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Ask the Experts

Preventing and alleviating constipation naturally

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Q: How can I prevent or alleviate constipation, naturally?

A: Constipation is a common concern, and chances are you too have experienced some irregularity. How do you know if you’re irregular? If you’re having fewer than one bowel movement per day, often straining during the movement and passing hard stool, you’re likely constipated. If that description sounds familiar, it might be time to try a change in diet.

Constipation can arise when you don’t drink enough water or take in enough fibre, eat highly processed food, or don’t make time to have a bowel movement. Other factors that can contribute to constipation are business travel, a change in diet, a lack of exercise, low thyroid, or iron supplementation.

Most of us get only 10 to 15 g of fibre per day. To prevent constipation, you should increase your daily fibre intake to 25 g if you’re a woman (38 g per day for men). Adding the right type of fibre to your diet will gently solve irregularity. Many high-fibre foods are also a good source of prebiotics, which enhance the growth of probiotics in the digestive tract, leading to better digestion and fewer instances of constipation.

Some examples of prebiotic-rich foods include leeks, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onion, wheat bran, bananas, apples, chicory, and guar beans.

Guar beans—also called cluster beans—contain guar fibre, which is a natural bowel regulator. As a water-soluble fibre, guar fibre is FODMAP friendly, can help treat diarrhea and constipation, and may also increase the absorption of minerals like calcium and iron.

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, guar fibre may help to improve your bowel regularity; relieve constipation and gastrointestinal discomfort; and minimize abdominal discomfort, like flatulence, bloating, and indigestion.

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