Published Date April 07, 2022

Constipation: A Hard Truth

By Arpita Sudev

5 min read

All about food, water, fibre-rich foods and constipation

Constipation is a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels, usually associated with hardened faeces. It is a topic that most of us don’t want to have candid conversations about, especially when it comes to our own. It happens most often due to changes in diet or routine, or due to inadequate intake of fibre. Constipation can occur to anyone, at any age.

It happens when your colon absorbs too much water from waste (stool/poop), which dries out the stool, making it hard in consistency and difficult to push out of the body. The partially digested food (waste) that remains, moves from the small intestine to the large intestine. The colon absorbs water from this waste, which creates a solid matter called stool. In constipation, the stool becomes dry, hard, and difficult to push out.

Generally, having fewer than 3 bowel movements a week is the technical definition of constipation. The pattern varies from person to person. Some other key factors that usually define constipation include:

  • Your stools are dry and hard.
  • Your bowel movement is painful and stools are difficult to pass.
  • You have a feeling that you have not fully emptied your bowels.
  • You are feeling bloated or uncomfortable.
  • You are feeling sluggish.
  • You are experiencing abdominal pain.

What can cause constipation? [2]

  • Not getting enough fibre in the diet
  • Medications
  • Lack of exercise/physical activity
  • Dehydration/Not having enough liquids
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Changes in habits or lifestyle, such as travel, pregnancy, and old age
  • Problems with intestinal function/ post-surgery conditions
  • Abuse of laxatives

Ways to manage

Food: Increase your fibre intake. Fibre-rich foods have long been known to contribute to healthy digestion. Legumes (like beans and peas), broccoli, whole grains, and nuts are a few foods that are high in fibre. It is recommended to consume 25 grams of fibre per day for those aged 19-50, and 21 grams for those aged over 50. Add some wheat bran, oats, or linseed to your diet.

Foods to avoid: Milk, red meat, cheese, and fried foods are high in fat. High-fat foods tend to be low in fibre and can slow down your digestion. Hence, these foods should be avoided as much as possible to prevent constipation.

Water: Water is very important to keep your body hydrated. Drinking water not only keeps you hydrated but also helps loosen and soften your stool, especially if you're eating a lot of fibre. If you’re tired of plain water, try adding a piece of lime or lemon to change it up, or try any fruit-infused drinks. Warm drinks such as tea, warm juices or warm lemon water may also help stimulate a bowel movement.

Laxatives: There are a lot of laxatives, ranging from pills to liquids to enemas, that can help if you’re feeling constipated.

  • Magnesium hydroxide: It helps relieve constipation by drawing water into the intestines from other areas of your body. It's a fast-acting over-the-counter laxative that should only be used for occasional constipation.
  • Stool Softener: A stool softener is a mild laxative that softens the stool by moistening it, making it easier to pass. It takes time to work so it should be used if you have mild but chronic constipation. Make sure it's the right laxative for you to take after speaking with your doctor.[1]

Improve your toilet routine: Keep to a regular time and place and give yourself plenty of time to use the toilet. Do not delay if you feel the urge to poo.

Consider increasing your activity: Exercise daily for at least 30-45 minutes a day. This will increase your body’s metabolism.


Constipation is one of the most common reasons why people see a doctor. Increasing your fibre intake and changing your lifestyle can really improve the quality of your health and constipation.

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