Certain foods can help treat constipation, a common condition characterized by infrequent bowel movements. On the other hand, some foods or dietary habits can make constipation worse or increase your risk of constipation. Although constipation may require medical treatment, in some cases most people can alleviate it by making lifestyle changes and choosing the right foods.
1) Foods rich in fiber.
Following a diet high in fiber-rich foods helps protect against constipation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). By consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day, you can help your digestive system form soft, lumpy stools that are easy to pass. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends slowly increasing your intake of high-fiber foods to prevent bloating, cramps, and gas.
High-fiber foods include whole grains (such as brown rice, barley, and quinoa), certain vegetables and fruits (especially dried ones), flax seeds, and legumes (such as beans and lentils). Here's a look at the amount of fiber found in specific foods that can help with constipation:
navy beans (9.5 grams of fiber per ½ cup)
beans (8.2 grams of fiber per ½ cup)
pinto beans (7.7 grams of fiber per ½ cup)
artichokes (6.5 grams per artichoke)
sweet potatoes (4.8 grams in a medium sweet potato)
pears (4.4 grams in a small pear)
peas (4.4 grams per ½ cup)
raspberries (4 grams per ½ cup)
prunes (3.8 grams per ½ cup)
apples (3.3 grams in a medium apple)
People with gluten sensitivity should opt for vegetables and fruits, quinoa, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and brown rice, and avoid grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Oats are acceptable as long as they are certified gluten free.
When increasing your intake of fiber-rich foods, it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Fluids help the body digest fiber, and relieve constipation by adding bulk to the stool (which makes bowel movements easier). Aim for eight glasses of water a day.
2) Foods rich in Magnesium.
There is some evidence that too little magnesium in the body can increase the risk of constipation. For example, a 2007 study of 3,835 women (published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition) found that those with the lowest magnesium intake were the most likely to experience constipation.
Adult men ages 19 to 30 need 400 mg of magnesium per day, while men ages 31 and older need up to 420 mg. Adult women ages 19 to 30 need 310 mg per day, and women ages 31 and over need 320 mg.
Here is a list of foods rich in magnesium that can help fight constipation:
almonds (80 mg magnesium per ounce)
cashews (75 mg magnesium per ounce)
cooked spinach (75 mg magnesium per ½ cup)
shredded wheat cereal (55 mg magnesium in two rectangular crackers)
fortified instant oatmeal prepared with water ( 55 mg magnesium per cup)
baked potato with skin (50 mg magnesium in a medium potato)
peanuts / peanuts (50 mg magnesium per ounce)
cooked lentils (35 mg magnesium per ½ cup)
smooth peanut butter (25 mg magnesium per tablespoon)
Foods to avoid to relieve constipation:
Cutting back on refined and processed grains (such as white rice, white bread, and white pasta) and replacing them with whole grains can increase fiber intake and protect against constipation.
Reducing your intake of high-fat foods (including cheese, ice cream, and meats) can also lower your risk of constipation. In addition, it is important to limit the consumption of drinks that contain alcohol and caffeine (such as coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks). These foods can cause dehydration, which in turn can trigger constipation. When should you use Food to combat constipation?
To effectively treat constipation, it is important to combine a diet high in fiber-rich foods with certain lifestyle changes (such as regular exercise and adequate fluid intake). In some cases, people may also require additional treatment (such as herbal laxatives). If food and lifestyle changes don't relieve constipation, talk to a specialist about other treatment options.
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