One of the most common of health complaints has to do with irregular bowel movements and poor digestion. In a world where processed foods and sugary foods are more available and widely consumed than ever, it’s no coincidence that our food intake has negatively impacted our digestive systems.
But instead of taking harsh laxatives
that actually hurt your body and can hurt your digestive tract over the
long haul, just eat more of these real, whole foods that improve
digestion and constipation the way nature intended.
Why not just take fiber pills and laxatives?
Laxatives trigger the colon to
quickly empty its contents. Although you may end up emptying the bowel,
this doesn’t resolve the wastes in the small intestine, often a problem
in individuals with chronic irregularity. Laxatives can weaken the bowel
and it can get “lazy,” meaning you have to regularly take laxatives
just to find relief. As the bowel becomes more sluggish over time,
wastes end up accumulating, which can lead to back pain, sluggishness
and never having a “complete” movement. When you are regular by nature,
your entire system will empty out and you won’t have diarrhea or quick,
harsh movements like you do with laxatives.
Then there are the issues of
chemicals used in laxatives. One of the leading ingredients in the most
popular laxative, Miralax, which is said to be the safest, is known as
propylene glycol. This is a petroleum product that is used to make
various items, from antifreeze to brake fluid, even to forms of
gasoline. It has been shown to cause mood disorders, dementia, autism,
stomach pain, and more.
Along with laxatives, you’ve probably
been told that you need to increase your fiber intake to treat
constipation. Chalky fibers, tablets and fiber crackers are in every
drugstore nationwide. The problem isn’t just that we’re avoiding fiber,
it’s also that we’re lacking in whole foods. What does this mean? It
means our body doesn’t know what to do with processed foods, including
fiber pills, powders and supplements. The processed version may get part
of the job done but these don’t fill you up, satisfy your cravings or
give your body the nutrients that simple foods do. Let’s take a look at
15 whole foods that work much better!
Organic dried plums (prunes)
Perhaps the most well-known remedy for constipation is organic dried plums, or what you might know as prunes. Prune
juice is also an effective remedy but doesn’t contain all the benefits
that whole prunes do. Whole prunes (which are dried plums) are rich in
mood-boosting benefits that enhance serotonin in the body. Since
serotonin is produced in the gut, it naturally triggers regular
movements as it promotes a relaxed state in the body. Prunes also
contain magnesium and potassium, two critical minerals needed for
regularity and a more calm state of mind. Prunes contain the natural
sugar known as sorbitol as well as soluble fiber, both of which trigger
bowel movements naturally, quickly and effectively. Buy organic dried
plums since regular dried plums contain chemicals from processing such
as sulfites or BHT.
Berries are one of the best foods for
treating constipation because they contain a mix of soluble and
insoluble fibers as well as potassium and vitamin C. Soluble fiber helps
increase regular, whole movements while insoluble fiber moves quickly
through the system helping you avoid sluggishness. Vitamin C also treats
constipation by improving the rate at which food moves through the
system, and potassium helps relieve high blood pressure and nervousness
that can cause IBS-related constipation.
Apples contain a fiber known as
pectin which moves food through the gut and removes cholesterol and
toxins with it. Apples also contain natural sugars and vitamin C that
effectively treat constipation. If you have sensitivities to FODMAPS and
find that apples cause bloating, try unsweetened applesauce instead,
which is easier for the body to break down.
Sweet potatoes are fantastic for
regularity and constipation. They are rich in magnesium, potassium,
vitamin C and natural sugars that promote regularity. Their real magic
comes from their ability to improve mood and enhance serotonin
production in the body. Sweet potatoes relax the mood and digestive
system, and their fiber helps ensure wastes move regularly through the
is another powerful treatment for constipation — it’s even recommended
by many vets for constipation in dogs! But we can take advantage of
pumpkin’s powers on digestion too. This wonderfully low-sugar
veggie/fruit is rich in soluble fiber, low in sugar and high in water.
It moves through the system gently and naturally. It’s also very soft
and easy for the body to breakdown. You can stir cooked pumpkin into
soup, oatmeal, smoothies and much more!
Zucchini, yellow and all winter
squash are also fantastic alternatives for constipation treatment! These
veggies/fruits are rich in vitamin C, potassium and water, which is a
powerful trio to combat constipation. Squash can help increase the speed
at which food moves through the body and its fiber helps ensure full
movements with a gentle effect on the system.
