Constipation is the infrequent bowel movements or difficult passage of stools that persists for several weeks or longer. Constipation is generally described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. One of the causes of constipation is delayed in colonic transit or a decrease in the movement of food through the digestive system. A low-fiber diet, old age, and physical inactivity can also contribute to constipation.
Several laxatives do a good job but there are also natural foods that can help ease constipation.
Most varieties of beans are high in fiber. It also contains good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which help ease constipation in different ways. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like consistency, softening stool and making it easier to pass, while insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract intact and adds bulk to stool. If you’re looking for an easy way to increase your fiber intake, beans are a good way to do so. Add them to soups, dips or side dishes for a delicious dose of fiber.
Apples are a good source of fiber. Fiber passes through your intestines undigested, helping with the formation of stool and promoting regular bowel movements. Apples also contain a specific type of soluble fiber called pectin, which is known for its laxative effect. Apples can be used as a healthy topping for foods. Apples and pears contain several compounds that improve digestion, including fiber, sorbitol, and fructose. This fruit also contains high levels of water, which can help to ease digestion and prevent constipation. To get the most benefit from apples and pears, eat them raw and whole, with the skin intact
Prunes are often used as a natural laxative and they’re also a good source of sorbitol. Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol that is poorly digested in the body. It helps alleviate constipation by drawing water into the intestines, spurring a bowel movement. One review looked at four studies measuring the effectiveness of prunes on constipation. It found that prunes can help soften stool, improve consistency and increase stool frequency.
Another study showed that 40 participants with constipation who were given prunes experienced improvements in both stool frequency and consistency, compared to participants treated with psyllium fiber supplements.
Kiwifruit is especially high in fiber, which makes it an excellent food to help promote regularity. Kiwifruit has been shown to stimulate movement in the digestive tract, helping to induce a bowel movement. The fruit helps to speed up intestinal transit time, decrease laxative use and improve symptoms of constipation. Kiwis also contain actinidine, an enzyme that promotes movement in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and several phytochemicals that may play a role in improving digestion.
Pears can help alleviate constipation in a few different ways. They are high in fiber and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as an osmotic agent to pull water into the intestines and stimulate a bowel movement. Pears also contain fructose, a type of sugar that can only be absorbed in limited amounts. This is due to how fructose is metabolized in your body. Not only is it absorbed at a slower rate, but also large amounts of fructose can only be metabolized by your liver. Moreover, some individuals may have fructose malabsorption, a condition that affects the body’s ability to absorb fructose. Like sorbitol, unabsorbed fructose acts as a natural laxative by bringing water into the intestines.
Note: Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, and drinking plenty of water can often help to ease or resolve the symptoms. When a person becomes dehydrated, their intestines cannot add enough water to stools. This results in hard, dry, and lumpy stools and can lead to constipation.