About 14% of people experience chronic constipation at some point.
Symptoms include passing stools less than three times per week, straining, lumpy or hard stools, a sensation of incomplete evacuation, feeling blocked or being unable to pass a stool.
The type and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people experience constipation only rarely, while for others it’s a chronic condition.
Constipation has a variety of causes but is often the result of slow movement of food through the digestive system.
This may be due to dehydration, poor diet, medications, illness, diseases affecting the nervous system or mental disorders.
Fortunately, certain foods can help relieve constipation by adding bulk, softening the stool, decreasing gut transit time and increasing stool frequency.
Here are 9 foods that can help relieve constipation and keep you regular.
The luscious green flesh of the kiwi may be just what the doctor ordered for constipation relief. One medium kiwi has about 2.5 grams of fiber and lots of vitamins and nutrients that are important for good health, including the intestines.
A kiwi is a berry. And like most berries, it has edible seeds. You can even eat the peel, although most people prefer to eat just the flesh.
A 2013 study of adults reported in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research found that eating kiwi promotes regular bowel movements. A previous study by researchers in Taipei also found eating two kiwis a day increased the number of bowel movements in adults with constipation.
Prunes and prune juice are a time-tested home remedy for constipation in many parts of the world.
Prunes contain a lot of fiber, a nutrient known to ease and speed up bowel movements. Prunes also contain sorbitol and phenolic compounds that may have gastrointestinal benefits.
A 2014 review concluded that eating prunes may increase the frequency of bowel movements and improve stool consistency in people with constipation.
In most of the studies included in the review, the participants ate 100 g of prunes daily, or about 10 prunes.
Berries are always in the superfood spotlight due to their abundance of antioxidants, but they’re also rich in other essential nutrients. You are eating tiny seeds in each bite, so it increases your fibre. Half a cup of both blackberries and raspberries pack in about 4g of fibre each. Half a cup of sliced strawberries offers about half the amount.
Per ½ cup serving raspberries: 221 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 7g carbs, 3g sugar, 1mg sodium, 4g fibre, 1g protein.
An apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Just be sure to eat the peel, too. One small apple with the peel will give you about 3.5 grams of fiber. Apples are a versatile fruit, too. Cut them up into cold or hot cereals for added fiber in the morning. They’re also good chopped into a plate of mixed greens with a drizzle of raspberry vinaigrette.
Almonds are great for relieving constipation.
Like other nuts, they should be eaten in small amounts, along with plenty of water.
Additionally, seeds are great for aiding digestion as well, so if you’re not in the mood for almonds or other nuts, grab a handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
6. Whole-Wheat Bread
Ditching white bread for the whole-wheat variety gives you an added dose of antioxidants and important nutrients—one of which is insoluble fiber. The average slice of whole-wheat bread has nearly 2 grams of fiber, more than double what you get in white bread. Whole-wheat bread: 1. White bread: 0.
There’s good reason why your parents were always reminding you to finish your peas and carrots, and that beans are referred to as the “magical fruit.” Legumes like beans, chickpeas and green peas are digestive superstars. Depending on what type, they will have anywhere from 6-9 grams of fiber per half cup! Top your salad with these or try a bean salad that contains artichokes to make it even better for your gut.
Broccoli contains sulforaphane, a substance that may protect the gut and ease digestion.
Sulforaphane may also help to prevent the overgrowth of some intestinal microorganisms that can interfere with healthy digestion.
In a 2017 study, healthy people ate either 20 g of raw broccoli sprouts or 20 g of alfalfa sprouts every day for 4 weeks. The researchers found that the people who ate broccoli sprouts had fewer symptoms of constipation and quicker bowel movements.
While experts recommend staying away from most dairy products (yes, that includes ice cream), if you’re battling constipation, yogurt may be the exception to the rule. The lactobacillus bacteria in yogurt can help keep you regular. Plus, research suggests that probiotics keep things running smoothly.