About 16 percent of Americans say they suffer from constipation problems. However, there is no need to rush to laxatives because they are irritating and ineffective in the long run. Some foods have a natural laxative effect and help improve food transit.
You can combat constipation with foods that are natural laxatives and although there is no standard, constipation is generally considered to exist when you have less than three bowel movements per week. Constipation can be “natural” (colon laziness) or fostered by a poor lifestyle (too little exercise, too little drinking, low-fiber diet, etc.). Unfortunately, laxatives sold in pharmacies can be irritating to the colon and lead to addiction. Eating certain foods that have a natural laxative effect can gently relieve constipation.
Foods to avoid if you are constipated
Some foods are to avoid as they have the opposite effect of a laxative and can make constipation even worse. They should not be avoided completely as they have other properties but should be used in moderation if you have constipation.
Here are some foods you should avoid when constipated:
- White rice
- Cooked carrots
Natural foods against constipation
The best known natural laxative, prunes
In addition to its high fiber content (25% of the daily needs), Agen plums contain dihydroxyphenylisatin, a substance that stimulates intestinal contractions, as well as sorbitol and phenolic compounds that have a laxative effect. Plums can also be eaten as juice or pulp.
Apples a healthy natural laxative
Ripe fruits such as apples and pears contain pectin, an insoluble fiber that forms a viscous gel and slows the absorption of certain nutrients. This increases the volume of the stool and improves its consistency, making it easier to eliminate. Not to mention that apples are overall very healthy. However, it is recommended that you eat organic apples to avoid the insecticides used in regular apples.
Coffee can act as a laxative
Several studies have shown that coffee has a laxative effect. Contrary to popular belief, this is not due to caffeine. On the one hand, coffee stimulates the production of gastrin, a hormone that regulates the contraction movements of the distal colon (the part closest to the rectum) and increases the production of gastric acid, which empties the stomach into the intestine more quickly. Coffee also increases the synthesis of cholecystokinin, another hormone that aids in digestion. Finally, it promotes the “good” bacteria in the microbiota. However, the laxative effect does not work on everyone.
Fruit juices and grapefruit
Constipation is often associated with hard stools: when stools remain in the colon for too long, the colon reabsorbs water, which leads to hard, dry stools that are difficult to expel. Unfortunately, simply drinking more is not effective because the water is excreted in the urine. Fruit juices contain both fiber (if you keep the pulp) and water, which can “hold” water in the stool and rehydrate it. Grapefruit juice is most interesting because it contains naringin, which stimulates colon secretions.
Oils and Fats
Beware of diets that contain too little fat! Oil, butter, and margarine have a lubricating effect in the intestines, as long as they are consumed raw or only slightly heated (at high temperatures they slow down digestion). Olive oil is all the more effective because it has a cholagogic effect (stimulating the secretion of bile), which emulsifies dietary fats.
Whole grain-based foods
Whole grains such as rice, pasta, bulgur wheat, etc. contain more vitamins and insoluble fiber. These undigested fibers swell in the presence of water and increase stool volume. They also stimulate the contraction of the intestines. However, they are less effective than soluble fibers against constipation and are less well tolerated.
Yogurt and fermented dairy products contain probiotics that balance the gut microbiota. Several strains such as Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Saccharomyces boulardii appear to be effective in promoting intestinal contraction. The lactose in dairy products also has a mild laxative effect.
Figs are very high in fiber (between 10 and 13 g per 100 g) and are natural laxatives. They are also rich in potassium, a deficiency of which can lead to constipation. They can be eaten fresh or dried.