Approximately 14% of people encounter chronic constipation in society. Signs involve passing stools fewer than three times per week, lumpy or hard stools, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, or being unable to pass a stool.
The nature and hardness of symptoms can vary from individuals. Some people encounter constipation only infrequently, while for others it may be a chronic condition.
Constipation has a class of causes but is frequently the result of a slow movement of food through the digestive system.
However, this may be due to dehydration, illness, poor diet, medications, diseases attacking the nervous system, or mental disorders.
Luckily, several foods can help ease constipation by combining bulk, softening the stool, increasing stool frequency, and reducing gut transit time.
Below are 17 foods that can help ease constipation.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that originated in the Caucasus mountains in West Asia. The word kefir is obtained from a Turkish word meaning “pleasant taste”.
It is a probiotic, which means it contains bacteria and yeasts that help your health when ingested. Kefir holds various species of microorganisms, depending on the source.
One four-week study had participants drink 17 ounces (500 ml) of kefir per day after their morning and evening meals. At the end of the study, participants used fewer laxatives and experienced improvements in stool frequency and consistency.
Moreover, a study in rats fed kefir showed increased moisture and bulk in the stool, which would make it easier to pass.
Kefir can be enjoyed plain or added to smoothies and salad dressings. It can also be mixed in with cereals and topped with fruits, flaxseeds, chia seeds, or oat bran to add some fiber.
Apples are highly rich in fiber. One medium-sized apple with the skin on (about 182 grams) holds 4.4 grams of fiber, which is 17% of the suggested daily intake.
Roughly 2.8 grams of that fiber is insoluble, while 1.2 grams is soluble fiber, frequently in the form of the dietary fiber called pectin.
In the gut, pectin is immediately fermented by bacteria to form short-chain fatty acids, which pull water into the colon, softening the stool and reducing gut transit time.
One research in 80 people with constipation discovered that pectin can stimulate the movement of the stool through the intestines, increase symptoms of constipation, and improve the number of helpful bacteria in the gut.
Another study found that rats fed a diet of apple fiber had improved stool number and weight, notwithstanding being given morphine, which causes constipation.
Apples are an easy way to promote the fiber content of your diet and ease constipation. You can eat them whole, juiced or in salads or baked goods. Granny Smith apples have a particularly high fiber content.
Daily intake of kiwifruit is about 2.3 grams of fiber (about 76 grams), which is 9% of the recommended.
In one study, 38 people over age 60 were given one kiwifruit per 66 pounds (30 kg) of body weight per day. This resulted in an increased number and ease of defecation. It also modified and improved the bulk of stools.
Another study in people with constipation found that eating two kiwifruits every day for four weeks resulted in more spontaneous bowel movements, a decrease in laxative use, and overall enhanced satisfaction with bowel habits.
Moreover, a third study gave 54 people with irritable bowel syndrome two kiwifruits per day for four weeks. Participants reported increased frequency of bowel movements and faster colonic transit times.
It’s not just the fiber in kiwifruit that’s held to fight constipation, rather an enzyme known as actinidain is also hypothesized to be responsible for kiwifruit’s real effects on gut motility and bowel habits.
Kiwifruits can be eaten raw. Cut them in half and scoop out the green flesh and seeds. They create an excellent supplement to fruit salads and can be combined with smoothies for a fiber boost.
Pears are another fruit highly rich in fiber, with about 5.5 grams of fiber in a medium-sized fruit (about 178 grams). That is 22% of the suggested daily fiber intake.
Besides the fiber benefits, pears are high in fructose and sorbitol, compared to other fruits.
Fructose is a type of sugar that is poorly digested in some people. This indicates that some of it ends up in the colon, where it draws in water by osmosis, arousing a bowel movement.
Pears also hold the sugar alcohol sorbitol. Like fructose, sorbitol is not completely absorbed in the body and acts as a natural laxative by bringing water into the intestines.
Figs are an excellent way to increase your fiber consumption and promote healthy bowel habits.
One medium-sized raw fig (about 50 grams) holds 1.6 grams of fiber. Moreover, just half a cup (75 grams) of dried figs contains 7.3 grams of fiber, which is almost 30% of your daily essentials.
A study in dogs investigated the results of fig paste on constipation over a three-week period. It found that fig paste increased stool weight and decreased intestinal transit time.
Another study in 40 people with constipation discovered that taking 10.6 ounces (300 grams) of fig paste per day for 16 weeks helped promote up colonic transit, improved stool regularity, and eased stomach discomfort.
In addition, figs comprise an enzyme called ficain, which is related to the enzyme actinidain discovered in kiwifruit. It is thought this may contribute to its positive effects on bowel function, alongside its high fiber content.
