You’re full of s*it, and you’re full of s*it, and you’re full of s*it. No seriously, I bet at least half of you reading this are literally full of s*it! Constipation is so widespread among Americans that a recent study showed that 16 percent of all Americans and a third of those older than 60 suffer from chronic constipation. It’s the reason for millions of clinic visits each year and more than 700,000 emergency department trips. In fact, it has been reported that since 1997, the number of people admitted to the hospital primarily for constipation has more than doubled. The cost of that care, coupled with the amount of money that Americans spend each year on over the counter laxatives runs into the billions of dollars.
First things first. What does it mean to be constipated? Are you in fact constipated? Everyone has a different bowel movement pattern. Some people think that they are constipated if they don’t have a bowel movement every single day, while others know their normal cycle may be to experience only three bowel movements a week. It’s important to know the signs of clinically diagnosed constipation, to know your body and to listen to it. In general, having fewer than three bowel movements a week with stools that are hard, dry, and small (making them painful or difficult to pass) is defined as constipation.
So why are American’s so full of s*hit?! What’s blocking the American colon? Seismic changes in our lifestyles over the years has been pinpointed as the key culprit. The average American diet includes less fluid and fiber — both essential for regular bowel movements — than it ever has. Our exercise and physical activity levels are at an all-time low. Marooned at our desks all day and sprawled out on our couches right after, we’ve given up the exercise and activity that stimulates the bowels. You’ve got to be up and moving to get things moving!
If you’re still reading then I’m sure that at some point you’ve experienced some discomfort as a result of being constipated. Stomach pains, back pain, bloating, acne, weight gain, feeling lethargic are all signs and symptoms of someone experiencing constipation. But, the problem can be even much more serious than all of the above. Studies have shown that regular bowel movements aid in cancer prevention, lower rates of appendicitis, colon cancer, and diverticulitis.
Here’s the good news. There’s a lot you can do, from the comfort of your own home, that can cure constipation and the painful symptoms that come with it.
- Try gentle exercise. Take a short walk each day. Get up and get moving. You’re bowel movements will follow.
- Make sure you drink enough fluids – 8-10 glasses of water a day. That includes green tea or a cup of coffee. Coffee is a natural diuretic so a cup in the morning can help to get things going.
- Diet is essential. Those that follow a plant-based diet barely ever suffer from constipation. That’s because of all the fiber they are consuming each day. Include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day. Aim for 25-30 grams of fiber per day.
- Schedule a time each day for a bowel movement (after breakfast, for example). It sounds silly but making it a priority will make a difference.
- Incorporate prebiotic fiber into your diet. Garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, asparagus are all high in prebiotic fiber which has proven to improve digestive health by feeding the friendly bacteria in your gut. Prebiotic fiber has shown to help increase the frequency of bowel movements, make stools softer and improve the balance of your gut bacteria.
- Add moderate amounts of magnesium supplements to your diet in order to relieve constipation. Miralax or my favorite magnesium supplement, Natural Calm are colorless, odorless, tasteless and easily added to your water each morning. If you prefer your supplements in the form of a pill, these are my favorite. They all can provide huge relief.
- Prunes and prune juice are often touted as nature’s remedy for constipation. In addition to all the fiber they provide, they contain the natural laxative sorbitol. This may be the easiest and more convenient cure of all–available at your local grocery store and inexpensive. My recommended dosage in order to be an effective reliever of constipation would be around 50 grams (about 7 medium sized prunes) twice a day.
As always, I believe that a healthy, unprocessed, well-balanced diet is the key to curing constipation and becoming regular again.
The following are the best high fiber foods that you should add to your diet/meals immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing constipation.
The Best High-Fiber Foods:
Fiber: 16.3 grams per cup, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Spinach and Yellow Split Pea Soup
A staple in Indian cooking, split peas form a terrific, protein-rich base for soups, stews, and dhals. This South Asian recipe is the best kind of comfort food: healthy, satisfying, and super filling.
Fiber: 15.6 grams per cup, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Lentil Quinoa Burgers with Sautéed Mushrooms
Lentils are kitchen all-stars—they take less time to cook and are more versatile than many other legumes. This recipe takes advantage of their slightly meatier taste and turns them into a juicy patty that’s held together with lemon juice, cilantro, and walnuts.
Fiber: 15 grams per cup, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili
Sweet potato pairs perfectly with the smokiness of chipotle
Fiber: 13.2 grams per cup, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Leek and Lima Bean Soup with Bacon
Lima beans might sound unappetizing, but when cooked in bacon fat, paired with leeks, puréed into a soup, and topped with sour cream, they’re pretty darn delicious.
