Constipated? Try Any of These 12 Healthy Foods That Help You Poop

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There’s nothing worse than a traffic jam—both IRL and in your, ahem, bowels. Constipation, folks: It’s no fun and it can be hard to find relief.

But don’t worry, there is some good news here: there are a lot of foods and natural remedies like pressure points for constipation that provide constipation relief. Certainly, there are medications and doctors who have a lot of insight on the topic, but there are also a lot of natural laxatives to incorporate into your diet as well. Ahead we're delving into the best foods that help you poop to get things flowing smoothly once again.

Experts In This Article

What is constipation?

"Constipation" is a sort of catch-all term for a few different causal factors. You could experience a blockage because of a number of things, like having too many foods that cause constipation or your pelvic floor may be tight. You can have a diet of the best foods for constipation, but it's also important to be getting other helpers like fluids and movement, according to Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, a registered dietitian and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You From Label To Table.

"Stools may be too hard or too small, difficult to pass, or infrequent—fewer than three times per week," says Brooklyn-based gastroenterologist Niket Sonpal, MD. "People with constipation may also notice a frequent need to strain and a sense that the bowels are not empty."

There are a number of different causes for constipation, Dr. Sonpal says, including diet (specifically, a lack of fiber or healthy fats), lack of exercise, and dehydration are some of the most common. Even stress can cause constipation.

 Signs of constipation also differ for everyone, but a feeling of fullness, not going, and discomfort are all symptoms. In terms of how often you should poop per week, what's considered "normal" varies, but in general if you aren't pooping at least every three days, you're probably constipated. However, it’s best if you’re going to the bathroom at least once a day.

How can food help relieve constipation?

When you're dealing with some stopped intestinal traffic, changing your diet is a good first step. If you’re frantically Googling "how to relieve constipation," "how to poop better," or "foods to avoid when constipated," there’s a lot of information out there that is confusing and at times contradicting. Slow down and consider fiber your new best friend.

The good news is that the best foods for constipation are also quite tasty and there are so many creative ways to incorporate them into your diet. Most natural laxatives contain fiber and offer constipation relief because they aren’t exactly digestible by the body. "Most dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed, so it stays within the intestine where it modulates digestion of other foods and affects the consistency of stool," explains Dr. Sonpal.

Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian also explains that soluble fiber is made up of carbohydrates and dissolves in water (think: fruit, oats, barley, and legumes) while insoluble fiber comes from plant cell walls and does not dissolve in water (think: vegetables, and also wheat, rye, and other grains).

Which foods are best to help you poop regularly?

In short: not all foods provide the same level of relief as others. So, if you’ve ever wondered,“do bananas cause constipation?” No, they don’t, but they are one specific type of fiber (hi, resistant starch) that may slow things down when consumed in large quantities. The key? Balancing your diet with the appropriate types of fiber. Ideally, consuming a mixture of the best foods for constipation (we’ll get to those in a sec) with other key nutrients is the goal.

Exploring what foods to avoid when constipated is also, unfortunately, an important part of constipation relief. Some people are more sensitive to constipation-causing foods than others, but don’t worry– we’ll highlight some foods to avoid when constipated. Dairy fans, I know what you’re wondering, does cheese cause constipation, and the answer is complex. You definitely don’t have to worry about saying goodbye to any of your fave foods indefinitely even if they cause constipation. Timing is everything, even with going to the bathroom. With that in mind, here are the different foods that help you poop to keep things moving along.

12 foods that help you poop

1. Water

Other than building a campfire, I don’t know when water isn’t a solution. Sure, maybe water isn’t really a food, but it’s an essential part of the answer to the question, “how to relieve constipation?” Without moisture like water or other liquids in your diet, the answer is the opposite actually. All that fiber in your system without proper hydration can back some folks up. 

"Make sure you're drinking water—hydration, in general, will help push things out quickly," Zeitlin says. Flat water with lemon is her first choice, but La Croix fans fear not: The sparkling stuff will get the job done, too. Water keeps things moving because it loosens your stool and hydrates the membranes along your digestive tract. Hydrated membranes equal lubrication. Warm water is especially helpful for constipation.

2. Caffeine

Does fiber make you poop? Well, sometimes. But does coffee make you poop? To that, we can safely say yes. So, while we're getting the liquids out of the way first, there's a reason why that 9 a.m. coffee has often got you running to the office bathroom by 9:45. "Caffeine is a stimulant. We always think of it as stimulating our brain in the morning, but it also stimulates your GI system," Zeitlin says. This is because, research shows it stimulates your “gastrocolic reflex,” aka the signal to your body to poop.

Keep in mind, however, the pooping after your cup of joe isn't necessarily a sign your stool is getting the right amount of fiber. The chemical just trips an alarm, so to speak. So, Zeitlin says, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough fiber and water as well. When it comes to wondering how to relieve constipation, a cup of coffee with a balanced, fibrous meal is a great way to tell your gut to keep it moving.

3. High-fiber fruit

Insoluble fiber is the material your body doesn’t digest, but helps with speeding up digestion. As a result, it makes your stool bulkier and less dense. This is good! "You want to make sure you're eating the skin because that's where the fiber is," Zeitlin says. Some of her and Dr. Sonpal's favorite high-fiber foods? Apples, raspberries, peaches, guava, and papaya. And you can't forget about persimmon benefits, which includes tons of fiber.

Additional foods that help you poop loaded with insoluble fiber: whole wheat and wheat bran, other whole grains like brown rice and barley, and many vegetables including celery, carrots, kale, and zucchini, plus leafy greens such as spinach or lettuce.