Figs are a good snack on their own and also match well with both sweet and savory dishes. They can be consumed raw, cooked, in baked goods, dried and go well with cheese and gamey meats, as well as on pizza, and in salads.
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins are a refreshing snack and a good source of fiber.
For instance, one orange (about 131 grams) contains 3.1 grams of fiber, which is 13% of the prescribed daily fiber intake. On the other hand, one grapefruit (about 236 grams) contains 2.6 grams of fiber, meeting 10% of your daily needs.
Citrus fruits are too rich in the soluble fiber pectin, particularly in the peel. Pectin can stimulate colonic transit time and decrease constipation.
In addition, citrus fruits hold a flavanol called naringenin, which may add to the positive effects of citrus fruits on constipation.
Animal studies have shown that naringenin improves fluid flow into the colon, causing a laxative effect. Nevertheless, more research in humans is needed.
It’s best to eat citrus fruits fresh to make sure you get the best amount of fiber and vitamin C.
7.Jerusalem Artichoke and Chicory
Jerusalem artichoke and chicory belong to the sunflower family and are great sources of a type of soluble fiber known as inulin.
Inulin is prebiotic, which indicates it helps stimulate the growth of bacteria in the gut, promoting digestive health. It’s particularly beneficial for Bifidobacteria.
A study on inulin and constipation observed that inulin improves stool frequency, increases consistency, and reduces gut transit time. It also has a mild bulking effect by improving the bacterial mass in the stool.
Jerusalem artichokes are tubers that have a nutty flavor. You can obtain them in most supermarkets, sometimes under the name sunchokes. It can also roasted, steamed, boiled, or mashed.
Chicory root is not usually seen in supermarkets but has become a common coffee alternative in its ground form.
Greens such as spinach, brussels sprouts, and broccoli are not only rich in fiber but also excellent sources of vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate.
These greens add bulk and weight to stools, which makes them more natural to pass through the gut.
One cup of cooked spinach contains 4.3 grams of fiber or 17% of your prescribed daily intake. To get spinach into your diet, try combining it with a quiche, pie, or soup. Baby spinach or tender greens can be combined raw to salads or sandwiches for a fiber boost.
Brussels sprouts are super healthy, and some people find them tasty. Five sprouts contain 10% of your daily fiber needs for only 36 calories. They can be steamed, boiled, grilled, or roasted.
Broccoli holds 3.6 grams of fiber in just one stalk (about 150 grams). This is equal to 16% of your prescribed daily fiber intake. It can be cooked and added into soups and stews, as well as eaten raw in salads or as a snack.
Scientific research shows that artichokes have a prebiotic effect, promoting good gut health and regularity.
Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates like inulin that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, increasing their numbers and protecting against the growth of harmful bacteria.
One study found that people who ate 10 grams of fiber extracted from artichokes every day for three weeks had greater numbers of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli bacteria. It also found that levels of harmful bacteria in the gut decreased.
Additionally, prebiotics has been found to increase stool frequency and improve stool consistency in people with constipation.
Cooked artichokes can be eaten hot or cold. The outer petals can be pulled off and the pulpy part ate with a sauce or dip. The heart of the artichoke can be scooped out and cut into pieces.
Sweet potatoes contain a good amount of fiber to help alleviate constipation.
One medium-sized sweet potato (about 114 grams) contains 3.8 grams of fiber, which is 15% of the recommended daily intake.
Sweet potatoes contain mostly insoluble fiber in the form of cellulose and lignin. They also contain the soluble fiber pectin.
Insoluble fiber can aid bowel movements by adding bulk and weight to stools.
One study looked at the effects of eating sweet potato on people undergoing chemotherapy.
After just four days of eating 200 grams of sweet potato per day, participants experienced improved symptoms of constipation and reported less straining and discomfort, compared to the control group.
Sweet potato can be roasted, steamed, boiled, or mashed. It can be used in any recipe that calls for regular potatoes.
Rhubarb is a leafy plant that is well known for its bowel-stimulating properties.
It contains a compound known as sennoside A, more commonly known as Senna, a popular herbal laxative.
A study in rats found that sennoside A from rhubarb works by decreasing levels of aquaporin 3, a protein that regulates the movement of water in the intestines.
A lower level of aquaporin 3 means less water is moved from the colon back into the bloodstream, leaving stools softer and promoting bowel movements.
Furthermore, 1 cup (122 grams) of rhubarb contains 2.2 grams of dietary fiber, which provides 9% of your recommended daily fiber intake.
The leaves of the rhubarb plant cannot be eaten, but the stalks can be sliced and boiled. Rhubarb has a tart flavor and is often sweetened and added to pies, tarts, and crumbles. It can also be added to oats or muesli for a fiber-rich breakfast.
