Best Whole Grains For Constipation
Switching from refined grains such as white flour and white rice to whole grains can make a big difference in your bowel movements.
When grains are refined, most of the fiber is removed. This does little to help ease constipation and may instead make things worse.
Whole grains are not only better for your digestion but can also improve your heart health by lowering your cholesterol.
Research shows that eating just 25 grams of whole grains per day reduces the risk of heart disease by about 15%.
Here are some good whole grain options if you have constipation:
Why Trust Verywell Health
Suzie Finkel, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian specializing in the nutritional management of digestive symptoms and diseases. She holds a masters degree in nutrition from Columbia University and has trained in numerous clinical gastroenterology settings. As a GI dietitian, she provides evidence-based nutrition services for a wide array of digestive conditions including chronic constipation and bowel movement irregularities. Her goal is to demystify nutrition information and facilitate digestive comfort.
Dos And Donts Of Constipation Relief
Diet and lifestyle can be a major cause of constipation. Getting relief can be as simple as making a few tweaks to your meals and habits.
Gradually adding fiber-rich foods to your diet can keep you regular.
Weve all been there: sitting on the toilet needing to go, but nothing comes out. The same goes for the unsatisfying plink of what looks like rabbit pellets dropping into the toilet when you know your bowels need emptying.
It should come as no surprise that what comes out of our bodies is linked to what goes into them.
As a nation, were really awful at getting enough fiber and hydrating, says Rabia De Latour, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Fortunately, constipation can often be treated with a few changes to your diet and then maintained with some healthy habits.
Its very easy to treat with some dietary changes, before we need to turn to laxatives or prescription medicines, says Dr. De Latour.
But there is an important caveat: Diet may not be everything. Chronic constipation may stem from an underlying issue such as a medical condition, medication side effect, or anatomical problem like a pelvic-floor dysfunction.
While constipation may have a variety of factors, the first step is to look at diet and supplements, says Suzie Finkel, RD, a dietitian at New York Gastroenterology Associates.
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What Are Other Things I Can Do To Treat Constipation While Im Pregnant
Eating foods that contain fiber can help with pregnancy constipation relief. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends getting about 25 g of fiber every day. Foods that are good sources of fiber include:
ACOG also recommends drinking more water if you plan on boosting your daily fiber intake. And diet aside, exercising also helps improve constipation during pregnancy. Its recommended to exercise for about 30 minutes each day if possible.
But before making any sudden changes to your diet or exercise routine, please talk to your healthcare provider. They can tell you more about safe dietary and exercise decisions to make during pregnancy.
Ease Into Making Changes To Your Diet
You dont have to toss out everything you like to eat and choke down a gelatinous drink like psyllium just to up your fiber and water intake. When making lasting changes to help GI function, its important that the changes are feasible and affordable says Molly Brogan, RD, a dietitian in the department of nutrition at Albany Med Health System in New York. Brogan says that if fresh fruit will blow a patients budget, she eases them into a fiber-filled diet with other small swaps, such as a serving of half-brown, half-white rice. Or shell have them add raisins or cooked carrots to a muffin recipe.
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Weight Management And Satiety
Dietary fibers function as bulking agents in the digestive system. Bulking agents increase the feeling of fullness after eating, and protein has the same effect.
Feeling fuller for longer after eating can help reduce the appetite and lower a persons caloric intake.
Pulses, such as chickpeas, contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, which can delay stomach emptying and slow the rate at which digested food travels through the small intestine, according to a . This can help people feel fuller longer.
It Has Prebiotic Effects
Prebiotics are nondigestible compounds that nourish intestinal bacteria and help them grow. Researchers believe that psyllium has prebiotic effects .
Although psyllium is somewhat resistant to fermentation, intestinal bacteria can ferment a small portion of psyllium fibers. This fermentation can produce short-chain fatty acids , including butyrate. Research has linked SCFAs with health benefits (
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What Counts As Constipation Anyway
Its a myth that a daily bowel movement is essential to good health, Wald says. But having fewer than three bowel movements per week, excessive straining, a sense of not being finished, or having hard, lumpy stools are signals you may have constipation.
