Changes in diet

Simple things included in your daily routine can help prevent constipation. Try drinking at least six glasses of water a day. A warm drink first thing in the morning may help. Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as wholemeal bread and high-fibre cereals, fruit and vegetables. Adding some boiled prunes into your diet may help. Snack on high-fibre food, such as fruit and nut mixes, sesame and nut bars and wholemeal biscuits.

If your dietary restrictions allow it, this Get Up and Go Cookies recipe may help with constipation.

If diarrhoea is the problem, the following suggestions may help:

  • Eating smaller meals more frequently (if your appetite allows) may take some of the pressure off your bowel. Try to eat three small meals and three snacks each day.
  • Beware of dairy products, alcohol, and spicy or fatty foods.
  • Avoid skins, pips and seeds from fruit and vegetables, whole grain bread, bran-based and muesli breakfast cereals, nuts and legumes such as lentils, dried beans, dried peas and baked beans.
  • If you have gas or cramping, avoid foods that can increase gas production, such as dried peas and beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, brussel sprouts, carbonated beverages, beer and chewing gum.  

For mild diarrhoea, clear fluids and the BRAT (banana, rice, apples and toast) diet are often recommended. Other foods to choose from include soft, well-cooked peeled vegetables and fruits or canned fruits, white bread and pasta, cornflakes, rice-based breakfast cereals, well-cooked rolled oats and semolina, and lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.

Caffeine, alcohol and other diuretic substances are not great if you have urinary incontinence, because they increase the amount of fluid there is to leak and the rate at which these are eliminated. However, you should still continue to drink water, as reducing your fluid intake can make bladder problems worse as it concentrates the urine and irritates the bladder.

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Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015