Constipation And IBS
David April 2nd, 2006
The discomfort of constipation can have several causes, but diet is always an important factor and a good place to start when seeking relief. There are certain foods that are more prone to cause constipation in many people. There also are foods that relieve constipation just as effectively. These foods work much more slowly than fiber supplements, laxatives, and stool softeners. These foods also have the advantage of being natural.
What are the foods that cause constipation?
People who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), have the nerves in the lining of the bowel react to lectins, or identifying proteins, in certain foods. These lectins make the foods have the same effect on the bowel as a medication containing opium, such as paregoric. Commonly constipating foods in IBS include wheat, dairy products, beef, pork, and lamb. Constipation is a problem with low carb diets that allow large intake of meat and protein
People with a sensitivity to the gliadin or gluten protein in wheat, barley, and rye can experience alternating constipation and diarrhea, along with varying degrees of intestinal inflammation, weakened immunity, and chronic headaches. These IBS symptoms can be relatively mild but still caused by celiac disease.
When the problem is celiac disease, the answer is eliminating ALL gluten protein from the diet. Other foods do not aggravate condition.
What about the rest of us? For most people, constipation has more to do with not drinking enough water or not getting enough exercise. Taking too many laxatives or avoiding trips to the bathroom can aggrevate the situation also. There are, foods that can cause constipation, as well as foods that relieve constipation, in nearly anyone. It helps if you pay attention to your diet and note what food groups you may be overdoing it in.
Some foods cause constipation if you don’t drink enough water with them, but ironically are foods that relieve constipation if you do drink plenty of water with them. Foods containing inulin (a starch, don’t confuse it with insulin) such as bananas, chicory, leeks, and onions, provide food for the helpful bacteria that live in the gut.
These bacteria form a mass that makes the stool easier to move, provided there is enough water available to soften it. The value of that old adage about drinking plenty of water becomes apparent here. When there is adequate hydration, inulin helps the lining of the colon absorb calcium. And when the colon absorbs calcium, the risk of colon cancer is reduced.
Fiber supplements that many people use to treat constipation, can actually cause constipation if you don’t drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day.
What are the foods that relieve constipation?
The best-known of the foods that relieve constipation is that old standby for relief of irregularity is the prune. Prunes are dried plums. Dried prunes are approximately 6 percent fiber, but prune juice (which is made from dried prunes) contains no fiber at all.
Prunes promote regularity by providing simple sugars that draw fluid into the intestine. The additional fluid makes stool softer and easier to expel. Prunes do not cause spikes in blood sugar, because their natural sweetening agents are fructose and sorbitol rather than sucrose, better known as white sugar. Too much sorbitol, of course, can cause diarrhea. If prunes are too much of a good thing for you, consider this list of high-fiber foods.
Soluble fiber is found in barley, beans and peas, apples and oranges, carrots, flax seed, oatmeal and oat bran, and psyllium (the fiber source used in Metamucil).
Insoluble fiber is found in peels and skins of fruits and vegetables, corn bran, flax seed, vegetables such as green beans and cauliflower, and whole-wheat products.
Fiber from fruits and vegetables is always more beneficial than any fiber supplements. That’s because fruits and vegetables offer fiber in small doses. There’s enough fiber to contribute to regularity but not so much fiber as to create its own clogs and road jams in your colon.
Wheat bran is considered a popular food that relieves constipation in adults, but it may not be best. Many people suffer mild sensitivity to gluten that can cause alternating constipation and diarrhea. For people with this condition, called celiac disease, wheat products aren’t the solution, they’re the problem.
Even if you aren’t sensitive to wheat, the fiber in wheat bran is only effective if you eat the bran by itself, not if you eat it with other foods. Eating any bran food by itself can aggravate constipation. Better than wheat bran are psyllium, citrus fiber, or slippery elm.