Let's Face It, Constipation Happens.

Let’s face it, constipation happens. We don’t like to talk about it, but if you’ve ever been constipated it is certainly uncomfortable and your mission becomes to fix it…stat!

The Difference between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Fiber comes in two types, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps regulate cholesterol and blood sugar. Soluble fiber is commonly found in beans and fruits.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. It acts as a scrubber in your digestive tract. Insoluble fiber is found in vegetables and whole grains.

How Much and What?

A diet rich in both types of fiber is crucial. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, men under 50 need 38 grams of fiber each day and women need 25 grams. Adults over 50 require less fiber (30 grams for guys and 21 grams for ladies) due to decreased food consumption. To understand what that amount looks like, check out the sample meal below, which contains 37 grams of fiber. The key is eating a couple fiber-containing foods at every meal, particularly vegetables, fruit, nuts, legumes, beans and whole grains. As you can see, meats, dairy, and eggs do not have protein. This is why eating a variety of foods and adding many different colored foods is an important and beneficial rule of thumb.

A Real Life Example of Enough Daily Fiber


Grams of Fiber



     2 eggs

  0 grams

     1 ounce cheese

  0 grams

     ½ cup red bell peppers

  1 gram

     ½ cup mushrooms

  2 grams

     1 cup spinach

  1 gram

     1 small tomato

  2 grams

1 Pear

  3 grams





     2 slices Dave’s Killer Bread; Good Seed

  8 grams

     3 oz. turkey breast

  0 grams

     1 oz. cheese

  0 grams

     1 romaine lettuce leaf


     2 slices tomato


1 Apple

  3 grams

6 oz. yogurt

  0 grams



¼ cup whole Almonds

  4 grams



4 oz. chicken breast

  0 grams

1 c. brown rice

  3 grams

1 sweet potato

  3 grams



    1 cup spinach

  1 gram

     ½ cup kale

  2 grams

     ½ cucumber

  0.5 grams

     1 chopped carrot stick (7 inches)

  2 grams

     2 Tbsp sunflower seeds

  1 gram

     1 Tbsp dried cranberries

  0.5 grams

Total Fiber:

  37 grams

Water To Keep Things Moving

While focusing on fiber, don’t forget water, and lots of it! If you’re eating plenty of high-fiber foods but not getting enough fluid to help flush it through your system, you can make matters worse. Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of decaffeinated fluids every day to assist in keeping your stools soft. Have a water bottle available wherever you are. A large water bottle that holds a lot of water may be more convenient because you don’t have to keep refilling it. My husband recently received this Klean Kanteen as a gift and now drinks about 2-3 bottles per day at work--all because it’s more convenient.

Sneaky Tips to Boost Your Fiber Intake

  • Add flaxseeds to oats, smoothies, and yogurt. Flaxseeds assist with constipation as these have the action of lubricating the bowel. Two tablespoons will boost your daily fiber by 3.8 grams.


  • Chia seeds have a whopping 5.5 grams of fiber per tablespoon.


  • Coffee is an old-fashioned remedy that helps millions to avoid constipation. In fact, it is one of the main reasons people choose coffee in the morning. Coffee irritates the intestines a little and can stimulate bile flow from the liver. Avoid the fashionable cappuccinos and lattes. They are too strong, contain less water, which is bad, and they contain more caffeine, which is also worse and more irritating. If you use coffee, limit it to one cup of regular coffee daily.


  • Another remedy you may consider is 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with 3 oz of water and juice from a lemon wedge (1 tsp of lemon juice). Do this before meals to help stimulate digestion. Also do upon rising in the morning to stimulate a bowel movement.


  • Consider a potent Probiotic—something like ProBiota 12. Balancing and supporting beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract is critical for many functions: immune, digestive, neurological, dermatological and others. Take 2 capsules about 5-10 minutes after dinner.


  • Consider a fiber supplement to add bulk to your stool, such as this one.


  • Avoid refined carbohydrate foods, such as white sugar, white bread, white rice, white pasta, sugary cold cereal, and other poor quality, low-fiber, and highly processed foods.


  • Stick to whole grain foods, such as 100% whole wheat bread, quinoa, oats, brown rice, wild rice, amaranth, and millet. To check out more whole grains, visit the Whole Grains Council website.


  • Eat the fruit rather than drinking the juice. The peel and pulp are where the majority of the fiber is located. Whole fruit is more filling than juice, so don't cheat yourself.


  • While spinach isn’t as high in fiber as other veggies, it can easily be sliced and snuck into many dishes without adding much taste or hassle. I add organic baby spinach to so many things, such as soup stock, eggs, smoothies, protein shakes, and pasta sauce.


  • Everyone always thinks of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains when they think of high-fiber foods, but nuts are very impactful. As you can see from the example above, only ¼ cup provides 4 grams of fiber. Find a trail mix you like and include it regularly as a snack.

One final tip, don't forget exercise. Exercise most days of the week. It increases muscle activity and the speed which food travels through your intestines.

Bottom Line: If you're constipated, get really serious about boosting the fiber in your diet. Pack in the salads and fruit at a couple meals, beans, and whole grains--all in one day. Drink a lot of water, and if you do this everyday, you'll be regular in no time.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

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