09/17/2011 - Articles

How To Avoid Constipation: Simple Tips To Avoid Constipation

By: The Swiss Association for Nutrition (SAN)

How to avoid constipation

Constipation Remedies or How to Avoid Constipation Effectively

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal condition in which the movement of food through the digestive system is longer than normal and so how to avoid constipation?
What causes constipation? Does alcohol cause constipation? Any tips to overcome constipation? What foods to avoid constipation?

In this article:
What Causes Constipation?
The role of dietary fibre (roughage) in constipation 
Which foods contain dietary fibre?
Dietary recommendations in cases of constipation
Foods To Avoid Constipation
Does Alcohol Cause Constipation?

Constipation Cause: What Causes Constipation?
Not everyone can go to the toilet every day. Constipation is generally considered to constitute less than three stools per week. Action is warranted if the feces are hard and the evacuation irregular and painful. In Western Europe, the most frequent reason for constipation is insufficient filling of the bowel as a result of a low-fibre diet; in Switzerland, for instance, the average daily intake of dietary fibre is only about 20 g instead of the ideal 30 g. Further contributory factors can be an inadequate liquid intake, lack of exercise, a hectic lifestyle and stress. It therefore makes little sense to combat constipation with laxatives, because these do not address the causes.

The role of dietary fibre (roughage) in constipation
The contents of the intestine are transported periodically by intestinal contractions. These movements depend to a large extent on the degree to which the bowel is full, i.e. the stimuli to contract and expand are only triggered when the bowel (or large intestine) is sufficiently full. In the small intestine, the nutrients capable of being broken down are digested and absorbed beforehand. The dietary fibres, which are only partially, if at all, degradable, reach the large intestine, where they take effect. Thanks to the ability of these fibres to swell and bind water, the water content of the food in the intestine increases. However, this means that sufficient liquid needs to be absorbed. A relatively soft stool of relatively large volume is the desired result; the stimulus which this exerts on the walls of the large intestine promotes intestinal activity and provides for a regular stool.

Which foods contain dietary fibre?
Most dietary fibre comes from wholemeal products, such as wholemeal bread, whole rice, corn, wholewheat pasta, and flakes. These are preferable to refined products (e.g. white bread, polished rice) and should be included as part of the daily menu. Pulses, potatoes, vegetables, fruits and nuts are another plentiful source of dietary fibre.

Tips for everyday practice:

  • Gradually get your bowels used to more dietary fibre. Start for example with a muesli breakfast containing grain flakes, a little wheat bran, yogurt and fruit.
  • Make sure your liquid intake is adequate, i.e. at least 2 litres (~8 glasses) a day.
  • Make sure you take enough physical exercise.
  • Foods containing lactic acid have a beneficial effect on intestinal activity (yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir etc.)
  • In the morning, on an empty stomach, drink 1 glass of orange juice or 1 glass of water or the juice of dried plums or figs that have been softened the previous evening.
  • Avoid constipating food, such as white rice, bananas, bilberries, chocolate, strong black tea, cooked carrots (raw carrots combat constipation).

If the recommendations given here do not bring about any noticeable improvement, it is advisable to seek medical advice.

Dietary recommendations in cases of constipation
Many factors affect our dietary behaviour: individual needs and desires, our day-to-day condition, the social environment, the food currently on offer, advertising etc. The following recommendations ensure a balanced and varied diet that provides an adequate intake of energy, nutrients and protective substances and thus a healthy approach to nutrition. The figures quoted are intended for the "average person", i.e. for adults who engage in normal physical activities and thus have an average energy and nutrient requirement. The figures would vary for other groups (such as children and adolescents, top athletes, pregnant women etc.). The quantities and portions given are likewise average values; they cannot be kept adhered to precisely every day. Those passages which appear in italics are particularly important for persons with a tendency towards constipation.

Foods To Avoid Constipation

Fats and oils:
Use 2 teaspoonfuls (10 g) of high-quality vegetable oil (e.g. sunflower oil, thistle oil, corn oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil) per day, unheated, e.g. for salad dressings.
Use not more than 2 teaspoonfuls (10 g) of cooking fat or oil per day (e.g. peanut oil, olive oil) for the preparation of meals. Do not eat more than 2 teaspoonfuls (10 g) of spreading butter or margarine per day on bread.
Do not eat more than one high-fat meal per day, such as deep-fried or breaded food, cheese dishes, fried potato, sausage, cream sauce, puff pastry, cakes, chocolate).