About 15 percent of Americans suffer from the condition for months and even years, studies show. Women are three times as likely as men to experience constipation, and seniors are also at high risk.
Occasional constipation is quite common, says Brian Lacy, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and co-editor in chief of The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Many patients note a change in their usual bowel habits when they change their daily routine, travel, change their diet , or reduce their level of activity.
But for some people the condition becomes chronic, with uncomfortable symptoms lasting three months or longer.
How We Select Supplements
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.
We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products.
It’s important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.
Note that most specific fiber supplements containing the fiber types with the strongest clinical research evidence are not third-party tested and may contain additives. However, they are included here if there is good evidence to support their benefit for regularity.
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Who May Not Benefit From An Oral Constipation Supplement
Diet and lifestyle modifications, including gradually increasing dietary fiber, fluids, movement, are low-cost and relatively simple treatments for common constipation. If you have been unresponsive to these changes or if your constipation is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements. Specific types of constipation supplements may not be appropriate for all health conditions.
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Drink A Glass Of Water
Proper hydration is necessary for regular bowel movements. Researchers recommend about 1.8 liters or about seven to eight 8-ounce glasses of clear liquid per day. The exact amount your body needs can depend on your size, sex, and whether or not youre pregnant or breastfeeding. If youre constipated and havent been drinking an adequate amount of water, consuming a large glass of water or other clear liquid may trigger a bowel movement.
Constipation Relief Through Prevention
As a rule, eating more high-fibre foods can prevent constipation. Be aware though, that if constipation is a result of Colitis or Crohns disease, increasing fibre intake could have a detrimental effect if in doubt, speak to your GP before making any changes to your diet.
There are two different types of fibre soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in the intestines to form a gel-like substance which helps food move along the digestive tract. Insoluble fibre is not dissolvable and moves through the intestines without being absorbed, and adds bulk to bowel movements and helps to relieve constipation.
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Best Herbal Teas For Constipation
One way to help ease constipation is to drink a soothing cup of hot tea. Hot liquids on their own are thought to promote bowel movements by encouraging peristalsis .
There are also two herbals teas, both of which have a licorice-like flavor, that are said to have significant laxative effects:
A study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that people given extracts of fennel or anise had an average colonic transit time of 15.7 hours. Those given a sham extract had a colonic transit time of 42.3 hours.
Which Laxative Should I Use
It’s difficult to know whether a particular laxative will work better than another. It depends on the person.
Unless there’s a reason why a type of laxative may be more suitable for you than another:
- start with a bulk-forming laxative
- if your poo remains hard, try using an osmotic laxative in addition to, or instead of, a bulk-forming laxative
- if your poo is soft but is still difficult to pass, try taking a stimulant laxative in addition to a bulk-forming laxative
Speak to a GP or pharmacist if you’re unsure which laxative to use.
Also see a GP if you’re still constipated after trying all of the different types of laxative, or you think your child might benefit from taking laxatives.
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How To Get Things Moving
For the most part the occasional bout of constipation can be treated with any of the over-the-counter medications available in stores. However, these typically only address the symptoms and not the underlying causes.
By making dietary changes, such as drinking more water and adding more fiber, you will help to promote regularity and digestive comfort. In addition to this, there are specific vitamins you can use to ease constipation and alleviate the pain it may be causing you.
Sometimes The Solution Is Simple
Most cases of acute constipation happen because you are noteating enough of the right foods , drinking enoughwater or getting enough exercise. So the fixes are simple: Move more, drinkmore water and add fiber to your diet to add bulkto your stool.
Some people have success taking probiotics, too, which can change the composition of the bacteria in the gut.
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Oral Constipation Supplement Dosage
The dosage of laxative products ranges widely. Talk to a healthcare provider about the appropriate product and dosage for your needs before supplementing. Because of the potential side effects and risk of overdosing laxative supplements, follow package directions carefully.
