Being constipated is a terrible feeling, no question. The pain, bloating, and all-around discomfort are a huge bummer. But that doesn't mean you can't fix your backlog and simultaneously prevent future ones. Consuming the right foods can help your system get going again, ultimately improving your gut health as well.
The first step, though, in fighting constipation is upping your total water intake and your activity level, especially before making any major dietary changes or taking a supplement, says Lauren Slayton, RD, owner of Foodtrainers in New York City. Slayton recommends getting at least 80 ounces of H2O per day and upping your daily movement, whether that looks like increasing your total step count or participating in some high-intensity at-home cardio.
However, there are choice eats that Slayton and fellow registered dietitians recommend as the best foods for constipation. All agree that the key nutrient at play is fiber. "We should aim to consume about 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day to keep our bowel movements regulated," says Carielle Nikkel, MS, RD, CHC, the vice president of nutrition support at Persona Nutrition. Read on to find out the best foods for constipation and bookmark this piece so that you have this list readily available the next time you're in a bind.
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"Prunes are rich in sugar alcohol known as sorbitol, which can act as a natural osmotic laxative, aiding in the frequency and ease of bowel movements," explains Nikkel. Combined with their high fiber content, prunes are arguably the best food for constipation. To help regulate bowel movements and get things going, she recommends eating between five and 10 prunes daily.
The pretty red berry isn't just a decoration for your homemade Insta-inspired smoothie bowl. It's got major benefits for your bowels, too. "Raspberries are high in pectin, a specific type of soluble fiber that aids in constipation relief," says Nikkel. "They also have an impressive eight grams of fiber per cup—equivalent to 32% of the recommended daily value."
Richer and more savory than their traditional counterparts, Medjool dates offer up three grams of fiber per serving along with a melt-in-your-mouth, caramel-like taste. Nikkel likes to pair them with a tablespoon of nut butter for a "deliciously satisfying snack."
"Apples contain the soluble fiber pectin, which may help to accelerate the passage of stool through the colon, helping to relieve constipation," explains Nikkel. If you eat them with the skin on (the way Kristin Gillespie, RD, recommends), you can get an ample four and a half grams of fiber per piece of fruit. Not to be obvious, but how about dem apples?!
Flaxseeds are another good source of fiber—just one tablespoon of these babies contains almost three grams of fiber. "In addition to their high fiber content, the fat content of flaxseeds may help to lubricate and soften bowel movements, aiding in the relief of constipation," adds Nikkel.
"Whole grains such as whole wheat flour are rich in insoluble fiber, which is an indigestible material that absorbs fluids and excess by-products within the gastrointestinal tract," says Nikkel. "Insoluble fiber helps to add bulk to the stool, aiding in the passage and ease of bowel movements."
As much as we love pasta in oil and garlic, that is not the right way to consume olive oil when it comes to relieving constipation. To help remedy dry, tight stools that won’t budge, Slayton recommends a tablespoon of olive oil at every meal. She also recommends buzzy wellness favorite MCT oil as an alternative.
"Beans and lentils contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, a winning combination in moving stool effectively through your GI tract," notes Gillespie. She uses navy beans as a star example, with one cup containing nearly 80% of your daily value's worth of fiber. Similarly, Nikkel recommends adding chickpeas to your diet. With seven grams of fiber in just a half cup, sprinkling a serving or two atop a salad will add much-needed protein and about half your daily value's worth of fiber to your meal.
Figs aren't just rich in fiber like the majority of these other foods for constipation. They also contain the enzyme ficain, which is purported to further enhance their bowel-regulating capabilities, says Gillespie.
Gillespie says greens such as spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts are great for combating constipation: "They are rich in fiber and help bulk up stools, which makes them easier to move through your intestines."
Slayton refers to kiwi as one of her top-shelf fruit choices. Having two cups a day of this tropically inspired fruit (that is arguably the most Instagrammable) is one of Slayton's favorite ways to get her daily fiber intake.
While oatmeal often gets roped into the high-fiber category, it's actually oat bran that's one of the best foods for constipation. "The bran is the outer shell of the oat grain, which is rich in fiber," says Gillespie. "Oatmeal commonly has at least a portion of—if not most of—the bran removed during processing." However, she notes oat bran is a bit trickier to incorporate into your diet than microwavable oatmeal. "Try adding it to baked goods or use it while making your own granola," Gillespie recommends.
If you aren't into oat bran—so many people find it hard to cook with and enjoy—chia seeds offer similar benefits along with heart-healthy, stool-moving omega-3 monounsaturated fatty acids. They're a favorite of Slayton's when she's treating clients with constipation.
Lesser known but quite similar in profile to chia seeds are basil seeds, which are the seeds from the basil plant. They're rich in omegas, fiber, and minerals and are best consumed after being soaked like their chia cousin.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.