Constipation is a delay or difficulty in evacuating stools. It can be occasional or chronic if the problem has been going on for more than 3 months. Constipation occurs when there are less than 3 stools per week. The special constipation diet aims to integrate anti-constipation foods that stimulate transit by providing dietary fibre. It also aims to reduce the symptoms that often accompany chronic constipation: bloating, gas, abdominal pain, etc.
The main points of the anti-constipation diet:
Special diet for constipation and ballooning: understand everything in 2 minutes
- Have good hydration
- Reduce the consumption of difficult-to-digest foods
- Avoid aggressive laxatives
- Move more
Benefits of the anti-constipation diet
The special diet for constipation and bloating allows you to:
- Choosing the right foods to fight constipation
- Knowing how to recognize and avoid a food that constipates
- Learn some tips to integrate more anti-constipation foods into your daily routine
- Adopt new lifestyle habits to better manage constipation
Chronic constipation management includes educating the patient about new lifestyles. Whether the transit is slow or normal, it is always necessary to implement dietary changes, lifestyle changes and sometimes even drug treatment.
Constipation and diet: dietary recommendations
By adopting the special constipation diet, it is quite possible to regain more comfort on a daily basis. This diet increases the consumption of anti-constipation foods. By adopting new lifestyle habits (hydration, exercise, etc.) it is possible to fight constipation.
What foods to eat in case of constipation?
There are several foods that can help fight constipation: dietary fibre, natural laxatives and good hydration. In this sheet we give you all the necessary advice to overcome constipation through diet.
Most dietary fibre is neither digested nor absorbed. They therefore remain in the intestine, increase the volume of stool and soften it. It is recommended to consume 25 to 30g of fibre per day. Overall, fruits, vegetables, cereals and legumes contain the most fibre. There are two types of fibres, each with its own advantages. Soluble fibre is quickly fermented by bacteria in the colon and soaks up water. Insoluble fibres, on the other hand, are not fermentable but promote elimination. There are a few exceptions to this rule: some soluble fibres (oats or psyllium) are soluble but promote elimination. The fibres found in citrus fruits and vegetables stimulate the growth of bacterial flora in the colon, which increases fecal mass and can help to facilitate bowel movements.
Anti-constipation foods that are sources of insoluble fibre:
- Wheat bran and cereals
- Whole grains and derivatives
- Cauliflower, peas, spinach, turnips, green beans
- Nuts and seeds
Foods that are sources of soluble fibre to be included in the special constipation diet:
- Psyllium and enriched cereals
- Oat bran and cereals
- Citrus fruits, mango and prunes
- Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, carrot, onion
The special constipation diet is a diet rich in dietary fibre. For some people, however, increased fibre intake can cause bloating and swelling in the stomach, as well as gas. It is therefore very important to start with small amounts and gradually increase the fibre intake, always according to tolerance and effectiveness. It is recommended to increase the intake of 5g of fibre per week, no more. As the effect can be felt after two or three months of an anti-constipation diet, you should not give up too quickly.
A good level of hydration improves constipation symptoms, combined with an adequate supply of dietary fibre. Soluble fibre swells with water and allows the gastric contents to slide off for evacuation. Although there are very few studies on the subject, the Institute of Medicine recommends drinking 2 litres of water per day for women and 3 litres for men.
If water is the only essential drink, it is quite possible to alternate with clear broths, lemon water, infused water and even herbal tea. Be careful, however, juices, sodas and other sweet drinks should be avoided. In the morning, however, drinking coffee or tea could have a positive impact on intestinal function. Caffeine stimulates the smooth muscles that make up the digestive system. A study of 1705 women linked coffee consumption to a modest decrease in constipation.
Whole grain products
Fibre from grain products generally has cell walls that are resistant to digestion and retain water in their cell structures. Wheat bran is one of the most effective natural laxatives, but it can aggravate bloating and abdominal pain in cases of irritable bowel syndrome or diverticulitis. We must therefore be careful. The larger the fibrous particles, as in the case of cereal products, the greater the laxative effect.
The prune and its juice contain a substance called dihydroxyphenylisatin. This would be able to stimulate peristalsis (contractions of the digestive system) naturally. In a clinical study, they have been shown to be effective in fighting constipation.
The use of fibre supplements may also be considered if fibre intake is limited by poor or insufficient diet. Mucilaginous laxatives such as psyllium combined with dietary fibre are the most effective approach to combat chronic constipation.
