Constipation can be both uncomfortable and a mild health concern. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, you may have constipation "if you have three or fewer bowel movements in a week or if stool is hard, dry, painful, or difficult to pass." Luckily, the foods you eat can have a profound affect on constipation and can help prevent and relieve constipation.
While water is not a "food" by all standards, it is something you consume and one of the best measures against constipation. In order to achieve relief from constipation a person should be drinking plenty of water and avoiding dehydrating liquids such as caffeine and alcohol.
Fruit is high in fiber, which helps move food through your digestive system. Your body does not digest fiber, but instead attaches itself to other foods and helps push them through your system, finally leaving your body by way of a bowel movement. Fruit also has the added benefit of a high water content, which will also help hydrate a constipated person.
Limit simple sugars, which includes basic, white, refined flours and heavily processed bread products and cereals. Instead opt for whole grain breads. You can identify a whole grain by looking at the ingredient list, which should list whole grain (or whole wheat) flour among the first few ingredients. Whole grains are a good source of insoluble fiber, which helps with the digestive tract. Avoid topping your bread with a lot of meats and cheeses, which will contribute to constipation, and instead opt for a small amount of peanut butter, jam, jelly, or other spread.
Vegetables, like fruit, aid in constipation relief. All vegetables will help with constipation relief, but especially effective are broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and cabbage. Vegetables can be eaten cooked or raw depending on what you prefer. If you do cook your vegetables, limit salt, butter and cheese.
In addition to foods that you can eat to relieve constipation, there are other actions that can be taken. Exercise will help aid in constipation relief and prevention. Also, allow yourself enough time to make your bowel movement and try not to "hold it" too long. Finally, avoid the use of laxatives unless your doctor tells you to use them. Instead of laxatives, make lifestyle changes and incorporate the above foods into your diet so your body can adjust naturally and start producing regular bowel movements.