Constipation Diet Plan

Elderly man in blue plaid pajamas sitting on the side of the bed holding his stomach in pain while a female is sleeping in the bed facing the opposite way.

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Constipation occurs commonly in older adults, which can impact quality of life.  Dietary habits can influence bowel movements both positively and negatively. 

This article will explain the basics of constipation and dietary factors that can improve or worsen it. 

*This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. 

What is Constipation?

Constipation is a gastrointestinal disorder when feces hardens and it is increasingly difficult for bowel movements to occur.  Bowel movements become infrequent and difficult or even painful to pass. 

The elderly population has the highest prevalence (1). There are different classifications of constipation, however many similarities exist. 

Acute Constipation

Acute constipation occurs when short term changes impact bowel movements, such as diet change, new routine, travel, or stress. It also may be called transient constipation (2)

Chronic Constipation

Chronic constipation is characterized by infrequent bowel movements along with (3)

  • Excessive straining
  • Feeling of incomplete bowel movement (BM)
  • Failed or prolonged attempts to defecate 
  • Hard stool consistency 
  • Digital removal of stool
  • Bloating

This type may also be referred to as primary constipation. It impacts 20% of the population (4), with 30%-40% being over the age of 60 (5)

Slow Transit Constipation

Slow transit constipation (STC) is a type of chronic constipation. It occurs when it takes prolonged time for feces to move through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (6)

Functional Defecation Disorder 

Functional constipation is determined when there is not a physical cause for the constipation (7)

Constipation Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS-C)

IBS-C is recurrent abdominal pain, usually with stomach distension and bloating, that is related to bowel habits, typically constipation (8)

Secondary Constipation

Secondary constipation is determined when primary reasons have all been ruled out. 

This category of constipation is due to factors such as medications, neurological disorder, metabolic conditions (9), and colonic anatomical issues . 

Constipation Risk Factors

Many factors can influence constipation risk and occurrence (10), (11)

Constipation Diet Plan

Changing diet habits can be the first line of defense against constipation in the elderly due to potential side effects of medication bowel regimens. 

Probiotics

Probiotics can help prevent constipation by increasing healthy gut bacteria, soften stool, and decrease transit time of bowel movements (12)

Fiber

Fiber quickens the rate feces moves through the colon. Fiber foods also contain water which improves the consistency and volume of stool (13)

Examples of fiber sources include: 

  • Fruits, especially with peels
    • Plums or Prunes
    • Apricots
    • Berries
    • Apples   
    • Kiwi
    • Pears
  • Vegetables
  • Beans/legumes 
  • Whole wheat pastas & breads
  • Bran cereal
  • Flaxseed 
  • Fiber supplements 

Many fiber supplements are available, including powders, capsules, and gummies. My personal favorite is a flavorless powder because of its versatility and it can be shipped right to your door from Amazon.

*This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. 

Increasing fiber intake should be done gradually to avoid bloating, cramping, gas, and abdominal discomfort.

Functional Foods

Functional foods offer other health benefits in addition to providing nutrition. Some may help with constipation. Examples include (14), (15)

  • Cascara tea
  • Aloe
  • Rhubarb
  • Figs
  • Kiwi
  • Prunes
  • Dried apricot 
  • Flaxseed

Ground flaxseed can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, and more to add more fiber to your diet. Get it delivered right to your door from Amazon.

*This article contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. 

Fluids

Consuming enough fluids is necessary to pull water into the bowels and soften the stool, so it can move easily through the GI tract. 

Adequate fluid intake is also important when increasing fiber intake to avoid complications. 

GI tract surrounded by water, fiber, beans, wheat, veggies, seeds, probiotics, yogurt, plum, kiwi, pear, apple, and berries resulting in smiling poop.
Constipation Diet Plan

Foods to Avoid

Some foods may contribute or worsen constipation. Persimmons are fruit that are high in tannin acid, which decreases movement of the GI tract (16).  Unripe bananas can exacerbate pre-existing constipation (17)

Constipation Complications

While many think constipation is not a big deal, it can actually lead to serious complications (18)

  • Fecal impaction 
  • Bowel perforation 
  • Incontinence 
  • Hemorrhoids 
  • Bleeding
  • Anal fissure (tear) 

Constipation is also just uncomfortable and can greatly impact quality of life. Abdominal pain and bloating can lead to poor appetite and nutritional intake. 

Practical Takeaways

Constipation can negatively impact quality of life and nutritional status in the elderly. 

Eating a varied diet with an array of plant foods and drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day can assist in keeping constipation at bay.

3 thoughts on “Constipation Diet Plan”

  1. Thank you for addressing this common problem with all the practical ways simple dietary changes can prevent and manage it. I try to carry my water bottle with me wherever I go and take sips all day long. I know it is so important to sip it even if I’m not thirsty because as we get older, we lose our thirst drive! It has become such a habit to carry it with me that if I don’t have it, I feel like I’m missing something!

  2. Thank you for this article. It helps to be reminded of how important it is to eat right and exercise. Probiotics are very important at my age. I try to have a good balance of everything in my diet. I enjoy your articles.

  3. Thank you so much for this. My mother constantly struggles with constipation. I assume due to the lack of mobility and the increase in medication that is given to her. Pharmaceutical medication‘s tend to have constipating attributes unfortunately. I come from mainly a holistic view of treating illnesses but sometimes pharmaceuticals are necessary. Thank you for this information

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