Constipation Awareness Month 2023: How Does Diet Affect Constipation? Know Link Between The Two

Constipation is a prevalent condition that impacts around 20% of the population and has a substantial effect on an individual’s quality of life. Standard criteria can be employed to diagnose this condition, and if no alarming signs or symptoms are present, efforts should be made to identify the root cause or causes. The prevalence of constipation is higher in women and adults. Interestingly, there is a profound link between diet and your digestive health, particularly for constipation. 

Importance Of Fibre In Digestive Health:

Fibre plays a pivotal role in digestive health, coming in two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre, dissolving in water to form a gel-like substance, softens stools, while insoluble fibre adds bulk, aiding stool movement through the digestive tract. Both types are crucial for regular bowel movements.

Talking about this, Dr. Harshad Joshi, who is a Principal Consultant – Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Therapeutic Endoscopy at Nanavati Max Super Speciality Hospital, Mumbai said, “The advantages of a high-fibre diet extend beyond constipation prevention. These foods enhance stool bulk, improve digestive transit, and foster the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, contributing to overall gut health and potentially reducing gastrointestinal disorders. Promoting a balanced diet rich in fibre and adequate hydration is fundamental in constipation management. Encouraging gradual incorporation of fibre-rich foods and maintaining hydration levels effectively alleviates symptoms and supports long-term gastrointestinal health.”

In addition, Dr. M S Sandeep, who is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Chinmaya Mission Hospital, Indiranagar, Bangalore said, “Secondly, fibre helps to retain water in the stool, keeping it soft and easier to pass. This is particularly important for individuals who may experience dry, hard stools, a common characteristic of constipation.”

Sources Of Fibre:

Dr. M S Sandeep said, “Soluble fibre, found in foods like oats, apples, and beans, absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance, helping to soften the stool. Insoluble fibre, found in whole grains, nuts, and vegetables, adds bulk to the stool and helps it pass more quickly and easily through the intestines.”

“It’s important to gradually increase fibre intake and ensure adequate hydration, as fibre works best when absorbed with water. This combination not only helps in alleviating constipation but also contributes to the overall health of the digestive system,” he added.

Also, according to Dr. Pallavi Kiradi, who is an Ayurveda Expert at Herbalife Nutrition, “It is imperative to recognise that the choices we make in our daily diet can impact our overall well-being. The first step towards a healthy bowel is not to hold the natural urge of flatus or defecation which causes colic pain, headache, retention of feces and flatus, cramps in the calf muscles, and distension of the abdomen. Suppressing natural urges is also a major factor to develop constipation. Drink enough water as per the requirements of your body and food.

Hydration And Constipation:

One often overlooked aspect of digestive wellness is the role of hydration. Proper hydration not only supports essential bodily functions but also plays a crucial role in preventing and alleviating common digestive issues such as constipation. Dr Pradeep Mahajan, who is a Regenerative Medicine Researcher and Founder of StemRx BioScience Solutions India sheds light on the vital connection between hydration and digestive health.

He said, “Water is fundamental to the proper functioning of the digestive system. It aids in the breakdown of food, absorption of nutrients, and the smooth passage of waste through the intestines. Dehydration can lead to a range of digestive problems, with constipation being one of the most prevalent issues. When the body lacks sufficient water, the stool becomes harder and more challenging to pass. This can result in constipation, characterized by infrequent bowel movements and discomfort. Chronic dehydration may contribute to long-term digestive issues, emphasizing the need for individuals to prioritise adequate water intake.”

“During dehydration, the body loses important electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which are crucial for various bodily functions. As a result, the balance within the body is disrupted, causing blood pressure to drop. This drop in blood pressure can contribute to feelings of drowsiness and dullness in individuals. It is imperative to recognize the signs of dehydration and take immediate action to rehydrate,” he added.

Practical Tips for Hydration and Digestive Wellness:

Dr Pradeep Mahajan listed the following:

  • Stay Hydrated Throughout the Day: Aim to drink an adequate amount of water consistently throughout the day. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends about 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of total daily water intake for men and 2.7 liters (91 ounces) for women, including all beverages and food.
  • Include Hydrating Foods: Incorporate water-rich foods into your diet, such as fruits and vegetables. These not only contribute to overall hydration but also provide essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Limit Dehydrating Beverages: Reduce the consumption of dehydrating beverages, such as caffeinated and alcoholic drinks. These can contribute to increased fluid loss.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals for thirst and respond promptly. Waiting until you feel thirsty may indicate that your body is already mildly dehydrated.