Constipation is one of the most common intestinal maladies in Western societies, and may occur in 5% to 25% of population or more. These patients are troubled more by physical discomfort of straining, hard stools or incomplete evacuation of stools. In adults, the normal stool weight is approximately 100 to 200 grams daily and normal frequency may range from one stool every 3 days to three times per day.
Constipation may be caused due to sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise or mobility, inadequate fiber intake, laxative abuse, ignoring the urge to defecate or some diseases.
Primary nutrition therapy for constipation is consumption of adequate amounts of fiber, both soluble and insoluble, as well as fluids. Dietary fiber is defined as non-digestible part of the plant that escapes digestion in the small intestine in normal humans. Increasing dietary fiber may result in increased fecal output.
Fiber can be increased in the diet by increasing the consumption of high-fiber cereals, granolas, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Bran and powdered fiber supplements may be helpful in persons who cannot eat sufficient amounts of fibrous foods. These concentrates are palatable and can be added to cereals, yogurts, fruit juices and soups.
Consumption of at least 2 liters of fluids daily is recommended to facilitate the effectiveness of high fiber diet. Water is the choice of fluid here. Fluids such as sodas or aerated drinks should not be substituted for water. Physical activity should be increased as it improves the bowel movements.