Constipation, defined as the reduced number of bowel movements (<3 per week) with difficulty exiting the stool and categorized as acute and chronic, is a health problem affecting 20% of the population worldwide each year.
Although the causes of constipation vary, the most common cause is functional and is related to our diet. Reduced intake of fatty acids in combination with increased intake of fiber and water is one of the first habits one must adopt for faster constipation relief.
What are fibers?
Fiber is a form of carbohydrates found in products of plant origin. Specifically, they contain non-starch polysaccharides (pectins, cellulose, etc.), oligosaccharides (inulin) and other similar herbal ingredients.
In what categories are they distinguished?
Depending on their solubility, fibers are divided into 2 categories: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber attracts water molecules and forms a gel in the digestive system. This slows down the digestion process and reduces the absorption of carbohydrates (eg starch). Fermentation of certain soluble fiber (prebiotics) by friendly colon bacteria contributes to improved intestinal flora and to a smoother functioning of the intestinal system. Studies have shown that intake of soluble fiber may keep cholesterol levels low as well as improve glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes.
Insoluble fiber, are those that directly contribute to the treatment of constipation. When they are in the intestine, they absorb water like a sponge. This way the stools soften, which makes emptying easier.
In summary, it is necessary to take both types of fiber for optimal intestinal function and constipation management.
What foods contain fiber?
Both insoluble and soluble fiber are found in plant foods. Specifically soluble fiber is found in cereals (barley, oats), fresh and dried fruits (pears, apples, oranges, strawberries, etc.), pulses (lentils, chickpeas, beans) and vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, corn, tomato, onion).
Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole grain bread, cereals, wheat bran.
What recent research has shown?
A systematic post-analysis (ChristodoulidesS et al., 2016) showed that 77% of adults with chronic idiopathic constipation found relief after consuming a large amount of fiber. Another 2 studies (Üstündağ G.et al., 2010), (Üstündağ G.etal., 2008), have shown that dietary fiber intake can be as effective as lactulose in the treatment of constipation in children.
Based on research the primary and one of the most effective methods for the treatment of constipation is the intake of dietary fiber either through foods or through dietary supplements (eg supplements with psyllium).
Fiber – Contraindications
Fiber may affect the bioavailability of some medicines. For this reason, medicines should be taken 1 hour before or 2-4 hours after taking fiber.
It is necessary to take either foods containing fiber or dietary fiber supplements with a sufficient amount of water (6-8 glasses) to avoid swelling in the esophagus.
If you have difficulty swallowing consult your doctor before taking a dietary fiber supplement.
Vegetable fibers – Side effects
Intake of fiber can cause mild swelling and gases.
If you are on any medication, you should inform your doctor before taking any dietary fiber supplements.
At Vita4you.gr you will find a wide variety of supplements with fibers.