Don't Pass "Go"

A stoplightConstipation has been the subject of jokes from the time of vaudeville comedians to modern Internet memes. Bathroom humor aside, constipation is the most common gastro complaint. The American College of Gastroenterology reports that there are more than 2.5 million doctor visits in the U.S. annually for constipation. Simply put, constipation means you’re not going  #2 enough or have a really difficult time going #2.

Generally, constipation means you have bowel movements fewer than three times a week or straining really hard to pass a hard, dry stool. Constipation is a symptom and not a disease and could be the sign of serious medical conditions. Dehydration, diet (we’ll get back to this in minute), medications, lack of exercise and bowel obstruction can cause constipation.

Enemas and laxatives are two constipation treatments. But, for our purposes we’ll concentrate on eating a high fiber diet. One of the best ways to help treat constipation is to add fiber to your diet. Fiber helps in the formation of a soft, bulky stool that you easily pass. To work well, fiber should be consumed with plenty of fluids. 

Good sources of fiber include:

  • Breads: Granola bread, wheat bran muffins, whole wheat bread and waffles
  • Cereal: Bran flakes, corn bran, granola, oat bran, oatmeal, raisin bran, shredded wheat
  • Fruits: Apples with the peel, applesauce, apricots, avocados, blackberries, dates, figs, kiwis, mangos, nectarines, oranges, pears, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries
  • Vegetables: Artichokes, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, corn, green beans, green peas, potato with skin, spinach, squash
  • Beans: Baked, black, black-eyed peas, garbanzo, kidney, lentils, lima, pinto
  • Brown rice

Here are some other good sources of fiber that might not be so obvious:

  • With the right sauce, whole wheat pasta tastes almost exactly the same as white flour pasta.
  • Nuts, such as almonds, pecans and walnuts, have substantial amounts of fiber. Peanut butter also provides fiber. Nuts are high in calories so keep portions small.
  • Air-popped popcorn is a good choice as a high-fiber snack. Stay away from popcorn smothered in butter as it’s heavy with fat.
  • Seeds such as sesame and pumpkin (timely for Halloween) are used for constipation relief. Sprinkle seeds on salads for taste and crunch while at the same time adding fiber. Edible chia seeds (yes, the same seeds that grow the chia pets) are outstanding for fiber. Mix them with water and they form a gooey, gel-like substance that’s great in smoothies, makes a healthy pudding or can be used as an egg substitute in cookies and cake.
  • Pearl barley is the most common barley and is sold in stores. It’s a nutritious, chewy grain with lots of fiber. It can be used in soup, salad or tea or in an Italian dish with seasonal fall vegetables.
  • Add flaxseed meal to oats, smoothies or yogurt. You can also use it to bread fish or chicken.