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Science Based Medicine: “Constipation Myths and Facts.”
30 Best Foods for Constipation Relief
When you’re backed up, it can leave you feeling bloated, sluggish, and all-around uncomfortable. If not being able to go to the bathroom is weighing you down (literally!) then you’re probably looking for some constipation relief as soon as possible. And fortunately, you don’t need to turn to risky laxatives or other potentially disastrous over-the-counter medication, as there are plenty of natural foods that will, well, make you poop, moving things along, helping you go to the bathroom easily and regularly.
Note: These are healthy, fiber-rich foods that help make you poop, but they also have other positive benefits beyond your digestive system. So no, we’re not including those junk foods that may make you run for the bathroom for all the wrong reasons!
If you’re consuming the foods and drinks on this list and still having issues, be sure to see a doctor or gastroenterologist to help with your BM troubles. Have other bathroom issues? Don’t miss these IBS remedies.
And now, these are the healthiest foods that make you poop and naturally help aid any constipation relief.
“You can easily become constipated by not drinking enough water,” Benjamin Levy, MD, gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, advises. “I recommend drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water per day. This is especially important during the summer because we sweat water away a lot.” And if you’re feeling a little full, try these detox water recipes that banish bloat.
But first, coffee. While the effects from a cup of Joe can vary from one person to the next, it’s highly common for the beverage to make you head for the bathroom. Coffee has been shown to promote the release of gastrin, which can increase colonic spike and motor activity, reports the journal Gut. The effects of coffee on the body are pretty fascinating, but the study goes on to explain that coffee can’t reach the colon that fast—but that it instead induces a response by acting on receptors in the stomach or small bowels.
“One trick is to drink coffee with breakfast because the combination helps stimulate the gastrocolic reflex which causes bowel contractions (peristalsis) and moves stool out of the body,” Dr. Levy explains. “Many patients will feel the urge to have a good bowel movement after drinking coffee with breakfast.”
Anything with greater than five grams of fiber per serving is considered a high-fiber food. One ounce (about two tablespoons) of chia seeds has double that amount! “Also, chia seeds turn gelatinous when wet and help carry away matter that might be stuck in your digestive tract,” says Alexandra Napoli, certified holistic health coach. Intrigued? We’ve curated the best chia seed recipes on Instagram for plenty of how-to-use-em inspo.
If sluggish bowels are your problem, researchers say high-fiber kiwifruit may be the kick you’re looking for. A study by Taiwanese researchers found that IBS sufferers who ate two kiwis a day for four weeks had less constipation and a general lessening of IBS symptoms than those who didn’t.
Studies conducted at The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee and published in the journal Lipids suggest that consuming calcium—which milk has plenty of—may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Another study showed that increased calcium intake from dairy products (though not from supplemental calcium carbonate) caused study participants to poop out more fat as opposed to it sticking around on the body.
Oranges are another fibrous fruit that can help move things along and help you avoid constipation. “Citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit are great because the fiber stimulates the growth of good colon microbiota/flora and subsequently increase fecal mass,” Dr. Levy says. “These fruits are excellent snack and dessert choices for patients with constipation.” Definitely a much better than sweet treats made from fiber-stripped refined carbohydrates.
There’s a reason why we go nutty for pistachios. Research from 2012 suggests that pistachios have properties similar to probiotics, which helps the growth of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. And a healthy gastrointestinal tract (GIT) equals healthy poops.
Whole Grain Cereal
If you reach for whole grain cereal in the morning, you’ll start your day off with a healthy dose of fiber that will keep you regular throughout the day. “Cereal fibers (such as whole grains) are great constipation relieving foods because their cell walls are difficult to digest and hold onto water,” Dr. Levy explains. He recommends oatmeal or fibrous boxed cereals—for our favorites, check out our best breakfast cereals for weight loss.
It does more than just leaving your breath smelling minty fresh since peppermint is another food that helps make you poop. Peppermint’s soothing effect works wonders for a bad stomach but research found that it can also help people who suffer from IBS. Basically, its calming properties help loosen up the muscles in the intestinal tract so your poo can move freely.
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread is chock-full of the fiber that can help move your bowels along. Dr. Levy recommends whole wheat toast in the morning for breakfast with a little cheddar cheese or peanut butter. It’s also a great base for avocado toast.
Beans are an A-list food that everyone should add to their diets and one of the best high fiber foods. They offer a plethora of vitamins (Hey, vitamin B!) and its high-fiber count helps bulk up your stools, making it easy for them to go down your GIT.
