Updated: Nov 10, 2019
As we discussed in Battling Constipation: Part 1, there are certain foods that may be contributing to constipation and by reducing or eliminating them from your diet, you can decrease the severity and frequency of constipation significantly.
So if eating certain foods can contribute to constipation, can eating certain foods decrease or eliminate it?
This certainly seems to be the case. For example, eating more fiber, as discussed in Part I, can significantly decrease constipation. Are there other foods that you should be adding to your family's diet that may help decrease constipation?
Increasing whole fruits and vegetables while limiting simple carbohydrates can help to decrease constipation. Fermented foods can also be beneficial for regulating bowel movements. The last change in diet that can help decrease the severity and incidence of constipation is increasing water intake. Let's look at each of these individually.
Whole vegetables and fruits are an essential part of any healthy diet. They contain vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that allow our bodies to function at an optimal level. So it comes as no surprise that when we are missing these vital nutrients, we can run into problems, one of which tends to be constipation.
It seems that increased intake of fruits, vegetables, and pulses (beans, lentils, and peas) is significantly associated with decreased episodes of constipation while increased rice and carbohydrate intake are associated with increased episodes of constipation .
This suggests that limiting simple carbohydrates and replacing them with vegetables and potatoes in your family's meals can have a beneficial effect on constipation.
Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day with more servings from vegetables.
Remember to choose whole fruits and vegetables, produce that hasn't been altered or processed as little as possible. Processed fruits and vegetables usually have added ingredients like extra sugars and preservatives that detract from the nutritional value of the food itself.
Fermented foods are all the rage right now in the natural health community and for good reason. Fermented foods like miso, sauerkraut, and kombucha are full of beneficial bacteria or probiotics that help our guts to function properly.
Fermented foods are usually full of probiotics like bifidobacteria which has been found to
normalize bowel movements and help ease constipation . Bifidobacteria is a genus of beneficial bacteria that lives in our guts. This bacteria breaks down non-digestible carbohydrates, protects us from pathogens, produces certain B vitamins, antioxidants, conjugated linoleic acid, and stimulates the immune system .
Clearly this bacteria is extremely beneficial to our health.
What's even more interesting is that bifidobacteria is found in high numbers in the colons of breast-fed vaginally delivered infants while decreasing to less than 5% of the gut flora in adults and even less in
people with gastrointestinal diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and regressive autism . Eating fermented foods can help to repopulate the gut with the 'good flora' needed to have normal functional bowel movements.
Lastly we must discuss water intake since many of us probably don't drink enough. Drinking plain water has many benefits that other beverages can't match. Drinking water has been associated with better diets and health behaviors like exercising .
Constipation has been associated with water intake of less than 500 milliliters per day. That's about 16.9oz or an average sized bottle of water . Even with all of the health benefits that plain water has to offer, studies have found that our children aren't getting enough water in their diets .
To increase water intake in your family's diet, simply forgo fruit juices and drinks for plain water. Doing this will decrease the amount of sugar and empty calories that your children are ingesting. It will also help to decrease episodes of constipation.
Constipation can be challenging to deal with but by changing your family's diet by adding more whole fruits and vegetables, fermented foods and increasing water intake, you can help decrease episodes of constipation.
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