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Using Food to Combat Constipation

Depending on the type of cancer, constipation is an early symptom for cancers that impact the gastrointestinal tract, such as colon cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments can also cause constipation. U-M Rogel Cancer Center Nutrition Services offers some suggestions to help alleviate constipation.

  • Eat at regular times each day.
  • Try to have a bowel movement at the same time each day to establish regularity.
  • Drink eight to 10 cups of liquid each day. Try water, prune juice, warm juices, teas and hot lemonade.
  • If gas becomes a problem, limit drinks and foods that cause gas, such as carbonated drinks, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, dried beans, peas and onions. To lessen the amount of swallowed air, limit talking while eating, drink without straws and avoid chewing gum.
  • Eat high-fiber and bulky foods, such as whole-grain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables (raw and cooked with skins and peels on), popcorn and dried beans.
  • Talk to your dietetics professional about a high-calorie, high-protein, fiber-containing liquid supplement if you need more calories, protein and fiber.
  • Use laxatives only on the advice of your physician. Contact your doctor if you have not had a bowel movement for three days or longer.

High-Fiber Foods to Choose More Often

 Serving SizeDietary Fiber (grams)
Breads and Cereals  
Bran cereals1/2 cup3-13
Popcorn2 cups5
Brown rice1/2 cup6
Whole-wheat bread1 slice1-2
Wheat bran, raw1/4 cup6
Kidney beans*1/2 cup8
Navy beans*1/2 cup9
Broccoli*1/2 cup4
Brussels sprouts*1/2 cup3
Carrots1/2 cup2
Corn1/2 cup5
Green peas1/2 cup3
Potato with skin1 medium3
Apple with peel1 medium4
Banana1 medium2
Blueberries1/2 cup2
Pear with skin1 medium5
Orange1 medium3
Raisins1/4 cup3
Strawberries1 cup3

The recommended intake of fiber is 25 to 35 grams a day. Increase fiber gradually.

*These foods tend to cause gas

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