Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Unable to Move Bowels Dietary Fiber

It is important to follow a healthy diet if you have constipation.

Dietary fiber is a plant material that humans cannot digest. Fiber absorbs water, which keeps the stool soft and promotes rapid passage of material through the intestines. This may reduce exposure to toxic substances and improve the health of the intestines. Fiber also binds fat and cholesterol, and reduces the risk for heart disease. As an added benefit, high fiber foods usually contain important vitamins and minerals.

Fiber comes in two forms, based on whether it will dissolve in water. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. About 3/4 of fiber in the diet should be the insoluble fiber.

Water Soluble Fiber

ExamplesDietary Sources
Pectins, gums, & mucilagesfruits, vegetables, oats, bran, barley, legumes

Insoluble Fiber
ExamplesDietary Sources
Cellulose, hemicellulosevegetables, wheat bran, & whole grains

Use of a High Fiber Diet
A healthy diet should include more than 25 grams of fiber each day.

A high fiber diet can prevent and treat the following:

General Guidelines
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber, but peeling the skin from fruit and vegetables removes fiber. Dried fruits, beans, black-eyed peas, bran and oatmeal are high in fiber. Bran is the outer layer of the wheat grain.

Strategies for adding bran to the diet:
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of bran per serving, in order to increase the fiber content of casseroles, meat loaf, and baked goods.
  • Use whole grain flour: it has 6 times the fiber of bleached flour.
  • Use oat bran to replace of 1/3 of the flour in recipes.
  • Use fiber supplements, such as Citrucel and Metamucil.

Change your diet slowly. Rapid changes in the diet can cause bloating, gas and diarrhea.

Example High-Fiber Diet
Eat 3 to 10 servings of whole grain food every day.

Examples include:
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal or oat bran
  • Rye bread
  • Wheat germ
  • Whole grain bagels
  • Whole grain breads
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Whole grain or bran cereals
  • Whole grain pita bread
  • Whole wheat crackers
  • Whole wheat pasta

Eat 3-4 servings of fruit each day.

Examples include:
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear

Eat at least 3-5 servings of raw, unpeeled vegetables per day.

Examples include:
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Green pepper
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes with skin
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

Meat substitutes:
Meat has no fiber, and contains cholesterol and saturated fat. Many high-fiber foods can replace meat in the diet.

Examples include:
  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Peanuts
  • Pinto beans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans, but not tofu
  • Split peas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Veggie burgers
  • Walnuts

Continue to Unable to Move Bowels Enemas

Last Updated: Nov 5, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Unable to Move Bowels References
  1. Bleser S, Brunton S, Carmichael B, Olden K, Rasch R, Steege J. Management of chronic constipation: recommendations from a consensus panel. J Fam Pract. 2005 Aug;54(8):691-8. [16061057]
  2. Brandt LJ, Prather CM, Quigley EM, Schiller LR, Schoenfeld P, Talley NJ. Systematic review on the management of chronic constipation in North America. Am J Gastroenterol. 2005;100 Suppl 1:S5-S21. [16008641]
  3. Clayden G, Keshtgar AS. Management of childhood constipation. Postgrad Med J. 2003 Nov;79(937):616-21. [14654570]
  4. Lembo A, Camilleri M. Chronic constipation. N Engl J Med. 2003 Oct 2;349(14):1360-8. [14523145]
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