Constipation is non regularity of moves in less than three times a week caused by slow movement of the large intestine and the usual symptoms of this problem is a feel of bloating, pain in the belly and stomach pressure. According to statistics which have been made in Greece, constipation affects one in seven people although it is more common in women and the elderly.
Constipation can be something temporary or can be permanent. Temporary constipation can be caused by bad nutrition, change of environment, psychological reasons like depression, some pharmaceutical action or hormonal disturbance like pregnancy and menopause. In opposite, the permanent historical constipation can be caused by some illness or some pharmaceutical action from some years.
Pharmaceutical action is used for constipation and must be applied only if nutritional changes can not bring any positive results. Nutritionally, constipation can be faced with an intake of a large amount of natural sources like dry legumes, fruit and vegetables. Dry legumes should be consumed 2-3 times a week and also there should be a daily consumption of 5 portions of fruit and they should be consumed together with their skin especially apples, orange, peaches, strawberries, plums, figs and kiwis. From vegetables it is preferred to consume broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, turnip, different greens, okra and potatoes with their skin and peas. Except from legumes, fruit and vegetables, a good source of fibre are the wholemeals (brown bread, unaffectedly cereals) brown rice and they must be consumed on a regular basis.
Research support that the consuming of honey helps constipation because it includes priobiotics,(oligosacharites and inulin). Basil is also a herb that helps increase movement of the intestine and can be used in salads and for tea. Another beneficial supplement for constipation is olive oil and it must be consumed with measure by our dietician.
Another important aspect for constipation is the increased consumption of liquids and especially water ( up to 2 litres daily) although it should be included in the daily programme as a form of exercise just like jogging, running and cycling. Exercise helps to improve the gastric system to be in a better condition so 20-30 minutes of walking or a lot of exercise helps the movement of the intestine.
Generally in solving the problem of constipation there must be a consumption of food which are rich in natural fibre just like brown cereal, brown rice and pasta, legumes, fruit and vegetables. Also water (2L) is an important aspect that should be consumed daily. In some cases the high consumption of dairy products, meat, sugary food, cold meat, alcohol can bring bad results or worsen constipation and they must be avoided. People whom take iron tablets, can cause severe constipation so it is advisable to minimize the intake of the tablets or stop them ( with a doctors advice).
Yiannis Kerimis MSc RD