5 best foods to keep constipation, stomach problems away

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Oct 15, 2015 06:27 AM EDT

LONDON - DECEMBER 14: A detail of some fruit and yoghurt is seen in the kitchen of Quintin Kynaston School on December 14, 2005 in London. Increased concern over childhood obesity has led to calls for children to be given healthy alternatives for school meals by replacing the chips and chocolate with pasta, salads and fruit options. (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images) (Photo : Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)

Constipation is a bothersome condition in which a person has less than three bowel movements in a week, or stools that are hard and dry, making it very difficult to pass. It is a common gastrointestinal problem that affects 42 million Americans, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports.

According to NIDDK, those who are at higher risk for constipation are pregnant women, older adults, non-Caucasians, those who just had surgery, and those who take medication for depression or pain relievers.

For those who are frequently constipated, fiber may do the trick. In fact, Huffington Post reports that as per the Institute of Medicine, the recommended amount of fiber per day for men is 38 grams, while women should consume 25 grams. However, Americans usually consume only 15 grams per day. While food with high fiber content is recommended for a overall health, there are other foods that contribute to the well-oiled machine that is one's digestive system. Here are a few foods that can help loosen you up for a healthier digestive system.

1. Coffee. Those who love their caffeine fix will find that it helps move along the waste in the body. Huffington Post reports that this is because coffee is a laxative that stimulates muscle contractions in the large intestine, and thereby helping the body move.

2. Prunes or prune juice. Prunes contain high levels of insoluble fiber, relieving your stomach from constipation. Moreover, it may help with weight loss. Women's Health reports that researchers from the University of Liverpool in the U.K. found that dieters who consumed a handful of prunes daily for 3 months lose more weight and had a greater reduction in waist circumference than dieters who did not eat prunes.

3. Brown rice. Livestrong reports that brown rice contains 3.5 grams of fiber in every cup, providing the body with 9.2 percent of the daily recommendation for adults. Replacing white rice with brown rice can make your trips to the bathroom more pleasant.

4. Spinach. Huffington Post encourages the consumption of spinach because of its magnesium content. According to IBS expert Dr. Barbara Bolen of About Health, a 2006 study linked low magnesium consumption to constipation.

5. Yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotics, which are "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host" according to Medical News Today. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that probiotics significantly reduced the time it took to transmit its contents, and increased stool frequency. Probiotics work by balancing intestinal microflora, and thus regulating intestinal movement and digestion.

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