One cup of brown rice contains nearly four grams of fiber, making it a great food to eat when you just can’t seem to go. A study from 2017 found that women who consumed brown rice decreased their chances of getting constipation by 47 percent than those who did not.
The high fiber in bananas can help normalize bowel motility. With three grams of insoluble fiber, they help you push out waste better by making stools easier to pass. Bonus: They also help when things are loosey goosey. “Bananas are binding for anyone with diarrhea, and they also contain probiotics that are essential ‘food’ for the healthy microbes that live in our guts,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
The word “prunes” might bring up thoughts of your grandma’s favorite afternoon snack, but the dried plums are a great food for keeping things regular. There are six grams of fiber for every 100 grams of pruney goodness. Prune juice is also a known natural laxative that can help boost your bowel movements.
Avocados’ high magnesium content helps draw moisture into the digestive tract, which helps to soften stool and increase flow, says Natoli.
Add “helps your bowels” to the long list of reasons why we love green tea here at Eat This, Not That! “Green tea is a good way to increase amount of fluid consumption, with the goal of loosening stool, while the caffeine in green tea is a natural laxative,” Dr. Levy explains. “Green tea also contains antioxidants; small studies have shown a possible association between green tea and a decreased risk of lung cancer and prostate cancer.” Green tea will also rev up your metabolism and help you melt fat. 6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e
Although your best drinks for constipation are water, coffee, and green tea, coconut water does have hydrating properties and is better for you than a sugary, food dye-laden sports drink. “Coconut water is a good alternative to higher sugar containing sports drinks as a tasty way to increase fluid consumption,” Dr. Levy says.
Probiotics are essential for a healthy digestive tract to help keep things moving along. An analysis from 2014 found the probiotics found in yogurt can help increase stool frequency. And yes, we’ve noticed how many items on this list are breakfast foods. It explains so much, right?
Pears have always been known as a constipation remedy. They’re not only an excellent source of fiber, but pears have naturally-occurring, sorbitol which acts as a laxative to loosen up the stools, says Napoli.
Dried fruit packs a one-two punch when it comes to fighting constipation. “Dried fruit is an excellent source of dietary fiber and also contains sorbitol which is a natural laxative,” Dr. Levy explains. There are nearly 2 grams of sugar in one small box of raisins.
Apples are the quintessential healthy fruit that every person needs in their diet. One average-sized apple contains about 4.4 grams of fiber—and like pears it, it also contains sorbitol to increase bowel movements.
If you’re not feeling so peachy about your #2 business, try eating a peach. Peaches also have a high concentration of sorbitol. (Do you see a pattern yet? P.S. Sorbitol is a sweetener known as a sugar alcohol that acts as a laxative to help move things along in our intestinal tract.)
It may not be as popular as its other nutty counterparts (almond and peanut butter), but a spoonful of rich, creamy cashew butter still packs a nutritional punch—especially for your bathroom issues. It’s a good source of magnesium, another nutrient that’s essential for a healthy poop flow.
Figs—and we don’t mean the Newtons—are a great way to add more fiber to your diet. Four of them will cost you 189 calories and provide 7.4 grams of fiber that’s great for those suffering from IBS. The sugar count in this fruit is high, but the sugar is naturally-occurring and the high fiber content helps offset it.
We know: You wouldn’t expect popcorn to be on the same list as healthy foods like avocados and leafy greens, but the air-popped kind is low calorie, high fiber, and makes a great snack for those who need a boost in the bathroom. “Popcorn is one of my favorite ways to increase fiber consumption because it’s such a delicious snack,” Dr. Levy says, “I recommend that patients air pop their popcorn.” As you know, the more fiber you consume, the more bulk it adds to your poop, making it easier to get down and out of you.
Blackberries contain eight grams of fiber per cup—twice the amount of other popular berries (looking at you, strawberries and blueberries.) And as an added nutritious bonus, blackberries are one of the most antioxidant-packed fruits out there!
Leafy greens such as kale, arugula, and spinach contain indigestible fiber that adds bulk to stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive system. Additionally, they are low in fermentable carbohydrates responsible for triggering bouts of IBS.
Plums may be the younger, fuller, version of prunes, but they will still help you get the job done. They’re a high source of naturally occurring sorbitol and even make the list of best-ever fat-burning foods!
