If you suffer from infrequent bowel movements that are difficult to pass, your diet may be to blame. Constipation can be caused by dehydration or a diet too low in fiber. A lack of physical activity, illness and certain medications can also cause constipation. Increase your fluid intake and add fiber-rich foods to your diet to try and relieve constipation naturally.
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Chronic constipation may be the sign of an underlying illness. Talk to your doctor.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that you eat at least 35 to 30 g of fiber daily to help relieve constipation. High-fiber food choices include whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits. A half-cup of fresh berries provides between 2 and 4 g of fiber, but a half cup of legumes may be a better choice -- lentils have more than 6 g of fiber and black beans have 9 g of fiber per half-cup serving. Increase your fiber intake slowly to avoid gastric distress.
Dehydration can lead to constipation; consuming enough fluids will help keep you regular. Most people need more than eight 8-oz. glasses of water daily, reports Elizabeth Landau for CNN Health. Men may need up to 13 glasses of water and women may need nine. Pregnant or nursing women may need more. Sodas and caffeinated drinks don't count toward your daily fluid intake total; neither does alcohol. Staying hydrated can also aid in weight loss, as long as you choose calorie-free beverages.
Fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir contain beneficial bacteria -- called probiotics -- that keep your digestive system functioning smoothly. Dannon has introduced a line of yogurt called Activia that is specifically designed to promote regularity. Dannon is so confident that two weeks of eating Activia will end your constipation that the company offers a money-back guarantee called the "Activia Promise." Activia contains a specific bacteria, Bifidus Rrgularis -- Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 -- that helps to regulate your digestive system.
Foods to Avoid and Other Tips
It's important to limit foods that can cause constipation. Refined grain products that are low in fiber, meat, processed foods and foods high in fat should be eaten sparingly, says the Mayo Clinic. Regular exercise can also help keep your bowels regular, so include some type of physical activity daily. Although the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse says the most common causes of constipation are poor diet and lack of exercise, irregularity can also be a symptom of specific illnesses. Consult your physician if dietary changes don't relive your chronic constipation.