Rachael Link, MS, RD, June 26, 2017
Constipation is a common problem affecting an estimated 20% of the population. A decrease in the movement of food through the digestive system, is one of the most common causes. A low-fiber diet, old age and physical inactivity can also contribute to constipation. While remedies for constipation typically include laxatives, stool softeners and fiber supplements, incorporating a few regularity-boosting foods into your diet can be a safe and effective alternative.
This article lists 14 healthy foods that can help you poop.
- Apples: Apples are a good source of fiber. Fiber passes through your intestines undigested, helping with the formation of stool and promoting regular bowel movements. In one study, 80 participants with constipation took pectin supplements. After four weeks, the symptoms of constipation reduced. Apples can be used as a healthy topping for foods like yogurt and oatmeal or enjoyed on their own as a convenient and nutritious snack.
- Prunes: Prunes are often used as a natural laxative — and for good reason.. Prunes add a hint of sweetness when used to garnish salads and pilafs. A small glass of prune juice with no added sugar can also be a quick and convenient way to get the same constipation-busting benefits found in whole prunes.
- Kiwifruit: Kiwifruit is especially high in fiber, which makes it an excellent food to help promote regularity. Kiwifruit has been shown to stimulate movement in the digestive tract, helping to induce a bowel movement. Kiwifruit helped to speed up intestinal transit time, decrease laxative use and improve symptoms of constipation. Try adding kiwifruit to your next smoothie for a tasty, high-fiber treat.
- Flaxseeds: In addition to their wide variety of health benefits, flaxseeds’ high fiber content and ability to promote regularity definitely make them stand out. One animal study showed that flaxseed can help treat both constipation and diarrhoea. It was found to increase stool frequency and also have an anti-diarrheal effect, reducing diarrhoea by up to 84%. Flaxseeds can add extra fiber and texture when sprinkled onto oats, yogurt, soups and shakes.
- Pears: Pears can help alleviate constipation in a few different ways. First, they are high in fiber. One medium pear contains 6 grams of fiber, meeting up to 24% of your daily fiber needs. Pears are also high in sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as an osmotic agent to pull water into the intestines and stimulate a bowel movement. They can be included in salads and sandwiches or consumed raw for a sweet snack.
- Beans: Most varieties of beans are high in fiber and can help maintain regularity. Beans also contain good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which help ease constipation in different ways. Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like consistency, softening stool and making it easier to pass. On the other hand, insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract intact and adds bulk to stool. If you’re looking for an easy way to increase your fiber intake, beans are a good way to do so. Add them to soups, dips or side dishes for a delicious dose of fiber.
- Rhubarb: Both rhubarb’s fiber content and natural laxative properties encourage regularity. Rhubarb also contains a compound called sennoside A, which has a laxative effect in the body. In fact, sennosides are even found in herbal laxatives like senna.Rhubarb can be used in a variety of baked goods, added to yogurt or even be added to oatmeal for a kick of added flavour.
- Artichokes: Research shows that artichokes have a prebiotic effect, which can be beneficial for gut health and maintaining regularity. Prebiotics are a special type of fiber that works by feeding the good bacteria found in your colon, helping to optimize your digestive health. One study looked at the effects of artichoke leaf extract on 208 participants with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Not only did artichokes reduce the incidence of IBS, but they also helped normalize bowel patterns. Artichokes are available in both fresh and jarred form and can be used in everything from creamy dips to flavourful tarts.
- Kefir: Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains probiotics, a form of healthy gut bacteria that may help alleviate constipation. Probiotics have been shown to increase stool frequency, improve stool consistency and help reduce intestinal transit time to speed up bowel movements. Kefir makes the perfect base for smoothies or salad dressings. Alternatively, try making a probiotic-rich parfait using kefir and topping it with fruit, flaxseeds or oats for an extra boost of fiber.
- Figs: Figs are an excellent way to get more fiber into your diet to encourage regular bowel movements. Dried figs, especially, can provide a concentrated dose of fiber. One study in humans found that giving fig paste to 40 participants with constipation helped speed up colonic transit, improve stool consistency and alleviate abdominal discomfort. While figs can be consumed on their own, they can also be boiled into a tasty jam that goes great with bruschetta, pizzas and sandwiches.
- Sweet Potatoes: In addition to providing a host of vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes also contain a good amount of fiber that can help increase regularity. The fiber found in sweet potatoes is mostly insoluble and includes a few specific types, such as cellulose, lignin and pectin. Thanks to their fiber content, some studies have shown that sweet potatoes may help promote bowel movements. Sweet potatoes can be mashed, baked, sautéed or roasted and used in place of white potatoes in any of your favourite recipes.
- Lentils: This edible pulse is packed with fiber, making it an excellent addition to your diet to relieve constipation. Additionally, eating lentils can increase the production of butyric acid, a type of short-chain fatty acid found in the colon. It increases the movement of the digestive tract to promote bowel movements. Lentils add a rich, hearty flavor to soups and salads alike, while also providing plenty of added fiber and health benefits.
- Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are made up of about 40% fiber by weight, making them one of the most fiber-dense foods available. Specifically, chia seeds are a good source of soluble fiber, which absorbs water to form a gel that softens and moistens stool for easier passage. One study found that chia seeds could absorb up to 12 times their weight in water, allowing for even easier elimination. Try mixing chia seeds into smoothies, puddings and yogurts to pack in a few extra grams of soluble fiber.
- Oat Bran: Oat bran is the fiber-rich outer casing of the oat grain. Though it’s not as widely consumed as rolled or old-fashioned oats, oat bran contains significantly more fiber. One study gave 15 elderly participants oat bran over a 12-week period and compared the results with a control group. Not only was oat bran well tolerated, but it also helped participants maintain their body weight and decreased laxative use by 59%, making it a safe and effective natural remedy for constipation. Though oatmeal and oat bran come from the same oat groat, they vary in terms of texture and taste. Oat bran works especially well when used in recipes for granola mixes and breads.
The Bottom Line
Constipation is a common problem that affects most people at some point.
Though medications and supplements can help, achieving regularity is possible for most people with a high-fiber, healthy diet and a few regularity-boosting foods.
Including a few servings of these foods each day, along with plenty of water and regular physical activity, can help increase stool frequency, improve consistency and eliminate constipation once and for all.
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