One of the functions of the large intestine is to remove water from the digesting food that passes through. The exact amount of water removed is a delicate balance. Failing to remove enough water can result in diarrhea, and removing too much water results in constipation. While diarrhea usually results from an illness, everyone can experience constipation due to poor dietary habits. Fortunately, constipation usually can be remedied by a few changes in the diet and does not necessarily require medication.
Increase your fiber intake. Fiber in your diet adds bulk to the digested food in your intestines. Fiber will hold on to more water in your large intestine, keeping it in the stool rather than being absorbed back into the bloodstream and result in softer stool. Whole grains, legumes (beans), vegetables and fruits are all relatively high in fiber. If you do not get enough of these types of food, you can purchase a fiber supplement.
Eat foods with natural laxative properties. These foods include, but are not limited to, dried fruits (especially prunes), grapes, mangoes, papayas, pineapple, soybeans and walnuts.
Decrease your intake of highly processed foods. Most of these foods (e.g., white bread, packaged snack foods) do not contain much fiber. A diet filled with mostly these types of foods can lead to chronic constipation.
Drink fluids. The more water you have within your digestive system, the less water your body will need to absorb from your digestive system. Drinking at least 32 ounces of water daily can help alleviate and ward off constipation. Other fluids can also be counted toward your daily water intake as long as they do not contain alcohol or caffeine, which are both diuretic substances and can lead to dehydration.
Eat probiotics. Your large intestine contains millions of bacteria that help digest the food you eat. Both diarrhea and constipation can be caused by a deficit of these types of bacteria. Taking probiotic supplements can be beneficial in repopulating your intestine with bacteria. Probiotics are also found in many types of yogurts, so eating yogurts with acidophilus or lactobacillus cultures in them can help with constipation.