Certain foods can help treat constipation, a common condition marked by infrequent bowel movements. On the other hand, some foods or dietary habits can worsen constipation or increase your constipation risk. Although constipation may require medical treatment in some cases, most people can ease constipation by making lifestyle changes and choosing the right foods.
Fiber-Rich Foods for Constipation Relief
Following a diet high in fiber-rich foods helps protect against constipation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). By consuming 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily, you can help your digestive system to form soft, bulky stool that is easy to pass. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends slowly increasing your intake of high-fiber foods in order to prevent bloating, cramping, and gas.
Foods high in fiber include whole grains (such as brown rice, barley, and quinoa), certain vegetables and fruits (especially dried fruits), flaxseed, and legumes (such as beans and lentils). Here's a look at the amount of fiber found in specific foods that may help with constipation:
navy beans (9.5 grams of fiber per ½ cup)
kidney beans (8.2 grams of fiber per ½ cup)
pinto beans (7.7 grams of fiber per ½ cup)
artichokes (6.5 per artichoke)
sweet potatoes (4.8 grams in one medium sweet potato)
pears (4.4 grams in one small pear)
green peas (4.4 grams per ½ cup)
raspberries (4 grams per ½ cup)
prunes (3.8 grams per ½ cup)
apples (3.3 grams in one medium apple)
People with a sensitivity to gluten should opt for vegetables and fruit, quinoa, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, and brown rice, and avoid grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. Oats are acceptable as long as they are certified gluten-free.
When increasing your intake of high-fiber foods, it's important to drink plenty of fluids. Liquids help the body to digest fiber, and provide constipation relief by adding bulk to stools (which makes bowel movements easier). Aim for eight glasses of water per day.
Magnesium-Rich Foods for Constipation Relief
There's some evidence that running low on magnesium may increase your constipation risk. For instance, a 2007 study of 3,835 women (published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition) found that those with the lowest magnesium intake were the most likely to experience constipation.
Adult males ages 19 to 30 need 400 mg of magnesium daily, while men ages 31 and up need 420 mg. Adult females ages 19 to 30 need 310 mg daily, and women ages 31 and up need 320 mg.
Here's a list of magnesium-rich foods that may help fight constipation:
almonds (80 mg of magnesium per ounce)
cashews (75 mg of magnesium per ounce)
cooked spinach (75 mg of magnesium per ½ cup)
shredded wheat cereal (55 mg of magnesium in two rectangular biscuits)
fortified instant oatmeal prepared with water (55 mg of magnesium per cup)
baked potato with skin (50 mg of magnesium in one medium potato)
peanuts (50 mg of magnesium per ounce)
cooked lentils (35 mg of magnesium per ½ cup)
smooth peanut butter (25 mg of magnesium per tablespoon)
Foods to Avoid for Constipation Relief
Cutting back on refined, processed grains (such as white rice, white bread, and white pasta) and replacing them with whole grains can boost your fiber intake and protect against constipation.
Reducing your intake of fatty foods (including cheese, ice cream, and meats) may also decrease your constipation risk. In addition, it's important to limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks). These foods can cause dehydration, which may in turn trigger constipation.
Should You Use Foods to Fight Constipation?
To treat constipation effectively, it's important to combine a diet high in fiber-rich foods with certain lifestyle changes (such as regular exercise and adequate intake of fluids). In some cases, patients may also require further treatment (such as doctor-prescribed laxatives or biofeedback). If foods and lifestyle changes alone fail to relieve your constipation, talk to your doctor about other treatment options.
More than 100,000 cases of cancer each year are caused by excess body fat, according to a report released Thursday in Washington.
Researchers with the American Institute for Cancer Research looked at seven cancers with known links to obesity and calculated actual case counts that were likely to have been caused by obesity.
Specifically, the report says that 49 percent of endometrial cancers are caused by excess body fat. That number is followed by 35 percent of esophageal cancer cases; 28 percent of pancreatic cancer cases; 24 percent of kidney cancer cases; 21 percent of gallbladder cancer cases; 17 percent of breast cancer cases; and 9 percent of colorectal cancer cases.
"This is the first time that we've put real, quantifiable case numbers on obesity-related cancers," said Glen Weldon, the American Institute for Cancer Research educational director. In addition, he said, it's not just causing cancer that's an issue.
"Obesity not only raises the risk for getting cancer," Weldon said. "It also has a negative effect on survival and can make treatment more difficult."
Although there is no concrete science on why obesity increases a person's risk for cancer, scientists hypothesize that excess estrogen released by body fat could be the culprit in cancers such as estrogen-receptor positive breast cancers.
Studies have also shown that increased body fat can lead to increased levels of oxidative stress and inflammatory compounds in the blood, which are linked to DNA mutation and diseased cell growth, as is seen in many cancers.
The American Cancer Society applauded the new research, but said the report is only the first step.
"This helps to communicate the magnitude of the problem," said Dr. Michael Thun, vice president emeritus at the American Cancer Society.
