Constipation can be a literal pain in the butt, but how many people are brave enough to ask their doctors (or anyone else) what to do about it? It may seem too gross to think about, but the fact is, what goes in most definitely affects what comes out. The good news is, in most cases, the key to putting a stop to constipation is figuring out what to put on your dinner table.*
# 1. The best way to get things moving again is to focus on two simple things: drinking plenty of water or other clear fluids (at least 8 cups, or about as much as in a two liter soda bottle, per day) and eating foods that give you enough fiber (25 grams for women and 38 grams for men) each day.
# 2. Considering that most Americans get less than half the water and fiber they need each day, this may seem too hard to do. But check out the tips for a few easy ways to do both.
5 strategies for drinking 8 cups of water per day:
- Sip away the day. Keep refillable, chilled water bottles on hand at your desk or workplace and take little sips all day long.
- Keep it handy. Always carry a filled water bottle with you, wherever you go. Even if it's just to the grocery store.
- Eat your water. Eat low-salt, broth soups and plenty of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies for lunch or dinner. (bonus: soups, fruits and veggies fill you up fast and are low-calorie, too, so you'll be more likely to eat less and keep your waistline in check, too.)
- Ramp up the flavor. Add lemon or lime slices (or other fruits) to your water to keep things interesting and flavorful. Or if you get bored with drinking water, try making a spritzer using 1 oz (about one finger's width) of juice and 7 oz of seltzer water.
- Water at the table. Always set the table with glasses of water, and ask for water at restaurants.
5 ways to eat more fiber
- Eat plenty of fruits and veggies--plenty means at least half your plate! Have fresh fruit for breakfast, or add veggies to your eggs. Have a salad as a side and tuck veggies into your sandwich or wrap. Eat soups with plenty of veggies for dinner. Take a bag of raw veggies or fruit with you in the morning so they're handy when you get hungry mid-morning and mid-afternoon. (Bonus: be prepared for the compliments you'll start getting on how great your skin looks after you've started eating tons of fruits and veggies--you'll be amazed at the difference!)
- Bite into some beans. Add rinsed, canned beans to salads, soups, omelets, stews, casseroles, pasta, meatloaf and hamburgers, and even brownies (seriously! but mash them first), for a big fiber boost. (Bonus: beans are low-calorie, filling and ultra nutritious, too).
- Grab some whole grains. Read ingredient labels and look for whole grain flours as the first ingredient in breads and baked goods. (Note: Multi-grain, Wheat flour, Unbleached wheat flour and Enriched wheat flour are NOT whole grain. Look for 100% WHOLE wheat or other whole grain flour. Key word: WHOLE!). Choose brown rice over white, stone-ground tortilla chips over potato chips and whole grain pasta over white pasta. If you're going to eat potatoes, wash them carefully, but don't peel the skins. (Bonus: Popcorn is a whole grain and it has tons of fiber and not too many calories if you don't slather it in butter!)
- Drink your fiber. Make a smoothie with berries (fiber powerhouses!), apples (their fiber clears out cholesterol and improves heart health, too), avocados for creaminess, fiber and healthy fat, and even carrots or other veggies, along with your favorite ingredients.
- Powerful powders. If you still can't get enough fiber, try adding good quality fiber powders like USANA Health Science's Fibergy Plus, to any dish--even to cold cereal. (Go to http://vitaminas.usana.com, click on shop online and search for Fibergy).
* When adding more fiber to your diet, do it gradually. Making sudden, drastic changes may give rise to other digestive problems such as bloating or gas. Try adding one extra serving of a high-fiber food every day for a week, then increase to 2 servings the next week.
* If the extra fiber gives you gas, try using a good digestive enzyme, such as USANA's Digestive Enzyme to reduce the discomfort and better absorb the nutrients in your food. (Go to http://vitaminas.usana.com, click on shop online and search for Digestive Enzyme)
* Only add more fiber if you're also drinking at least 6-8 cups of water per day, to reduce the chances of bloating, gas and constipation.
* Expect to see changes in your elimination patterns in the beginning, such as increased frequency of going to the bathroom and looser stools (that's the point, after all!). These kinds of changes are completely normal.
* If you still experience constipation after following the recommendations above, consult your doctor to rule out diseases or other medical conditions.