Navigating Nutrition: How Busy Students Can Prevent Constipation with Smart Dietary Choices

Picture yourself in a crowded lecture hall, desperately trying to absorb the professor’s lecture while battling a persistent discomfort in your stomach. You can’t focus; constantly shifting in your seat, eagerly awaiting the end of class to try to relieve yourself in the nearest restroom. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, you’re not alone. Recent reports from the University Health Service have highlighted a concerning trend: a growing number of students experiencing constipation. But fear not, there are solutions to break free from this uncomfortable cycle.

Constipation is more than just an inconvenience; it’s a disruption to your daily routine and overall well-being. Typically characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stools, constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water from waste material, resulting in hardened and dry stools. While the frequency of bowel movements can vary among individuals, experiencing less than three bowel movements per week is often an indicator of constipation. Alongside symptoms such as abdominal discomfort and headaches, prolonged constipation can lead to serious complications like appendicitis due to the obstruction of blood flow to the appendix.

Diet is perhaps the most significant factor contributing to constipation. Foods low in fiber and inadequate water intake are the major culprits. Lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle can also lead to constipation, which is why it’s more commonly observed among older adults. Pregnancy can cause constipation due to the pressure of the growing uterus on the intestines. Even some children develop constipation due to holding their stools for extended periods. For students, however, inability to maintain a balanced diet amidst the demands of academic life are the precipitants.

How can you prevent constipation? Maintaining a healthy diet is essential, especially for busy students juggling the demands of academic life and personal commitments. Here are some dietary changes that can help:

  1. Fiber-Rich Foods: Dietary fiber, also known as roughage, is the indigestible part of plant foods. It passes through the gut relatively intact, increasing the weight and size of the stool, making it easier to pass. Fiber can also help solidify watery stools and prevent hemorrhoids. Some studies suggest that a high-fiber diet can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. You can incorporate fiber into your diet by eating fruits like apples and oranges, especially after meals. Include whole grains such as brown rice and corn, as well as vegetables, in your diet. Snacking on nuts and legumes can also boost your fiber intake. Even simple choices like munching on popcorn or some nuts can make a difference.
  2. Hydration: Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. When your body loses more fluids—typically through sweating—than it takes in, you become dehydrated. Insufficient water intake during exercise, hot weather, or daily activities can deplete your body’s stored water. Staying adequately hydrated helps soften your stool, making it easier to pass. Carry a reusable water bottle to remind yourself to drink throughout the day. Set reminders to take regular sips of water (if you want to be more intentional). While juices can contribute to hydration, consume them in moderation due to their high sugar content. Similarly, limit alcohol and caffeine intake, as they are diuretics and can lead to further dehydration.
  3. Avoid Constipation-Inducing Foods: Certain foods can increase the likelihood of constipation by slowing down digestion. Here are some of them:
    • High-Fat Foods: Foods very high in fat can slow down digestion, increasing the chances of constipation.
    • Dairy Products: Dairy products, particularly in people who are lactose intolerant, can also contribute to constipation.
    • High-Salt Foods: Foods high in salt may worsen dehydration, which can contribute to constipation.
    • Refined Foods: Refined foods are stripped of their fiber during processing, making them less beneficial for digestion.
    • Excessive Fiber Intake: While fiber is important for digestive health, consuming more than the daily recommended amount without adequate water intake can actually lead to constipation. Excessive fiber can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, potentially causing nutrient deficiencies.

It’s important to strike a balance in your diet by choosing fiber-rich, unprocessed foods and staying well-hydrated to maintain healthy digestion and avoid constipation.


• Cura4U. (n.d.). Constipation Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment. Available at:‌

• Sherwood, L. (2016). Human Physiology from Cells to System.

• Cleveland Clinic (2023). Constipation. Cleveland Clinic. Available at:‌

Daniel Akintayo


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *