Fiber intake leads to adequate digestion, and it has also been related to a reduction in the risk of chronic illnesses, like heart disease and diabetes. However, a busy schedule and excessive consumption of processed foods can negatively affect your gut's proper function, causing a number of problems, such as unhealthy weight gain, high cholesterol, and chronic constipation.
To treat and prevent constipation, an adequate intake of fruits, vegetables, and grains is highly recommended. These are some foods that you easy to find in stores and incorporate to your diet so that you can improve your gut's health.
Prunes are great to relieve constipation. Their efficient laxative action is commonly attributed to their high fiber content, but it is actually sorbitol that is mainly responsible. Although this sugar alcohol cannot be digested by the body, it helps balance sugar and water levels in stool, enabling it to pass through the digestive tract more easily and with significantly less pain.
Prunes are safe to consume and are less likely to promote dependency than irritant laxatives. For that reason, they are regarded as one of the best options for mid- to long-term constipation relief. Prunes can be eaten raw, freshly ground, juiced, in syrup form, as jam, or as supplements.
Kiwifruit offers a high dietary fiber content and has extensively shown its benefits for the digestive system. Actinidain, the active component in kiwis, is responsible for tenderizing meat, so it helps to break down proteins during digestion. Kiwifruit is well known for its contribution to the relief of symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This exotic and delicious fruit is relatively easy to find, and it can be consumed raw in salads, juices, and smoothies. Its active compound can also be found in capsules.
Psyllium is a natural grain that is composed of an outstanding 60 - 70% fiber, eight times higher than oat bran. After being ingested, its high non-soluble fiber content doesn't get absorbed in the small intestine. Instead, it passed right through to the large intestine, where it is partially broken down by normal bacterial flora. It absorbs the excess of water and increases around 10 times in volume, becoming a mucilaginous gel responsible for bulking the stools and stimulating their elimination.
Psyllium is easy to incorporate in a healthy diet by taking it as a supplement. It can also be mixed with water, smoothies, and shakes in its powdered form or taken in capsules. To make the most out of its effects, it is recommended to consume psyllium with every meal and plenty of liquids.
Flax, like psyllium, has a high soluble and insoluble fiber content. The seeds are commonly used as a treatment for constipation, as their fiber and mucilage content help improve stool motility. An easy way to include flaxseed as part of a healthy diet is adding it to cereals, salads, and smoothies.
Papaya contains papain, a powerful enzyme that aids in the digestion of protein and is even used to tenderize meat. It can be prescribed for dyspeptic patients and those with celiac disease. Papaya is most commonly consumed raw for breakfast or in fruit salads an smoothies.
The presence of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber is a must to maintain a healthy digestive system. If you are not used to having fiber in your diet, it's recommendable to start with small doses and increment your intake gradually. In just few weeks, you'll see very positive changes.
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- Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, Actinidia deliciosa