4. Dried fruit

Using prunes for constipation is surefire way to help get things flowing, according to the experts. One could say your grandma was right all along—prunes are a tried-and-true constipation remedy for a good reason. Prunes are high in fiber as well as sorbitol, says Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD. "Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol found in fruits which can speed up the GI system," she explains. Sorbitol is a natural laxative which is why prunes are so great for constipation. A little (one to two prunes or a small glass of juice) goes a long way though. This is also good to keep in mind for when you’re not constipated and want to enjoy some prunes anyway.

If prunes aren’t your vibe for snacking, you can always add them to a smoothie with flavor-masking ingredients like peanut butter or other fruits. This is also a great chance to add other number-two-inducing foods. Dates can also make you poop in a similar way to prunes, says Taub-Dix. It’s okay to admit that prunes aren’t your deal– plenty of dried fruit relieves constipation.

5. Raw green vegetables

Yup, you guessed it—veggies have got a lot of fiber, too. "We're going to get the most amount of fiber from our veggies if they're raw, so you want to eat them salad-style," Zeitlin says. Some of her go-to high-fiber vegetable picks include broccoli, peas, spinach, kale, and artichokes, all of which are filled with fiber. If you're making a salad, add some beets for additional fiber and tomatoes for a boost of hydration, and you'll be good to go... literally.

BTW, before you get totally shocked by a green-colored number two after eating these green veggies, you may want to catch up on your knowledge about poop color meaning. (TL;DR? Green poops are usually totally normal.) And, if your poops stink, foods high in sulfur may be the culprits.

6. Oatmeal

That morning oatmeal habit may be doing you more favors than you realize. It's high in—you guessed it!—fiber, which can "push things out quickly," Zeitlin says. Sprinkle on some nuts, seeds, and fibrous fruits as well for additional gut health benefits.

7. Yogurt and kefir

Breakfast foods really are the MVPs of bowel movements, aren't they? These two foods are filled with gut-healthy probiotics that can help soften stools, Beckerman says, which can help ease things through your system. When it comes to choosing between kefir and yogurt, you may opt for kefir if you haven’t had a lot of fluids as it’s more of a liquid than regular yogurt.

8. Healthy fats

"We want healthy fats to kind of lubricate your stool and intestinal linings," Zeitlin explains. Think nuts and nut butter, which pair beautifully with all that fiber-packed fruit. Olive oil is also a great pick and will make a delicious dressing for that raw green veggie salad.

9. Beans

Beans, beans, the magical get the point. Beans, Beckerman said, are full of fiber to help ease constipation symptoms. Incorporating them into your diet isn't just a gut-healthy win, they're also packed with protein and minerals.

10. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a great food for constipation because they are an excellent source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also small and often tasteless so adding them to salads, smoothies, or even a glass of water is a great idea.

11. Tea

Some plants have the power to support your digestion and colon, all while being extremely hydrating. Peppermint tea has stomach-soothing properties if you also have indigestion while possessing the hydrating properties of water. (But avoid this beverage if your indigestion is due to GERD, per Mount Sinai.) Meanwhile, lemon verbena tea and licorice root tea have been shown to have positive laxative effects.

12. Aloe

Aloe is a succulent plant that is often incorporated into juices and drinks, and it has shown impressive laxative properties. Picking up aloe juice or tea could really help get things moving. Just remember that you should be eating food-grade aloe, and not the topical kind.

How quickly should these foods make you go?

According to Zeitlin, if the aforementioned foods that help you poop cause you to go immediately, it could be a sign of an allergy, sensitivity, intolerance, or that something was bad. So while you want to load up on foods that will move your system, you don't want anything that's going to make it happen too quickly. The sweet spot? Research show that it takes, on average, 24 to 72 hours for food to travel through the entire colon. The key is that the consistency (both textural and timing) are steady.

What foods make constipation worse?

Generally speaking, foods that cause constipation include those that are low in fiber, sugary pastries, not having enough fluid in your diet, and some highly-processed foods that are made with refined versus whole grains can all contribute to constipation.

The National Institute of Health reports that dairy products like blocks of cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta cheese, meats (both raw and cured lunch meat), and sweets like chocolates can also impair digestion. But does cheese directly cause constipation? Not exactly, it just means that you have to be aware of your fiber and water intake when eating foods like these. In fact, healthy fats are perfectly useful for your body when keeping things moving and pooping at a regular pace.

One important point to remember is that foods that help you poop won’t do as good a job without a partner, like fluids, says Taub-Dix. Whether it’s water, sparkling water, tea, or whatever beverage you choose, it’s essential to pair beverages with fibrous foods to help them move foods through your system and help you get rid of them.

Hopefully, you’ve learned a little bit more about how to relieve constipation. It’s not easy to feel all stopped up and figure out what to eat as a result. Sometimes things that relieve constipation don’t necessarily sound good, but getting creative in the kitchen can promote a poop that feels good while get things moving in the bathroom.

Even more foods that help you poop this way:

—reviewed by Jennifer Logan, MD, MPH

Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Brown, S R et al. “Effect of coffee on distal colon function.” Gut vol. 31,4 (1990): 450-3. doi:10.1136/gut.31.4.450
  2. Rashid, Hasan M et al. “Antioxidant and Antiproliferation Activities of Lemon Verbena (Aloysia citrodora): An In Vitro and In Vivo Study.” Plants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 11,6 785. 16 Mar. 2022, doi:10.3390/plants11060785
  3. Yang, Rui et al. “The anti-inflammatory activity of licorice, a widely used Chinese herb.” Pharmaceutical biology vol. 55,1 (2017): 5-18. doi:10.1080/13880209.2016.1225775

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