Fiber: 10.3 grams per medium vegetable, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Roasted Artichokes for Two
Packing more fiber per serving than any other vegetable, artichokes are curiously underused in most people’s kitchens (perhaps because they look a bit… prickly). Get creative and try this simple recipe with lime, garlic, and black pepper.
Fiber: 8.8 grams per cup, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Scallops on Minted Pea Purée with Prosciutto
Puréeing veggies is a great way to squeeze extra nutrients into any meal—this recipe comes together lightning-fast and is filled with protein, omega-3s, and, of course, fiber.
Fiber: 5.1 grams per cup, boiled.
Go-To Recipe: Paleo Broccoli Fritters
This caveman-friendly dish is pretty simple. To make these fritters, just combine onion, garlic, broccoli, eggs, and almond meal. Once they hit the table, you’ll be surprised how much broccoli gets finished in one sitting.
Fiber: 4.1 grams per cup, boiled.
Go-To Recipe: Hoisin Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Try this Asian twist on the old standard—this meal carries tones of ginger, sesame, and peanut that will keep you coming back for seconds (and maybe thirds).
Fiber: 8 grams per cup, raw.
Go-To Recipe: Raspberry, Coconut, and Oat Macaroons
Raspberries aren’t a hard sell—they’re basically nature’s candy. With the help of coconut, oatmeal, and vanilla, they make a relatively healthy dessert that pleases any palate.
Fiber: 7.6 grams per cup, raw.
Go-To Recipe: Blackberry Lemon Salad
Fiber: 6.7 grams per half, raw.
Go-To Recipe: Chicken, Black Bean, Avocado and Radish Salad
Few foods deserve the title of “superfood” more than the avocado, which is jam-packed with vitamins, fiber, and healthy fats. Pile it on top of this low-carb, Mexican-inspired salad to add some creamy goodness.
Fiber: 5.5 grams per medium fruit, raw.
Go-To Recipe: Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Pears
This recipe is a simple and inexpensive way to experiment with an unusual flavor combination. Pork works well with sweeter flavors, and the high sugar content of pears makes them easy to caramelize.
Fiber: 7 grams per cup, raw.
Go-To Recipe: Vanilla, Honey, and Yogurt Smoothie with Bran Flakes
Short on time? Whip up a nutritious smoothie and take breakfast to go. This shake is a healthy and delicious way to get plenty of fiber and a hefty amount of protein, all in one glass.
Fiber: 6.3 grams per cup, cooked.
Fiber: 6 grams per cup, cooked.
It’s not just for making beer—barley is a chewy, nutritious grain that contains more fiber than oatmeal and brown rice. It can be used in soup, salad, or tea, but try it out in this tasty risotto with seasonal fall vegetables.
Fiber: 4 grams per cup, cooked.
Go-To Recipe: Carrot Cake Oatmeal
With just one tablespoon of maple syrup per serving, this breakfast is a guilt-free way to indulge in the morning. Plus, it’s packed with fiber-friendly oats, carrots, and coconut.
Lastly, because you know I love to share, here are two recipes that my husband and I can’t live without. I found over the years how beneficial these two easy recipes were in keeping us regular and healthy.
My first recipe is for Stewed Fruit. This recipe not only includes a tremendous amount of fiber which prevents constipation but it also tastes like a treat—sweetened with cinnamon instead of sugar. I make big batches of this for the whole family, a few times a month.
1 cup chopped rhubarb
5 large apples (peeled and chopped)
1 cup of blackberries
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Combine all the fruit into a medium saucepan. Simmer on low heat until fruits combine and become soft (about 45 mins to 1 hour). Serve room temperature or cold.
This next recipe is a staple in our house. Rich in fibrous lentils and fresh, clean ingredients, incorporating this salad into any meal will aid in any of your constipation issues.
Lentil and Feta Salad
1 cup cooked small lentils. Boil until soft
1 small cube of feta cheese
10 cherry tomatoes
2 cups of Arugula
Dress with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
Before I let you go, remember….regular bowel movements are so important. Constipation is painful, uncomfortable and sometimes serious. Listen to your body, incorporate high fiber foods into your diet every single day, up your magnesium intake with easy to take supplements, avoid over-processed foods and get moving! You’re poop isn’t going anywhere if you’re sitting on the couch! Lastly, don’t “poo poo” the power of pooping! Xx Janine