Some products, such as magnesium, may require a larger amount than what is contained in standard doses to attain a laxative benefit. Alternatively, some standard doses may have too strong of an effect for sensitive individuals, and will be worth trying a smaller dose if thats the case. In general, there is typically no harm in starting with a smaller dose and increasing as needed. For fiber supplements, it is typically best to start with a lower serving and increase gradually, along with extra fluids.
Keep in mind that the majority of supplements are designed for occasional use, but may be safe to take for longer periods when directed by a healthcare provider.
Tips To Increase Your Fibre Intake
It’s important to get fibre from a variety of sources, as eating too much of one type of food may not provide you with a healthy balanced diet.
To increase your fibre intake you could:
- Choose a higher-fibre breakfast cereal such as plain wholewheat biscuits or plain shredded whole grain , or porridge as oats are also a good source of fibre.
- Go for wholemeal or granary breads, or higher fibre white bread, and choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat or brown rice.
- Go for potatoes with their skins on, such as a baked potato or boiled new potatoes. Find out more about starchy foods and carbohydrates.
- Add pulses like beans, lentils or chickpeas to stews, curries and salads.
- Include plenty of vegetables with meals, either as a side dish or added to sauces, stews or curries. Find out more about how to get your 5 A Day.
- Have some fresh or dried fruit, or fruit canned in natural juice for dessert. Because dried fruit is sticky, it can increase the risk of tooth decay, so it’s better if it is only eaten as part of a meal, rather than as a between-meal snack.
- For snacks, try fresh fruit, vegetable sticks, rye crackers, oatcakes and unsalted nuts or seeds.
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Consider A Stool Softener
If youve tried adding fiber and still havent been able to poop, you could try a stool softener.
You may see a stool softener and a laxative stimulant paired together, says Dr. Garg.
You can find stool softeners over-the-counter online or at the store. Options include docusate sodium and docusate calcium .
Fiber Combats Both Constipation And Diarrhea
“Vegetables are great because they contain a lot of fiber, which helps regulate your digestion,” says Dr. Eichele. “The nice thing about fiber is it improves both diarrhea and constipation. It helps hold water in for constipation, and for folks with diarrhea it adds bulk to the stool to help form it.”
- Insoluble fiber holds on to water, making stools softer and easier to pass. Sources of insoluble fiber include brown rice, whole grains, green beans, broccoli and cabbage
- Soluble fiber adds bulk to poop, preventing diarrhea. Sources of soluble fiber include apples, berries, beans, nuts, seeds and oats
If you’re not used to eating fiber, a gradual increase will help your body adjust. You might experience cramping, flatulence and bloating from eating too much fiber all at once. “Add fiber little by little to your diet over the course of several days. You’ll feel much better in the long run,” advises Dr. Eichele.
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Exercise Gets Things Moving
“Exercise will definitely help with constipation,” says Dr. Eichele. “In some cultures, people go for a walk after a meal. That activity stimulates the digestion process.”
A 10- or 15-minute walk after a meal means your colon will get moving, too which is a healthy, normal response.
If you’ve heard of “runner’s gut,” the same principle applies. “Long-distance runners can sometimes struggle with needing to go, due to an overactive colon,” says Dr. Eichele.
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If you are having trouble going to the bathroom, you are not alone. At least 2.5 million Americans go to the doctor each year for this issue. Often diagnosed as infrequent bowel movements , constipation also includes stools that are hard and dry, straining to eliminate, or a sensation of incompleteness. If youve experienced any of these patterns, you may know that the discomfort can impact quality of life. Common causes of constipation include a low fiber diet, sedentary lifestyle, certain medications, and neglecting the urge to go.
Some simple changes can treat constipation, such as gradually increasing daily fiber from food sources , maintaining adequate hydration, engaging in physical movement, and ensuring proper toileting position. But, depending on whats causing your constipation, these changes alone may not do the trick. Luckily, there are a number of over-the-counter products, from bulking fiber agents to gentle laxatives, that can help ease constipation stemming from a health condition or for those who are simply occasionally backed up.