Eat sweets in moderation - many sweets contain hidden fat.

Meat, fish, eggs:
Eat one portion of meat 2 - 4 times a week (1 portion = 80 - 120 g); more is unnecessary, less is no problem.
Do not substitute salted meat products (such as ham, sausage, or bacon) for meat more than once a week. Do not eat offal (liver, kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads) more than once a month (80 - 120 g).
Eat 1 - 2 portions of fish a week (1 portion = 100 - 120 g).
Eat 1 - 3 eggs a week (including processed eggs e.g. in cakes and pastries, soufflés or creams).

Pulses, pulse products:
Eat 1 - 2 portions a week (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, tofu etc.).

Milk and dairy products:
1 - 2 portions per day (1 portion = 2 dl milk or 1 cup of yogurt or 30 g of hard cheese or 60 g of soft cheese), preferably lactic acid products such as yogurt or kefir.

Cereal products and potatoes:
Eat at least 3 portions of carbohydrate-rich foods per day (e.g. bread, potatoes, rice, grain, pasta, etc.), using wholemeal products or potatoes at least twice.

Eat 2 - 3 portions of fruit per day (e.g. 1 apple, 3 plums or a dish of berries), ideally raw; preferably do not peel any fruit with stones or pomaceous fruit.

Eat 3 - 4 portions of vegetable per day, at least one of them raw, e.g. as mixed salad,

Beverages: Drink at least 2 litres of liquid per day, preferably unsweetened and alcohol-free beverages. In fact, beverages containing alcohol have diuretic action, which can dry the digestive system. If you're concerned about constipation, alcohol free drinks should be prefered.

Does Alcohol Cause Constipation?

Alkoholic drinks:
Healthy adults should not drink more than 1-2 glasses of wine or beer per day. Anyone who drinks more should cut down - anyone who drinks less alcohol or none at all should not drink more for health reasons. Plan to have at least 1 day a week without alcohol! Children, pregnant women, people with a medical condition, and those in convalescence, as well as drivers, should abstain from alcohol completely.

Constipation - chief points to note:  

  • Eat as much dietary fibre as possible - eat wholemeal products, potatoes, pulses, and dried fruit.
  • Of every 2 portions of fruit and vegetable you eat a day, make sure at least one is raw.
  • Drink sufficient liquid and take a lot of exercise.

Foods to avoid constipation, rich in fiber, should be eaten regulary to help the body have consistent bowel movements.


How to avoid constipation R. Griffith, Copyright: Swiss Association for Nutrition, Berne, 2000

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Created on: 11/11/2002
Reviewed on: 09/17/2011

Your rating: None Average: 4.2 (55 votes)
Anonymous wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

dear sir/madam
thank u very much for posting this article. This article helps me to avoid constipation for my 2 year old girl..i have a question dear ..what is the difference between cooked and uncooked carrot?..

Yetma4real wrote 1 year 46 weeks ago


Anonymous wrote 1 year 49 weeks ago


Anonymous wrote 1 year 50 weeks ago

thanx 4 advice......

Anonymous wrote 2 years 18 hours ago

This website doesn't tell you how to avoid constipation!!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 2 weeks ago

What a great bit of info! THANKS!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 3 weeks ago

When making a diet and eating many fibers, you can still be constipated because of the lack of fats in your alimentation.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

In order to avoid constipation, I would recommend these remedies for constipation:
- Take Aloe vera juice twice a day (clean the digestive system)
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber
- Do some exercises, it may help in case of constipation.

A simple search on the web should lead you to other constipation remedies

Anonymous wrote 2 years 4 weeks ago

hi Where do you find Aloe vera juice

Anonymous wrote 2 years 23 weeks ago

Many medications we take can cause constipation.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 25 weeks ago

To avoid constipation I eat fruit & fiber... the saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is quite true in that case.