Struggling with constipation?

Struggling with constipation?


I have one of those embarrassing questions to ask: How can I resolve my struggle with constipation? Four or five days can go by without my having a bowel movement. Needless to say, I feel very “clogged up” and uncomfortable. Do you have any dietary suggestions to help resolve this problem?


Constipation is a significant problem for many people, including a plethora of athletes (commonly women) who are “too busy” to stop to go to the bathroom. Organizing your morning to allow for bathroom time can help the problem, as can changing your diet. Here are some tips to help “eliminate” constipation problems.

• Increase your intake of high fiber foods. Fiber, the part of plant cells that humans can’t digest, absorbs water and makes feces softer and easier to eliminate. The best source of fiber is bran, as in All-Bran, bran flakes, raisin bran, and other types of bran cereals. Many people are surprised to learn that bran cereals offer far more fiber than you’d get from lettuce, salads, and other vegetables and fruits. See the chart below to compare the fiber content of some popular foods.

• Drink plenty of fluids (including prune juice) throughout the day. You are drinking enough fluids if you urinate every two to four hours, and your urine is light colored, like lemonade, not dark like apple cider.

• Drink warm liquids in the morning; this can stimulate bowel activity. Your body naturally wants to defecate about a half hour after consuming a warm beverage in the morning. Be sure to schedule time to relax and honor this urge. If necessary, get up earlier so you won’t be commuting to work when you should be sitting on the toilet.

• Exercise, particularly running, can promote regular bowel movements. Stay active!

• The recommended intake is 25 grams of fiber/day (or age + 5 grams for 3-18 year old children). The best soruces of fiber include bran cereals. You can get half that amount by eating 1/2 cup Fiber One or All Bran Extra Fiber, or 2 cups Bran Flakes. Also include a variety of other foods. Fruits and vegetables are lower in fiber.


Fiber in fruits, veggies and beans 


Banana, medium            2

Orange, med                        3

Apple, med                        3

Raisins, 1/4 cup            3


Gr. beans, 1/2 cup            2

Carrots, 1 medium            2

Potato w/ skin, med            4

Broccoli, 1 cup            5


Bread, 1 slice whole wheat            2

Popcorn, 3 cups            3

Bran flakes, 3/4 cup            5

All Bran, 1/2 cup            10


Beans, cooked

Lentils, 1/2 cup                     4

Baked beans, 1/2 cup            5

Split peas, 1/2 cup               6

Kidney beans, 1/2 cup            6


For more information:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Written by Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD is an internationally respected sports nutritionist, weight coach, nutrition author, and workshop leader. She is a registered dietitian (RD) who is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She is also a certified WellCoach. Nancy specializes in nutrition for performance, life-long health, and the nutritional management of eating disorders. She counsels both casual exercisers and competitive athletes in her private practice in the Boston area (Newton, MA). Some of her clients consider her to be their food coach, others their food therapist. Regardless, she enjoys the challenge of helping sports-active people transform their suboptimal eating habits into effective fueling plans. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, a best-selling resource, has sold over 550,000 copies and is now in it's new fifth edition.

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