Constipated? Try Any of These 12 Healthy Foods That Help You Poop
"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, he says, including diet (specifically, a lack of fiber or healthy fats), lack of exercise, stress, and dehydration are some of the most common. 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.
What to know about foods that help you poop as natural laxatives
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” 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 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: wheat, rye, and other grains).
Which foods are best to help you poop regularly?
So, if you’ve ever wondered “Do bananas cause constipation?” No, they don’t, but they are one specific type of fiber. You need a balance of both types, so try to consume a mixture of the best foods for constipation (we’ll get to those in a sec). 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.
Add in some healthy fats, and you'll be hitting the squatty potty in no time. With that in mind, here are the different foods that help you poop to keep things moving along.
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 “Does fiber make you poop” 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," says Zeitlin. Flatwater 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.
Does fiber make you poop? Well, sometimes. Does coffee make you poop? To that, we can safely say yes. 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," says Zeitlin. This is because, according to the medical information library Statpearls, it stimulates your “gastrocolic reflex” i.e. the signal to your body to poop.
Caffeine isn’t a fibrous food so it’s not 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. As a result, it makes your stool bulkier and less dense. This is good! It helps it move along and out of your body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"You want to make sure you're eating the skin because that's where the fiber is," says Zeitlin. Some of her and Sonpal's favorite high-fiber foods? Apples, raspberries, peaches, guava, and papaya.
4. Dried fruit
Using prunes for constipation is super smart. 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 explained. Sorbitol is a natural laxative which is why prunes are so great for constipation. A little (1-2 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.
If prunes aren’t your vibe or texture for snacking or solving constipation, you can always add them to a smoothie with flavor-masking ingredients like peanut butter or 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," says Zeitlin. Some of her high-fiber vegetable faces include broccoli, peas, spinach, kale, and artichokes, all of which are filled with fiber. If you're making a salad, add some beats for additional fiber and tomatoes for added hydration, and you'll be good to go... literally.
That AM 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," says Zeitlin. Sprinkle on some nuts, seeds, and fibrous fruits as well.
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 said, helping to 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," explains Zeitlin. 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.
Beans beans the magical fruit...you 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, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They’re also small and often tasteless so adding them to salads, smoothies, or even a glass of water is a great idea.
Some plants support your digestion and colon as well as hydrating. Peppermint tea has stomach-soothing properties if you also have indigestion while possessing the hydrating properties of water. Lemon verbena tea and licorice root tea have shown positive laxative effects in several studies here and here.
Aloe is a succulent plant that is often incorporated into juices and drinks, and it has shown impressive laxative properties in the text Herbal Medicines. 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.
What foods help constipation fast
On the other hand, according to Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, if 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.
What foods make constipation worse
Foods that are low in fiber include sugary pastries, not having enough fluid in your diet, and some highly processed foods that are made with refined vs whole grains.
What are the most constipating foods
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. 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 move you 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 is a great way to get things moving in the bathroom.
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