By Dr. Janet Brill

Q: I have been constipated for a few months now and want to attempt to treat it through changing my diet first. What kind of a menu do you recommend?

A: The best way to treat constipation through diet is to take a two-pronged approach: bump up your dietary fiber intake and drink more fluids. Constipation is a very common problem in our society. We are nation of people who eat a diet woefully short on fiber. In fact, the average person consumes about half (14-15 grams) of the daily recommended dietary fiber (20-35 grams) for good health. The good news is higher fiber diets can effectively treat constipation as well as lower cholesterol, help control blood sugar in diabetics and even promote weight control. (High-fiber foods tend to be lower in calories and are filling.)

The best high-fiber menu includes a cornucopia of whole and unprocessed plant foods. For example, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, fruit and nuts for snacks, whole grain bread, vegetables and beans for lunch, and more whole grains, salad, veggies and a small amount of animal protein (such as skinless poultry or fish) for dinner. However, when you do increase your fiber intake, you must also increase your fluid intake concurrently or the high-fiber menu could backfire and actually increase constipation! So make sure to get in those 8 glasses of water a day and you should have great success in treating your constipation problem without prescription medication.

On a final note, in my book, Cholesterol DOWN (Three Rivers Press), one of the 10 steps I prescribe for lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol is to take Metamucil—a powerful cholesterol-lowering fiber (psyllium seed husk), which also helps with regularity.

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