…from the Perspectives’ Kitchen
How you doin’? Are you feeling sluggish, bloated and uncomfortable? Maybe you’re just full of s—t! No, really the causes of constipation are varied and can be the foods you eat or the types of foods you don’t eat. It might be one or more of the medications you take. If you are having bowel movement problems you might want to add some of the foods listed below to your diet to help you poop.
You may be surprised to learn that this dreaded personal problem affects 16 out of 100 adults who deal with the symptoms of constipation regularly. This number doubles as you get older. For adults ages 60 and over, constipation is a common symptom in 33 out of 100 adults according to the National Institutes of Health.
What can you do? What should you eat?
Fiber is part of the solution.
The first step is to increase your daily fiber intake. Most whole foods that naturally contain fiber are great choices. These foods also contain vitamins, minerals and numerous other nutrients that are beneficial to the body.
According to the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average daily intake of dietary fiber for adults should be 22 grams to 34 grams. Men, on average, require more dietary fiber than women, or between 31 and 34 grams. Most Americans, however, do not get the necessary amount, just averaging just 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day. That’s just not good enough.
You need both soluble and insoluble fiber for healthy digestion. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole grains and vegetables, whereas soluble fiber is found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and some fruits and veggies. If your diet was previously not high in fiber, slowly incorporate fiber-rich foods so your digestive tract can get better acclimated to dietary change and avoid gastrointestinal distress or gas.
Here are some of the foods that are worth adding to your daily meal plans to help stimulate digestion and keep you regular.
One of the critical fluids required by the body. Water accounts for more than two-thirds of your body's weight and plays an essential role in regular body functions. From keeping you hydrated and lubricating joints to regulating body temperature and ridding the body of waste, water is necessary for the human body to survive.
It's especially important in helping relieve constipation and keeping you regular. Your daily water intake depends on several factors including age, activity level, and gender. A good standard to help prevent constipation is about 15-1/2 cups daily for men and 11-1/2 cups daily for women. It can go up from here depending on the amount of time you're exercising or if you’re sweating a lot. A good thing to remember, poop is made up mostly of water!
2. Flax Seeds
A rich source of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acid and soluble fibers, flax seeds are tiny but mighty seeds that provide numerous health benefits, including relief from constipation. A tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains eight percent of the Daily Value (DV) of dietary fiber. It's also a source of iron, potassium, and magnesium, as well as B-vitamins and carotenoids like lutein.
For flaxseeds to be beneficial to your body and bowel movements, ground flax seeds are much better at providing nutrients than whole ones, which often pass undigested through the digestive tract.
When it comes to your bowels, there's no better way to start the day than with a cup of oatmeal, which contains four grams or 16 percent of the Daily Value of dietary fiber. Oatmeal is a bonus food that contains both soluble and insoluble fiber which helps bulk up the weight and size of your stool, making it easier to pass.
Studies have shown that soluble fibers may lower levels of the "bad" LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and help reduce the risk of heart disease. And that's not all. Oats are a surprisingly great source of protein, offering 5.9 grams or 12 percent of the Daily Value of protein and contain high amounts of iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Rich in minerals, specifically potassium and magnesium, which are necessary for muscle contraction and cellular signaling, fresh pears are also a great source of dietary fiber. A single, medium-sized pear offers as much as six grams of fiber. Pears are best consumed with their skins, as they contain several flavonoids that reduce blood glucose levels and the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
They are also high in pectin, a soluble fiber that offers prebiotic properties to the human gut. So, no matter the variety, whether it's Anjou, Bartlett or Bosc, adding pears to your diet can help get things moving again.
Known for being a good source of antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, a cup of caffeine-rich coffee not only helps fight inflammation and reduces the risk of cardiovascular and liver diseases, but it also helps you with your bowel movements—about 30 percent of people find relief when drinking coffee. It gets things moving, and some people even claim this effect from decaf.
If you're suffering from irregular poops, brewing yourself a fresh cup of joe just might be the solution for you. However, moderation is key. A study found that while modest caffeine consumption resulted in a decrease in constipation and incidence of colorectal cancer, frequent use had the opposite effect. This is likely related to the dehydrating effects of a high-caffeine diet.
Go nuts! Almonds, pecans and peanuts are all excellent sources of soluble fiber, which the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends eating for children that are dealing with constipation. Adults can benefit from this recommendation, too, as a 200-calorie serving of pecans offers 11 percent of the Daily Value of dietary fiber, as well as five percent of the Daily Value of protein and a lot of minerals and vitamins.
In addition to keeping you regular, adding nuts to your diet may help lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes, prevent weight gain, and increase your overall lifespan. They're also a great source of antioxidants like tocopherols, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Best of all, nuts are delicious.
From a vegetarian pantry staple to a budget-friendly meal option, the versatility of legumes knows no bounds. Comprised of beans, peanuts, lentils and peas, legumes are not only beneficial for their fiber and protein content but are also low in fat and have a low glycemic index, making them a suitable dietary addition for patients with diabetes.
And, when it comes to helping you poop regularly, beans are what's best. Beans are another food that contains that winning combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. These fibers are great for feeding gut bacteria, stimulating digestion and soaking up water as it moves through the body, helping to bulk up your stool and prevent constipation.
Prunes or dry plums provide approximately seven grams of dietary fiber per 100-gram serving. They're also rich in minerals like magnesium, as well as vitamins A, E, and K, which help in everything from muscle contraction and blood clotting to boosting immunity and vision. Researchers published in Clinical Nutrition found that prunes help maintain healthy bowel functions, especially for people with low-fiber diets and infrequent stool habits.
Prune juice makes an especially good choice for pregnant women suffering from constipation who may not have much of an appetite. Sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol typically found in diabetes-friendly sweeteners, naturally occurs in prunes, which is also a stimulate to your bowels. Prunes help to stimulate digestion by helping to move water into the large intestine."
9. Whole Grains
Switching from refined grains like white rice to whole ones, such as brown rice, is one of the best ways to help you poop more frequently. The United States Department of Agriculture explains that adding whole grains to your diet can help prevent the occurrence of certain chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Whole grains like whole-wheat pasta, barley and whole-grain breads are not only high in dietary fiber but are also a good source of B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate, as well as minerals like selenium and iron that help develop the body's immune system and muscles.
10. Fermented Beverages
Foods naturally rich in probiotics, such as kombucha and kefir, host helpful bacteria that help improve gut health and the process of digestion, making it easier to pass stools. Kefir, a fermented milk beverage, contains both bacterial and fungal species and helps restore the balance of bacterial cultures in the digestive tract.
Not eating enough fiber and not drinking enough water are some of the most common causes of constipation. Taking certain medications (such as Prozac or opioids) and even antibiotics can lead to problems in digestion. Recent studies have shown that probiotics such as kefir can help soften stools, making them easier to pass.
Starting your day with Morning Cereal Sundaes makes Jack and Jill a regular guy and gal.
Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal & Yogurt Morning Cereal Sundaes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Chill Time: 8 hours (overnight)
Yield: 1 serving
1 container (5.3 oz.) Greek yogurt, any flavor
1/4 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
Stir-ins (see ideas below)
ChefSecret: Add any desired stir-ins like fresh berries, toasted or raw nuts (almonds are best), bananas, mango, papaya, orange segments, preserved lemon, pomegranate, etc.
Quip of the Day: Poop jokes aren't my favorite jokes. But they're a solid #2.
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To you and everyone dear to you, be strong, be positive, stay well, stay safe and be kind. Take a breath and count your blessings, and if you have a little extra to share with others, please consider donating to Feeding America and/or American Red Cross.
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