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Chronic Constipation? Avoid These Three Foods

by Cindy Gray

Four million people across America experience chronic constipation, a condition that causes inconvenience and discomfort. According to the National Institutes of Health, sluggish bowels account for over two million trips to the doctor each year. Because certain foods play a key role in digestive health, what you are putting into your mouth might be what is stopping things up. When it comes to the treatment of constipation, people should eliminate three types of food to see if their condition improves.

Chronic Constipation? Avoid These Three Foods

1. Gluten

People who suffer from chronic constipation may have gluten intolerance or celiac disease, a very serious form of gluten intolerance.  A sticky protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale, gluten comes with a molecular structure that many humans have difficulty digesting.  In addition to constipation, people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease experience bloating, abdominal pain, sore muscles, very dry skin, mouth sores, fatigue, and weight loss.

2. Dairy

Frequent consumption of dairy products like milk, cheese, sour cream, and ice cream may cause constipation in some people.  Scientists aren't exactly sure why dairy causes constipation, but sensitivity to lactose, an enzyme in dairy products, can cause gas and bloating, which make constipation even more uncomfortable.  One study examining constipated Iranian children found that the removal of cow's milk and cow's milk products from their diet promoted more regular bowel movements. 

Related: Natural Treatment for Lactose Intolerance

3. Sugar

Sugar feeds harmful bacteria and yeast in the gut, which can help promote constipation.   In addition to straight table sugar, many sweet products like cakes, cookies, pies, and pastries also contain refined flour which is low in fiber and spikes blood sugar.  Constipation is the most common digestive problem for people with diabetes because nerves located in the digestive tract control how long waste stays in the intestines.  When these nerves become damaged from sustained levels of high blood sugar, constipation can result.

Healthy Constipation Treatment Plan for the Diet

All of the foods mentioned above share one thing in common:  a lack of fiber. While the American Dietetic Association recommends 20 to 35 grams of soluble and insoluble plant fiber each day, Americans typically take in only half of this amount.  Lack of fiber can result in a buildup of pathogens in the colon.  This can cause inflammation which can exacerbate chronic constipation and lead to other, more serious conditions.

Healthy treatment of constipation involves removing gluten, sugar, and dairy foods from the diet and replacing them with high-fiber choices like whole fruits and vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains like quinoa.  The introduction of a psyllium supplement is also a good idea, but people should start gradually to avoid gas, bloating, and other symptoms from the psyllium.

Non-Dietary Constipation Solutions

In addition to modifying the diet, constipation treatment might include getting regular exercise, reducing stress, or taking a daily probiotic that helps boost healthy bacteria in the gut.  People should also make sure to drink plenty of water each day – roughly 6 to 8 glasses should help. 

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