Every time you suffer from constipation, your grandmother advises you to increase the fiber content in your diet. Her advice has been seconded by doctors. But a new study has challenged this age old belief. According to the study, it is the amount of fluids consumed that affects the motions. So is it true that fluids are a better cure for constipation than fibers?
The research has been published in the latest issue of The American Journal of Gastroenterology and was undertaken by Alayne Markland and her colleagues from the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama.. For the purpose of their study, the researchers defined constipation as hard or lumpy stools (Bristol Stool Scale type 1 or 2).
They enrolled 10,914 adults above the age of 20 who were part of the National Health and Nutrition surveys between 2005 and 2008. The participants were asked to recollect dietary fiber, and liquid intake from total moisture content present in their diet. Among the participants, 9,373 completed the survey.
It was observed that constipation is far more frequent in women compared to men. While 10.2% women complained of constipation, only 4.0% men reported the condition. Among women, constipation was more of an issue in women of African-American ethnicity, in women who were obese or had a higher level of education compared to their peers. After accounting for all other factors, the researchers noticed that constipation was more commonly seen in women with a low level of fluid consumption. It was also seen that dietary fiber was not a predictor of constipation.
Role of fiber as cure for constipation
It has been estimated that around 14% people worldwide suffer from constipation. However, there are different opinions about what exactly constipation means. While some people call themselves constipated if they have less than three bowel movements in a week, others define constipation according to the consistency of their stools. If the stools are hard and they experience difficulty in evacuating, they call themselves constipated.
Researchers have found that fiber has an impact on the frequency and amount of the stools, whereas fluids affect their consistency. Therefore, the ideal cure for constipation would be a diet rich in both fluids and fiber along with regular exercise.
Amount of fluid consumed can be used as a predictor for constipation whereas the same cannot be said about fibers.
Alayne D Markland, Olafur Palsson, William E Whitehead, et al. Association of Low Dietary Intake of Fiber and Liquids with Constipation: Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
The American Journal of Gastroenterology 108, 796-803 (May 2013) | doi:10.1038/ajg.2013.73