Everyone has dealt with constipation at some point or another.
You might only experience constipation when traveling due to stress and being on a different schedule, or you might suffer from chronic constipation.
Some health conditions like irritable bowel syndrome can cause constipation as well.
Constipation is an unpleasant experience that can impact people of all ages, from babies to the elderly.
If constipation isn’t resolved, it can cause abdominal pain and other issues like diverticulitis from chronic straining to try to have a bowel movement.
The good news is that there are plenty of foods you can eat to prevent and treat constipation and improve your quality of life.
20 Foods To Relieve Constipation
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel, whereas insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water.
Oats are one of the best sources of soluble fiber, while raw fruits and vegetables tend to be higher in insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber can also add bulk to stools and help relieve constipation.
Be sure to choose plain oats free of added sugar for the healthiest option. Try topping your oatmeal with other high-fiber foods like fruit, nuts, and seeds to further boost the fiber content, prevent constipation, and promote regular bowel movements.
One of the most popular and well-known constipation fighters over the last several decades, prunes have a long history of helping to fight constipation.
Prunes contain a type of sugar alcohol called sorbitol, which isn’t well digested by your body and acts as a natural laxative. To aid in the digestion of sorbitol, your body pulls more water into the colon, which can have a laxative effect.
As long as you don’t eat an excessive amount of prunes, the laxative effect can be beneficial if you’re struggling with constipation or if you want to help prevent constipation. Prune juice can also be used to relieve constipation.
According to a study, prunes were superior to the active ingredient in some fiber supplements for improving stool frequency and consistency.
Legumes such as beans, dried peas, and lentils are packed with fiber. One cup of cooked lentils contains 16 grams of fiber, which is over half of the recommended amount of 25-30 grams of fiber daily.
Any type of legume is a great source of fiber, including lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, black beans, kidney beans, and many other varieties.
Not only is fiber beneficial for your gut health, but eating a fiber-rich diet may also help protect your heart since diets rich in fiber are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
One of the most fiber-rich fruits, raspberries provide an impressive eight grams of fiber per cup. Part of the reason raspberries are so high in fiber is because of their seeds. Other berries with seeds are also high in fiber, such as blackberries and strawberries.
Add raspberries to your morning cereal, top your yogurt with them, or enjoy raspberries on their own as a healthy snack to help relieve constipation.
Nuts are rich in constipation-relieving fiber, and they’re also a good source of protein and healthy fats.
Almonds are a convenient snack while traveling or enjoying time outdoors. One ounce (about a handful) of almonds provides three grams of fiber as well as heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
According to a study on patients with constipation, including 40 grams (around 1.5 ounces) of raw almonds in their diets for four weeks significantly improved symptoms of constipation while also improving quality of life.
Although avocados don’t necessarily look high in fiber, one whole avocado provides 13 grams of dietary fiber.
Avocados can help relieve constipation and improve the regularity of your bowel movements while also promoting heart health, thanks to their healthy fat content.
Foods high in unsaturated fats (but not saturated fats) may aid in relieving constipation by helping to provide lubrication in your digestive tract. Hence, avocados are a healthy food that fits the bill for both fiber and healthy fat.
7. Citrus fruits
Iron supplements used to treat and prevent anemia can cause constipation, so eating iron-rich foods is important to hopefully avoid the need for iron supplements.
Citrus fruits are also a fantastic source of vitamin C, which can help your body absorb iron and prevent anemia.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit are a good source of iron, with one small orange providing around 10% of the daily value.
One medium pear provides six grams of fiber, almost a quarter of the daily recommended amount.
Fiber acts as a prebiotic, which helps feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Maintaining a healthy gut flora can keep your digestive system working efficiently.
If you have an imbalance of these beneficial bacteria, you can experience symptoms like nausea, upset stomach, bloating, constipation and diarrhea.
9. Spinach and other leafy greens
Leafy greens are a great source of several vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fiber as well. 100 grams (around 3.5 ounces) of spinach provides a little over two grams of fiber.
That might not seem like a lot, but spinach shrinks significantly when cooked, so adding spinach to casseroles, scrambled eggs, and other dishes can increase their fiber intake significantly.
Spinach is rich in insoluble fiber, which can help speed up digestion and promote digestive regularity while relieving constipation.
10. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a versatile source of fiber and can be added to hot cereal, smoothies, yogurt, or sprinkled on top of salads. One tablespoon of chia seeds provides four grams of fiber as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Chia seeds are also a good source of plant-based antioxidants, which help fight inflammation. Eating fiber-rich foods with anti-inflammatory properties is especially beneficial if you suffer from inflammatory bowel conditions that impact your digestive health.