"While the study addresses the magnitude of the problem, it does not propose potential solutions. The bottom line for people concerned about this issue is to try to balance the calories you take in with those your body expends every day."
In addition to cancer, obesity is a known cause of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and strokes.
Herbal remedies made from plant leaves, bark, berries, flowers, and roots have been used to heal illnesses, diseases, and psychological disorders for centuries. Today, with the ease of the internet, you can self-diagnose, order next day delivery, and even learn how to make your own. Last year three million Britons took herbal remedies to treat everything from fever to joint pain.
But renewed debate about the safety of these remedies was sparked last week following the news of an EU crackdown on herbalists and Chinese medicine practitioners who operate unregulated at present. Under the new law, from 2011 sales of all herbal remedies except for a small number of products for minor ailments will also be banned. Regulators warn that many of us believe that "herbal" is synonymous with "safe", whereas herbal remedies can be deadly"Research we conducted last year found a significant proportion of people believed 'herbal' means 'benign'," says Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy at the Medicines and Health care products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). "That means people are more liable to self-medicate, and to neglect to inform their doctors, even though there's a risk that the herbal remedy will react with any prescription drugs. They're also more vulnerable to fraudulent, even criminal operators who put products out which are heavily adulterated with dangerous pharmaceuticals."
The actress Sophie Winkleman is reported to have taken aconite, or monkshood, found in some 'herbal Valium' last month to calm her nerves prior to her wedding to Freddie Windsor.
The plant while relatively harmless in licensed homeopathic remedies in which it is rigorously diluted, can be extremely dangerous, in herbal remedies, even lethal.
"If you were to buy aconite root, which is banned from licensed herbal products in the UK, but can still be found in products bought over the internet, and make yourself a herbal tea with it, you'd be dead within five minutes," says Dr Linda Anderson, Pharmaceutical Assessor of the MHRA.
Last year, scientists at Boston University found that a fifth of Ayurvedic medicines – popular traditional Indian herbal remedies – bought over the internet contained dangerous levels of lead, mercury or arsenic, which could cause stomach pains, vomiting or liver problems.
Earlier this year, herbal arthritis remedies came under scrutiny when looked at as part of the Arthritis Research Campaign's (ARC) study of complementary therapies. "Not only did we find that in two-thirds of cases, there was no evidence they actually worked, but one Chinese remedy used to combat rheumatoid arthritis – Thunder god vine – was also reported to be extremely poisonous if not extracted properly," says ARC spokeswoman Jane Tadman.
Menopause remedies also came under fire after a study reported in the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin, a journal that reviews medical treatment, found no evidence they actually worked. Gynaecologist Heather Curry of the British Menopause Society says: "Our feeling is that there isn't enough scientific evidence either on effectiveness or safety." A German study last year found the "herbal antidepressant" St Johns wort to be as effective as standard antidepressants such as Prozac.
However, side effects such as dry mouth, dizziness and stomach pains have been widely reported and it interacts strongly with some prescription drugs such as Warfarin and oral contraceptives. And in April, an MHRA investigation into Jia Ji Jian, sometimes marketed as 'herbal Viagra', revealed it contained up to four times the level of pharmaceuticals found in legally prescribed anti-obesity and anti-erectile dysfunction medicinal products, which can cause serious side effects including heart and blood pressure problems. As a herbal remedy it should not contain any pharmaceuticals at all.
"Drug interaction is a big area of concern," says Professor Edzard Ermst, professor of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University. "Herbal medicines may have been around for thousands of years, but the new synthetic drugs haven't and how they interact is still uncharted territory."
The MHRA believes regulating the herbal medicine industry is the best way to limit abuses and ensure consumers are aware of potential dangers. All herbal medicines sold over the counter in the UK should according to the law be licensed. The MHRA assesses them on safety, quality and patient information. By 2011 a new scheme, which is currently being rolled out, will be in place.
"Check for products which have the THR (Traditional Herbal Register) or Product Licence (PL) number on the label," advises Richard Woodfield.
Many herbal practitioners want even further regulation."We want to be registered," says Dee Atkinson, spokesperson for the National Institute of Medical Herbalists and herself a qualified medical herbalist. "Herbs are not harmless, they are drugs, just as pharmaceuticals are drugs and as such they should be prescribed by a qualified, registered practitioner.
"As a rule of thumb, I'd say that for any conditions or problems you'd normally go to a chemist for, you can visit a shop that sells over-the-counter herbal medicines, but anything beyond that you should be seeing a qualified, and we'd like to see registered, professional. Never order anything off the internet unless it's from a UK-based, recognised herbal company."
Richard Woodfield of the MHRA agrees. "Avoid unlicensed herbal remedies, particularly those sold on the internet and steer clear of anything claiming to be "100% safe" or "safe because it's natural". Like any other drugs, herbs can have side effects. Look for the THR or PL standard on the label and consult with your doctor if taking any prescription medicine."