“Cooking fresh artichokes or topping pizza with artichoke hearts is a great way to increase fiber consumption,” Dr. Levy explains. “Artichokes also contain a high amount of antioxidants which may help prevent cancer.” They can also fight off high blood pressure thanks to their magnesium and potassium amounts, he says. More reason to dig on into some homemade spinach artichoke dip, too!
A bowl of oatmeal is a great way to get the digestive tract moving in the morning. A cup of oats gives you a whopping 16 grams of fiber and there are plenty of ways to make oats for weight loss. Just stay away from the instant stuff in envelopes, which is usually packed with sugar.
Can’t Go? These 14 Foods Can Help
The best way to stay regular is to exercise, eat a healthy, fiber-rich diet, and drink plenty of water. But if you have trouble going, certain foods can help. It’s not the only factor, but fiber — which adds to the size and water content of your stool — is key. Women should shoot for 21 to 25 grams a day, and men, 30 to 38.
Ruby red and yummy by themselves, with a bit of cream, or added to yogurt, they give you a hit of calcium and vitamin C. A light tart with raspberries and an almond crust could up your fiber intake even more (almonds have lots of it, too) — just watch out for the sugar and fat.
This sweet fruit is packed with vitamins and antioxidants, and it has a lot of fiber and water, which can help with constipation. One pear has only about 60 calories.
It’s not just perfect movie food — it can be a healthy snack any time, as long as you don’t bury it in salt and butter. But you may not know it’s loaded with fiber.
It doesn’t have a lot of fiber, but it’s 92% water, and that can encourage a bowel movement. It’s also chock full of nutrients, with antioxidants that help protect your cells, as well as vitamins A, B, and C, and lycopene, which helps shield you from UV rays.
Have this for breakfast and you’ll be less hungry — and less likely to snack — during the day. It’s a good source of fiber, and the oats absorb lots of water, too, which helps with digestion. Bonus: It also may help lower LDL, or “bad cholesterol,” and gives you complex carbs, protein, calcium, and iron.
You can put them on salads and desserts, eat them with yogurt and cheese, or grind them to make a tasty pie filling or pastry dough.
Sometimes overshadowed by their more famous cousins — kale, spinach, and collard greens — these have long been a staple of Southern cooking. They’re traditionally cooked with salt pork or ham hocks for flavor, but you can use smoked turkey wings to lower the salt and fat.
Cooled potatoes have fiber and a lot of something called “resistant starch.” This “resists” digestion, and some of it ends up in your large intestine, where it helps good bacteria grow.
An ancient strain of wheat that’s a staple in Italy, it has a hearty, chewy texture and a delicious nutty flavor. Try it instead of rice or potatoes for a fiber-rich starch with protein and calcium.
Try not to think of Grandpa’s morning BM ritual — but they were on to something. Prunes can be good with yogurt or cheese or cooked with poultry and desserts. And they can really help get you going again, even better than some over-the-counter laxatives. It’s not clear why they work so well, but they have sorbitol — which helps your bowels take in more water — as well as fiber.
These can make for a great a side dish (try them with sausage), and they’re good in salads, too. They can even be hearty enough to have as a main course, thanks to a healthy amount of protein. And, oh yeah, they help you poop.
The bacteria that turn milk to yogurt are also good for your digestive tract. All yogurt helps keep it healthy and keeps you regular, but yogurt with live cultures or probiotics may be even better at helping you go.
This one has scientists a bit baffled — it makes some people poop, but no one knows why exactly. It’s probably not the caffeine, because studies have shown that even the decaffeinated version works for some folks. One theory is that it affects the lining of your stomach and small intestine in some way, or it might be linked to a hormone that makes your colon contract. And that could help you on your next visit to the restroom.
Yep, good old-fashioned water can help get you back on track. You can get it from the tap — filtered if necessary — and from other drinks, soups, and even fruits and vegetables.
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Science Based Medicine: “Constipation Myths and Facts.”
European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation?”
National Institutes of Health: “Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation,” “Pediatric functional constipation treatment with Bifidobacterium-containing yogurt: a crossover, double-blind, controlled trial.”
The Scientist: “How Probiotic Yogurt Works.”
Annals of Medicine: “The role of potatoes and potato components in cardiometabolic health: A review.”
WHYY: “A Chef’s Table.”
The Savannah Morning News: “Greens: The staple of Southern cuisine.”
USDA Branded Food Products Database.
Dairy Council of California: “Health Benefits of Oatmeal.”
Nutrition and You.
LiveScience.com: “Why Does Coffee Make You Poop?”
The Watermelon Board.
Mayo Clinic: “Nutrition and healthy eating.”