A diverse array of fibrous foods known for their ability to alleviate constipation, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, arranged in a colorful display.

Ease Constipation with Fiber

Boosting Fiber Intake May be the Key to Preventing Constipation

If you or someone in your family is experiencing constipation, you’re not alone. Most of us will have trouble with this common affliction at some point in our lives. Thankfully, there are natural ways to get things moving.

What Is Constipation?

Constipation is usually defined as a change in the frequency of bowel movements—the “normal” range is three times a day to three times a week. Constipation can be acute or chronic, and is characterized by a host of uncomfortable symptoms including passing hard stools, feeling bloated, full, or nauseated; experiencing abdominal pain; or straining during bowel movements.

What Causes Constipation?

While dehydration, lack of exercise, illness or chronic disease, stress, and travel can all lead to bathroom trouble, the most common cause of constipation is a low-fiber diet. Fiber adds bulk to stool, making it easier to move along the digestive tract. Americans typically fall short of the recommended daily fiber intake (25 grams for women and 38 grams for men). Consuming more high-fiber foods can relieve and even prevent constipation.

What Can You Do about Constipation?

It’s easy to boost your fiber intake by incorporating more vegetables, fruit (especially dried fruit), whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds into your diet. You can meet your daily fiber needs with 2 cups of fruit and 21/2 cups of vegetables per day. Small changes can make a big difference: Adding oats to baked goods, fruit to cereal, and vegetables to stews or casseroles are easy ways to boost fiber intake for the whole family.

Tips for Kids with Constipation

Constipation can be painful and stressful for children, but it is surprisingly common, affecting up to 30 percent of kids. Here are some ways to keep things running smoothly:

  • Keep kids hydrated. Water is best, and it helps to soften stools.
  • Boost fiber intake with whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
  • Warm foods at breakfast can stimulate digestion.
  • Make movement a priority—kids should engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day to encourage healthy digestion.

Selected Sources:

“Constipation,” University of Maryland Medical Center, www.umm.edu, 12/19/15

Freedom from Constipation by Christopher Vasey, ND ($14.95, Healing Arts Press, 2017)

“What is Fiber?” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, www.EatRight.org, 1/20/14

“Easing Your Child’s Constipation” by Susan Moores, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, www.EatRight.org, 6/21/17