Mucilaginous laxatives include psyllium seeds, methycellulose, calcium polycarbophil and inulin. These are natural or synthetic polysaccharides or cellulose derivatives that exert their laxative effect by absorbing water and increasing fecal mass. They are effective in increasing stool frequency and softening, with minimal adverse effects. As mentioned above, it is essential to start with small doses and gradually increase in order to minimize gastric discomfort. Do not take any medication within one hour of taking mucilaginous laxatives.
|Mucilaginous laxatives||Quantity per intake||Deadline for action|
|Psyllium||1 tablespoon up to 3 times a day||12 to 72 hours|
|Methycellulose||1 tablespoon or 4 capsules up to 3 times a day||12 to 72 hours|
|Calcium polycarbophil||2 to 4 capsules per day||24 to 48 hours|
|Wheat dextrin||1 to 3 capsules up to 3 times a day||24 to 48 hours|
Other recommended foods:
In the table below, find the fibre content of foods for constipation:
|Category||Foodstuffs||Serving size||Fibre content (in g)|
|Fruits||AppleBananaOrangePrune||1 fruit1 fruit1|
|Fruit juices||Citrus fruitsAppleGrape||250 ml250|
|Cooked vegetables||Green beansCarrotsPeasPotato|
|Raw vegetables||Cucumber (with skin|
|1 cup1 cup1|
|Breads and flours||White|
|1 tranche1 tranche1|
|1 cup1 cup1|
|Nuts and seeds||AlmondsPeanutsChia|
|1 tablespoon1 tablespoon1|
Foods to avoid against constipation
Beware of certain foods that constipate, either because they slow down gastric emptying or because they do not contain enough fibre. In the special constipation diet, we learn to recognize these foods and avoid them.
Refined cereal products
Refined cereal products are very low in fibre, so they can interfere with stool evacuation. Refined products have become very common, among them: white bread, classic starchy foods such as instant rice and pasta, breakfast cereals, potato preparations, commercial biscuits and cakes, etc.
Meat, a food that constipates?
It is recommended to avoid fatty meats, chicken skin and deli meats. Meat in general does not provide fibre, its proteins are slow to digest and slow down gastric emptying. It is advisable to choose leaner pieces that will be easier to digest than fat pieces.
Foods high in fat generally contain little fibre. This is the case for cream, cheese, processed foods and oils. They can cause constipation to worsen. It is recommended to reduce the consumption of butter, margarine, vegetable oil and sauce. However, a reasonable amount of it is still required in the diet. In this case, oils rich in omega-3 such as linseed, walnut or rapeseed oil are preferred.
Avoid aggressive laxatives
Laxative treatments can damage the intestine and cause significant damage. In addition, the digestive system can become accustomed to functioning with the help of these laxatives and become dependent on them. Emollients and mineral oil soften stools by moisturizing them and sometimes cause diarrhea. As far as natural products are concerned, even if many highlight anti-constipation properties, there is no control to prove their harmlessness. They often contain active ingredients similar to those of commercial laxatives, they are generally not recommended. This type of laxative should only be considered if all other measures have not worked, on the advice of your doctor.
Alcohol and tobacco
Alcohol and tobacco are two disruptors of intestinal transit. In the long term, they can aggravate constipation. It is recommended not to smoke and to reduce alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
Other foods not recommended:
- Industrial foodstuffs
- Sweet products
- Excess salt
Practical daily tips for integrating anti-constipation foods
- Replace refined cereal products with brown rice, whole grain starch and bread made with whole grain flour
- Eat more fruit with fibre: apple and pear with skin, red fruit, dried fruit
- Choose high-fibre vegetables: artichokes, peas, beets, carrots, courgettes, broccoli, etc.
- Eat more legumes, excellent sources of fibre
- Add legumes to soups, salads and dishes
- Choosing fibre-enriched cereals and biscuits
- In baking, replace conventional flour with whole wheat flour and add oat bran to baked goods
- Add oat bran or wheat bran to your yoghurts, compotes, soups and salads
- As a snack, eat a small handful of oilseeds and dried fruit
- Read food labels and choose products that contain more than 2g of fibre per serving
- Drink prune juice in the morning
- Chew food long enough to facilitate digestive work
To go further
Patients with chronic constipation are often advised to have a bowel movement when the need arises. This recommendation is based on the fact that many people have a bowel movement every day at the same time. However, no studies have examined the issue and evaluated this recommendation. However, it is known that half of the colon is higher after meals and more particularly in the morning after breakfast. These periods seem to be the best times to try to have a bowel movement.
Should we eat probiotics?
For the time being, probiotics are not systematically recommended for people suffering from constipation. While some studies have demonstrated the benefits of probiotics on intestinal transit, others will be necessary before any conclusions can be drawn.
To find out your current dietary fibre intake, take our test “Do you have a high fibre diet?”
Regular physical activity and constipation
Increasing physical activity is often recommended in people with chronic constipation. Some studies have shown that it can reduce constipation symptoms in the elderly. Although some studies indicate that constipation is more common in sedentary people, there are only a few studies on this subject. Although there is insufficient evidence to date to establish a link between constipation and sedentary life, physical activity has many positive health effects.