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Constipation in Adults

You may have arrived at your present diet by trial and error, finding foods that seem to work well for you. You may benefit from knowing a little of the "food science" behind irritable bowel care, so that you may further adjust your eating habits to minimize constipation.

IBS fiber recommendations

Almost all of us can afford to increase the amount of fiber we are getting in our diet. Since it passes through your bowel undigested, all fiber helps to enlarge the stool. Larger masses of stool are easier for the colon to push against and to propel forward. Many people have temporary symptoms of increased gas or bloating when they first increase their fiber, so it is not practical to judge your benefit in the first few weeks.

Increase your soluble fiber:

Soluble forms of fiber are able to mix evenly with water, forming a soft gel. This fiber type can improve every symptom of an irritable bowel. Soluble fiber gel thickens stool that would otherwise cause diarrhea, and it prevents constipation by softening and hydrating stool. It may be helpful to make a food high in soluble fiber the first thing on your plate that you eat. Good sources include:

  • Breads

  • Cereals

  • Oats

  • Lentils

  • Barley

  • Apples

  • Over-the-counter fiber supplements. Examples include psyllium (Metamucil), methylcellulose (Citrucel), and calcium polycarbophil (Fibercon). These fiber preparations are sometimes named "bulk laxatives."

Emphasize insoluble fiber only if it is right for you:

The straw-like materials and binding matter that give vegetables and other plants their pulp and structure are found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber does not mix well with water, instead remaining as a stringy or bulky material that mixes into your stool.

Insoluble fiber can help or hurt your symptoms if you have irritable bowel, depending on your bowel activity. If you have pain or diarrhea in between episodes of constipation, it is possible that this fiber may cause increased symptoms. On the other hand, insoluble fiber improves constipation because it encourages movement of the colon and adds to the weight and bulk of the stool that you form. Good sources include:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Whole grains

Drink plenty of fluid! Your stool will be softer if it contains more water. Increasing your water intake is especially important if you increase your fiber with diet or supplements.

Click here to move on to IBS Food Triggers.

Disclaimer: This content should not be considered complete and should not be used in place of a call or visit to a health professional. Use of this content is subject to specific Terms of Use & Medical Disclaimers.

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