It’s a difficult condition to define, as bathroom habits vary considerably from person to person.
However, if you have less than three bowel movements a week and your stools are hard, dry and difficult to pass, you’re likely constipated.
One of the most common pieces of advice for people who are constipated is to eat more fiber.
But does this advice actually work? Let’s have a look.
Dietary fiber is the name given to the non-digestible carbohydrates in plants. It can be found in all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.
It’s usually categorized into two groups, based on solubility:
- Insoluble fiber: Found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains.
- Soluble fiber: Found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables.
That said, most fiber-rich foods contain a mixture of insoluble and soluble fiber in varying proportions.
Even though your body can’t digest fiber, eating enough of it is thought to be very important for your gut health. This is partly because dietary fiber increases the size of your stools and makes them softer.
Larger, softer stools help keep you regular, as they move more quickly through your bowels and are easier to pass (3Trusted Source).
These two types of fiber help with this in slightly different ways.
Insoluble fiber bulks up your stool and acts like a brush, sweeping through your bowels to get everything out and keep things moving.
The soluble variety absorbs water and forms a gel-like substance. This helps your stool pass smoothly through your bowels and improves its form and consistency.
The fermentation of one type of soluble fiber, known as prebiotics, in the large intestine can also help maintain a healthy gut by increasing its number of good bacteria (4Trusted Source).
This could also improve your health by decreasing your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity (5Trusted Source)
BOTTOM LINE:Eating enough fiber can help keep you regular. It can also improve the balance of good bacteria in your gut. This may reduce your risk of various diseases, such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.