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Dietary fiber can alleviate constipation

Updated on June 19, 2013

Constipation is a symptom that usually is defined as fewer than three bowel movements per week. Severe constipation is defined as less than one bowel movement per week. Many people experience constipation at some points in their lives. Most constipation is temporary and not serious, but if the symptom persists long without treatment it can lead to some complications. These complications include hemorrhoids, rectal prolapse, and fecal impaction. Hemorrhoids are caused by straining to have a bowel movement, or anal fissures-tears in the skin around the anus-caused when hard stool stretches the sphincter muscle. As a result, rectal bleeding may occur, appearing as bright red streaks on the surface of the stool. Rectal prolapse happens when straining causes a small amount of intestinal lining to push out from the anal opening, which may lead to secretion of mucus from the anus. Constipation may also cause hard stool to pack the intestine and rectum so tightly that the normal pushing action of the colon is not enough to expel the stool, leading to the condition called fecal impaction. Once any of these complications appears, the person who is affected will feel uncomfortable, even sick and some complicated treatment need to be adopted. Therefore, it is very important to prevent constipation before the symptom appears or treat it properly in the early stage.

Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will alleviate and/or eliminate the symptom. The causes for constipation are multifaceted. A poor diet typically is one of the causes. Especially, insufficient fiber content in diet is one of the most common and important causes for constipation.

Dietary fiber is referred to a group of components of food stuffs of plant origin that is not affected by the digestive process in the body, and it consists of nondigestible carbohydrates and lignin. These nondigestible carbohadrates and lignin include nonstarch polysaccharides such as cellulose, pectin, gums, hemicellulose, and fibers contained in oat and wheat bran, oligosaccharides, lignin, and some resistant starch. High-fiber foods include beans, whole grains and bran cereals, fresh fruits, and vegetables such as asparagus, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and carrots. For people prone to constipation, limiting food intake that have little or no fiber, such as ice cream, cheese, meat, and processed foods and increasing high-fiber proportion of their diet are very important.

There are two types of dietary fibers, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water easily and is responsible for a soft, gel-like texture in the intestines. As a result, it helps prevent the formation of hard and dry stools that are difficulty to pass hrough the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, soluble dietary fiber also slow down the the nutrients digestion and absorption due to gel-like texture of intestinal content. Sources of soluble fiber are oats, barley, apples, bananas, berries, some vegetables, psylluim, and legumes including beans, peas, and soybeans. Insoluble fiber goes through the intestines almost unchanged. Through the body's digestive process, insoluble fiber absorbs water, increases your stool bulk, stimulates the gastrointestinal tract downward wavelike contraction, and consequently speeding up the movement of material through your digestive tract. Sources of insoluble fiber are whole wheat foods, bran, nuts, seeds, and the skin of some fruits and vegetables.

A diet with enough fiber helps the body form soft, bulky stool. A doctor or dietitian can help plan an appropriate diet. How much fiber do we need every day for healthy living? According to the American Dietetic Association, women should aim for 21 to 25 grams of fiber daily. Men should aim for 30 to 38 grams of fiber daily. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends eating at least nine servings (4 cups) of fiber-filled fruits and vegetables each day, including apples, oranges, broccoli, berries, pears, peas, figs, carrots, and beans. Normally, most of us are underdosed compared with the recommondation. In order to consume enough dierary fiber as recommended without any side effects such as get stomach cramps and gas, we need to increase high-fiber food intake gradually. At the same time, we need to increase fluids consumption, which can help the gastrointestinal content to be digested and to pass.


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    • profile image

      Erin Prone 

      6 years ago

      As a young woman, I've been using both the Lady Soma Fiber Cleanse (monthly) and the Lady Soma Detox (every 6 months). First, I was having IBS-type digestive symptoms. I really felt like Lady Soma had given me a lot of relief along with taking probiotics.

      Then, I got pregnant and took a break from all kinds of supplements until I could check with my doctor. I began to have daily uncomfortable bloating to the point that I didn't fit in most of my clothes. (Maybe from pregnancy, or maybe that's just how I am without Lady Soma!) Once I got the go-ahead from my doctor to be back on the Lady Soma cleanses, I take two doses daily and I've been comfortable and back in regular clothes for a few more weeks before the baby causes actual growth.

    • profile image

      Roberta - Therapist 

      9 years ago

      More ideas and tips . Ways your diet can help your constipation :


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