve all been victims of the discomfort caused by constipation.
Although it should come as no surprise that what comes out of our bodies is linked to what goes into them.
Constipation refers to a variety of bowel movement issues. It can be indicated by stools that resemble pellets or are less dense, heavy straining, or the feeling that you cannot eliminate all the stool, though the symptoms differ from person to person.
The average person is used to having a bowel movement every day; however, not everyone does. It is possible to feel discomfort with too few bowel movements (generally accepted as two or fewer per week), but it is not necessary to do so every day.
IOL Lifestyle spoke to Faaizah Laher, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), about food habits that trigger constipation, cause discomfort, and can negatively impact health and what you can eat instead.
There are many reasons you can be constipated, and first, it is important to understand why. There are some reversible causes of constipation that may improve bowel movements.
Foods that contribute to constipation
Foods that generally lead to constipation are foods that are low in fibre. These are refined carbohydrates, fast foods, and meat (diets high in meat). Lifestyles that do not have enough physical activity and also not drinking enough fluid. Excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to constipation
Foods to eat to avoid constipation
Foods that are high in fibre, specifically plant foods that our bodies cannot fully digest. Fibre can help prevent constipation by making stools bulky, soft, and easier to pass. Vegetables and fruit, especially with skins and seeds.
Grain products that are high in fibre, for example, breads, cereals, noodles, pasta and other products that are made with whole grains. Other foods such as barley, bran, brown, rice, cracked wheat, quinoa and oats.
To manage your constipation you might also benefit from replacing meat with even one plant-based protein per week. These include split peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans. Almonds, chia, sunflower seeds and walnuts are a few examples of nuts and seeds.
“Look for these foods in your local grocer and stock up on them when they are on promotion. Canned beans or even dried beans can also work and can fit any budget.”
Foods that cause constipation and may also cause other chronic lifestyle diseases.
Altering dietary habits might occasionally contribute to the development of lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers (of the colon, breast and prostate) and stroke.
In the short term, constipation can cause symptoms, such as abdominal pain, loading, and difficult bowel habits. Haemorrhoids and abdominal blockages can also occur and potentially lead to chronic issues.
Constipation and its symptoms can be avoided by changing simple habits in your lifestyle, for example, drinking enough fluids, eating more fibre-rich foods and being physically active, advised Laher.