One medium artichoke contains seven grams of fiber, over a quarter of the daily recommended amount. Artichoke hearts are great on pizza and in salads, or you can eat their leaves dipped in melted butter for a savory snack.
Artichokes are also rich in magnesium, which can help promote muscle relaxation. When the muscles of the intestines are relaxed, it may improve gastric motility and relieve constipation.
12. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes can act as a natural laxative due to their water and fiber content, promoting regular bowel movements.
They are a good source of fiber and other beneficial nutrients like vitamin C, beta carotene, and vitamin B6. One medium sweet potato provides four grams of dietary fiber, around 15% of the daily recommended amount.
13. Brussels sprouts
Many vegetables are rich in insoluble fiber, which is the kind that decreases digestion time, so food passes through faster. Insoluble fiber can help relieve constipation, but it can also cause diarrhea if you eat large amounts of it at once, especially if you’re not used to it.
Soluble fiber increases digestion time because it binds with water to form a gel in your digestive tract. This helps add bulk to stools, which can help relieve constipation.
Soluble fiber can also be helpful in patients with diarrhea since it helps slow down the digestion process. Brussels sprouts contain around two grams of soluble fiber per half-cup.
14. Whole wheat bread
Wheat kernels have three parts: the hard outer layer is the bran, which includes fiber and some minerals. The core is the germ and includes healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. The endosperm is the middle layer containing mostly carbohydrates and a small amount of protein.
When wheat is refined, it’s stripped of the wheat bran and wheat germ, leaving a low-fiber, lower-nutrient grain. On the other hand, whole wheat bread containing the bran and wheat germ is higher in fiber than refined grains which are stripped of those parts.
When choosing whole wheat bread, look for kinds that provide at least three grams of fiber per slice.
If you’re looking for a healthy snack, popcorn can fit the bill. Air-popped popcorn is high in fiber and can satisfy your craving for a crunchy, savory snack.
Using canola oil cooking spray and adding toppings like grated parmesan cheese and nutritional yeast make popcorn a healthier snack than microwaveable popcorn full of saturated fat and artificial colors.
Three cups of air-popped popcorn contain around four grams of fiber.
Apples are a source of sorbitol, the same type of sugar in prunes that acts as a natural laxative. They are also a great source of fiber and have a high water content, making apples a great food to help promote bowel movements and relieve constipation.
Apples with the skins left on are highest in fiber. Dried apples and other dried fruit have some fiber as well. Applesauce and apple juice don’t contain dietary fiber to help relieve constipation.
17. Psyllium husk
Psyllium husk is a popular ingredient in fiber supplements. The Psyllium is made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds and is an excellent source of fiber.
Psyllium husk is most often used as a laxative to help treat and prevent constipation. It is a bulk-forming laxative, which means it adds bulk to your stools by absorbing liquid in your intestines. When stools are larger, your intestinal walls contract to help you have a bowel movement.
Other types of laxatives can be harmful to use long-term, such as stimulant laxatives. Psyllium husk is a safe type of laxative that doesn’t come with the risks of other kinds of laxatives.
If you’re not a fan of prunes (dried plums), you might enjoy fresh plums more. Like prunes, plums are rich in sorbitol and can help relieve constipation. One cup of sliced plums contains 2.3 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of vitamin C.
While fruits high in sorbitol can help relieve constipation, they may not be the best choice if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.
Some patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) don’t tolerate sorbitol very well, so you should use caution if you do have IBS. Keeping a food/symptom journal is the most effective way to learn your food triggers for digestive issues.
19. Brown rice
Just like whole-wheat bread is higher in fiber than white bread, brown rice is higher in fiber than white rice. One cup of cooked brown rice contains 3.5 grams of dietary fiber.
Brown rice is also a source of magnesium, a mineral that helps attract water into your intestines and can help prevent constipation.
Most of the fiber is in the outer part of the rice kernel, so brown rice is a much better choice for relieving constipation than white rice. In fact, white rice and other low-fiber foods are recommended to slow down gastric motility and ease diarrhea, which shows the difference the fiber content of food makes.
One cup of chopped broccoli provides five grams of fiber, making it an excellent choice for promoting regular bowel movements and relieving constipation. According to a study, people who ate broccoli daily for four weeks had fewer symptoms of constipation.
According to a study on young children, broccoli is rich in vitamin C. There may be a correlation between reduced vitamin C intake and constipation.
Many plant-based foods are rich in vitamin C and are also a good source of fiber, so if you’re not eating as many plant-based foods, you may be more prone to constipation.
The best foods for constipation are high in both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. If you’re increasing your fiber intake to relieve constipation, drink plenty of fluids to get the most benefit.
If your constipation persists despite including high-fiber foods in your diet and making other lifestyle changes, you should consult your healthcare provider.