12.Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Beans, peas, and lentils are also known as pulses, one of the cheapest, fiber-packed food groups you can include in your diet.
For example, 1 cup (182 grams) of cooked navy beans, the type used for baked beans, contains a whopping 19.1 grams of fiber, which is almost 80% of the recommended daily intake.
Furthermore, in just one-half cup (99 grams) of cooked lentils, there are 7.8 grams of fiber, meeting 31% of your daily needs.
Pulses contain a mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber. This means they can alleviate constipation by adding bulk and weight to stools, as well as soften them to facilitate passage.
To include more pulses in your diet, try adding them to soups, blending them to make healthy dips, including them in salads, or adding them into ground-meat dishes for extra bulk and taste.
Chia seeds are one of the most fiber-dense foods available. Just 1 ounce (28 grams) of chia seeds contains 10.6 grams of fiber, meeting 42% of your daily needs.
The fiber in chia is made up of 85% insoluble fiber and 15% soluble.
When chia comes into contact with water, it forms a gel. In the gut, this can help soften stools and make them easier to pass.
What’s more, chia can absorb up to 12 times its own weight in water, which can help add bulk and weight to stools.
Chia is very versatile and can be added into many different foods, considerably boosting fiber content without too much effort.
They work perfectly sprinkled onto cereal, oats, or yogurt. You can also add them into a smoothie or veggie juice, or mix them into dips, salad dressings, baked goods or desserts.
Flaxseeds have been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for constipation, thanks to their natural laxative effects.
In addition to numerous other health benefits, flaxseeds are rich in both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, making them an ideal digestive aid.
Just 1 tablespoon (10 grams) of whole flaxseeds contains 2.8 grams of fiber, meeting 11% of your daily need.
One study in mice found that those fed a flaxseed-supplemented diet had shortened small intestinal transit time and increased stool frequency and stool weight.
The researchers suggested that insoluble fiber acts like a sponge in the large intestine, retaining water, increasing bulk, and softening the stool. Meanwhile, the soluble fiber promotes bacterial growth, adding mass to the stool.
Additionally, short-chain fatty acids are produced during the bacterial fermentation of soluble fiber, which increases motility and stimulates bowel movements.
You can eat flaxseed on cereal or yogurt and use it in muffins, bread, and cakes.
However, not everyone should use flaxseed. Pregnant and lactating women are often advised to avoid it because it may stimulate menstruation.
15.Whole-Grain Rye Bread
Rye bread is a traditional bread in many parts of Europe and rich in dietary fiber.
Two slices (about 62 grams) of whole-grain rye bread contain four grams of dietary fiber, meeting 15% of your daily requirements. Some brands contain even more than this.
Research has found rye bread to be more effective at relieving constipation than regular wheat bread or laxatives.
One study in 51 adults with constipation investigated the effects of eating 8.5 ounces (240 grams) of rye bread per day.
Participants who ate rye bread showed a 23% decrease in intestinal transit times, on average, compared to those who ate wheat bread. They also experienced softened stools and increased frequency and ease of bowel movements.
Rye bread can be used in place of regular white wheat bread. It’s usually denser and darker than regular bread and has a stronger flavor.
Oat bran is the fiber-rich outer casing of the oat grain.
It has significantly more fiber than the commonly used quick oats. In one-third cup (31 grams) of oat bran, there are 4.8 grams of fiber, compared to 2.7 grams in quick oats.
Two studies have shown the positive effects of oat bran on bowel function.
First, a study from the UK showed that eating two oat-bran biscuits per day significantly improved the frequency and consistency of bowel movements and reduced pain in participants aged 60–80.
A different study in nursing home residents in Austria found that adding 7–8 grams of oat bran to the diet per day resulted in a significant reduction in laxative use.
Oat bran can easily be combined with granola mixes and baked into bread or muffins.
Prunes also known as dried plums, are generally used as a natural treatment for constipation.
They hold high measures of fiber, with 2 grams of fiber per 1-ounce (28-gram) meal. This is 8% of the American Heart Association’s advised daily intake of fiber.
The cellulose an insoluble fiber in prunes increases the quantity of water in the stool, which supplements bulk. the soluble fiber in prunes is fermented in the colon to produce short-chain fatty acids, which also increase stool weight.
More so, prunes contain sorbitol. This sugar alcohol is not absorbed well by the body, making water to be pulled into the colon and leading to a laxative result in a small number of people.
Finally, prunes also comprise phenolic compounds that stimulate helpful gut bacteria. One research in 40 people with constipation discovered that consuming 100 grams of prunes per day increased stool regularity matched to treatment with psyllium, a type of dietary fiber.
You can enjoy prunes on their own or in salads, baked goods, smoothies, oatmeal, savory stews, and cereals.