Feeling Stopped Up?

Tips for relieving constipation

Created by: Hali Obray, Dietetic Intern

Although some folks would prefer constipation to diarrhea, having constipation is usually not a pleasant experience. Each person has a different bowel movement schedule, ranging from every day to three times per week. If you are going less than three times per week; however, you may have constipation. Going less frequently is just one symptom of constipation. Here are others to watch for: painful or difficult bowel movements; bowel movements that are dry, hard, or lumpy; and the feeling that your bowel is always full or that it hasn’t all passed. 

There are a variety of causes of constipation, such as not enough dietary fiber, not drinking enough fluids, low levels of physical activity, some health conditions like celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as some medications and supplements. Frequent use of laxatives or enemas can result in constipation, so talk to your doctor if you are experiencing bowel movement changes before taking these. Another cause of constipation can be resisting or ignoring the urge to go, as it can affect normal muscle functioning.

The good news is that constipation can be improved or alleviated with some dietary changes and a little more movement throughout the day.

  • Choose more foods with fiber. Fiber bulks your stool (poop) and can speed up transit time through your digestive tract to keep you going more regularly. Eating too little fiber can cause constipation. Slowly increase your fiber intake over 5 days to prevent abdominal discomfort. Here are some examples of good sources of fiber:
    • Fruits like berries, pears, apples with skin on, raisins, or prunes
    • Nuts and seeds like almonds, peanuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, or chia seeds
    • Vegetables like broccoli, sweet potato/yam, pumpkin, squash, and green peas
    • Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, whole grain pasta, wheat bran and bran cereals, and whole grain breads
  • Drinking more fluids, water in particular, can help keep your stool soft and easier to pass. As you increase fiber intake, make sure to increase fluid intake or the additional fiber can increase your risk of constipation. Drinking a warm beverage in the morning can be helpful, as well as adding prune juice to your daily eating plan.
  • Moving your body can keep your bowel movements regular. Even small activities like 10-15 minute walks after meals can make a big difference.

If you have tried the above recommendations and are still struggling, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian about other solutions that can help. 

Adapted from eatright.org Image: https://www.gastroconsa.com

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