Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN
The Bloated Belly Whisperer
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Bloated Belly Q&A Index

"I'm constipated and bloated, but eating fiber for my constipation makes me more bloated!"

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"Dear BBW,

I'm pretty constipated.  I only go to the bathroom (#2) once every 2 or 3 days, and even then it feels like there's more I need to get out but doesn't come out.  My doctor told me to eat more fiber and to take Metamucil, but I feel like salads and fiber supplements constipate me even more!  I know I need to eat more fiber to go to the bathroom so I won't be so bloated all the time, but more fiber makes me feel even MORE bloated all the time. Help!"

-CF, New York

Dear CF,

There are many ways to tackle constipation, and fiber is only one of them.  What's more, there are many different types of fiber, and some may be more bloating than others--particularly when you're 'FOS' (that's short for 'full-of-stool.') You didn't mention whether you take anything in the laxative department. When my patients present with similar problems, we usually take a three-pronged approach:

  1. Coffee every morning right after waking to help stimulate the urge to go
  2. Gradually increasing fiber from "soluble" sources that aren't going to cause too much gas: oatmeal, chia/ground flaxseeds, quinoa, sweet potatoes, avocadoes, oranges/clementines, papaya, cantaloupe, zucchini, winter squash, peeled eggplant and carrots. I'd lay off the fiber supplements and lots of roughage, like kale and salads and popcorn for now. And steer clear of any 'high fiber' bars or fiber-fortified foods.
  3. If your kidneys are healthy, you can also try taking some magnesium supplements in the evening. Doses of 400mg to 800mg usually do the trick, and they're not dependency forming.

Of course, there are PLENTY more tricks up my sleeve if this trifecta doesn't get the job done. But you'll have to buy my book next February to learn the rest of them! ;)

-Tamara