If you regularly eat beets, constipation
will become a thing of the past, guaranteed! Beets are one of the best
cleansers you can eat for a variety of reasons. They remedy
constipation, enhance regularity, cleanse the liver of toxins, and keep
oxygen moving through the blood. They are also high in vitamin C,
magnesium, potassium, and nitric oxide to enhance brain and heart
function. If you haven’t ever liked beets or tried them, I suggest
roasting them in the oven. They take on a softer texture and caramelized
flavor. Chop them into quarters with some sweet potatoes, place on a
pan, and roast them for 45 minutes with whatever herbs you like. They’re
delicious hot, or chilled the next day!
there anything kale can’t do? One of its best attributes is the natural
cleansing effect kale has. Kale is a powerful source of magnesium and
chlorophyll. Magnesium helps soften the stool and relax the digestive
system to get things moving, while chlorophyll cleanses the entire
system! Kale is also rich in vitamin C, potassium, and B vitamins to
promote a stronger digestive system and a happier mood. Enjoy it raw or
cooked, both are great!
Like kale, spinach is high in B
vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and chlorophyll. It has the same
benefits, but with a sweeter taste and more protein (5 grams per cup).
Enjoy baby spinach in salads, cooked spinach in entrees like soup or
stews, or mix a little spinach into your next green smoothie to really
get things going!
Beans are commonly known as being a
high-fiber option to cure constipation. However, if you already have a
backup and are sensitive to lots of fiber, stay away from beans until
things get better. Instead, opt for very easy-to-digest legumes such as lentils (or
green peas). Both of these options give you the same benefits as beans,
but are very easy to digest and require no soaking or special prep.
They also produce less gas and are very high in protein.
Wild rice is an aquatic grass, not a
rice grain at all. It’s simple to digest, gluten-free and is one of the
best foods to promote serotonin in the body. It’s also higher in fiber,
iron and antioxidants than brown or black rice. Wild rice has a nutty
flavor and cooks just like regular rice; it is high in potassium and is
linked to better weight loss than other types of rice or grains.
Gluten-free oats or oat bran
Oats are one of the best foods you
can eat to prevent constipation, but because they’re usually processed
with wheat, you’ll want to choose gluten-free oats to be safe. Oats are a
unique grain because they’re lower in carbs and higher in fiber and
protein than all other types of grains. They’re also high in
mood-boosting B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Enjoy whole gluten-free oats or gluten-free oat bran. You can add these
to smoothies, soak them overnight, bake with them, or cook them as a
porridge. Stir in some raisins, prunes or dried figs as another weapon
This protein-packed seed is fantastic
not only for constipation but also for maintaining a regular system
around the clock. Quinoa promotes a calm mind, contains soluble fiber to
ensure regular movements, breaks down easily in the body, is gluten and
grain-free, and is high in magnesium and potassium. You can cook quinoa
like all other grains; choose red varieties for a sweeter flavor and
white varieties for a nutty flavor.
Spirulina is a superfood with amazing
benefits for your whole body. Let’s start with its high chlorophyll
content, which cleanses the whole body of impurities starting in the
bowel. Spirulina is higher in chlorophyll than any other food aside from
chlorella, another super algae you can use for detoxification. Choose
toxic-free spirulina since a high-quality brand will ensure it was
produced in clean waters. Spirulina is also high in iron, vitamin B12,
vitamin A and potassium. You can take it in tablet form, or add
spirulina powder to smoothies to mask its taste.
Seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp, sunflower, sesame)
All seeds are great for digestion and
are easier on the system than nuts (which can be a bit heavy on an
already full system). Some of the best seeds to treat constipation are
flax, hemp, pumpkin and chia seeds. These seeds are small and easy for
the body to break down, and they’re very high in fiber and magnesium.
Hemp, chia and pumpkin seeds are a great source of chlorophyll, iron,
magnesium and omega-3 fats. Flax is also high in omega-3 fats, which is
part of the reason it is known as one of the best foods to treat constipation. Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are good options too.
The best way to take advantage of
these foods is to work them into simple meals each and every day. Think
about your meals and how you could replace some unhealthy choices with
simple, whole foods like those mentioned here. Do you have any recipe
ideas using these delicious foods?
—The Alternative Daily