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  • Writer's pictureJean-Philippe Ricau- Registered Dietitian

Happy Tummies: 12 foods to ease constipation

wooden toy sitting on toilet
photo credit: Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

Constipation is a common digestive issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It can cause discomfort, bloating, and even pain. 

However, combating constipation doesn't have to involve harsh medications or drastic lifestyle changes. 

In fact, incorporating certain foods into your diet can be a highly effective and natural way to promote regular bowel movements and improve overall gut health.


So let's delve into 12 good foods that you can eat to ease constipation naturally:


Scientific sources:


This article was reviewed and approved by Jean-Philippe Ricau, a Dietitian with 25+ years of experience, and co-founder of myfrenchdietitian.


 

What is constipation?


Constipation is a common digestive issue characterized by infrequent bowel movements, difficulty passing stools, or the sensation of incomplete evacuation. It often leads to the passage of hard, dry stools, making bowel movements uncomfortable. Constipation can vary in severity and may be a temporary or chronic condition.




What causes constipation?


Several factors can contribute to constipation, including a lack of fiber in the diet, inadequate fluid intake, a sedentary lifestyle, certain medications, and various medical conditions.

Insufficient physical activity and ignoring the natural urge to have a bowel movement can also contribute to the development of constipation.

Treatment and prevention strategies for constipation typically involve dietary and lifestyle adjustments, such as increasing fiber intake, staying hydrated, engaging in regular physical activity, and establishing healthy bowel habits.

In some cases, medications or medical interventions may be recommended by healthcare professionals. If constipation persists or is accompanied by severe symptoms, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider for proper evaluation and guidance.



12 foods to ease constipation naturally


Eat these foods when constipated:


1. Prunes


Prunes

Prunes, or dried plums, are rich in fiber and contain sorbitol, a natural sugar with laxative effects.



2. Berries:


a handful of berries

These tiny fruits pack a powerful punch of fiber, essential for maintaining a healthy digestive tract. Berries also contain antioxidants that protect your gut from inflammation, further contributing to gut health. Some excellent berry choices include blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.



3. Yogurt:


greek yogurt with blueberries and chia seeds

especially varieties that contain probiotics (live beneficial bacteria), can contribute to a healthy digestive system.

Probiotics promote the balance of gut flora, which plays a crucial role in maintaining regular bowel movements. The live cultures in yogurt can enhance the overall health of your digestive tract and help alleviate constipation.

Choose plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt for maximum benefits, and consider adding fresh fruits or a sprinkle of nuts or chia seeds for added fiber.

Incorporate yogurt into your daily diet as a delicious and gut-friendly option to support digestive regularity.



4. Fiber-Rich Cereals


a bowl of oats with blueberries and almonds

Fiber-rich cereals are effective in easing constipation due to their high content of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it pass through the digestive system more easily. The presence of whole grains or bran in these cereals contributes to improved bowel regularity and prevents constipation.

Choose whole-grain or bran cereals that are high in insoluble fiber to promote regular bowel movements. (Examples: All-Bran Original, Fiber One Original Bran,Bran Flakes, Shredded Wheat, Raisin Bran and Oats)


Note that if you have tummy problems or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) and notice that eating foods with lots of fiber makes their symptoms worse, talking to a doctor might be a good idea.


5. Kiwi:


Kiwi

Kiwi is a fruit packed with fiber, vitamin C, and natural laxative properties that can aid in relieving constipation.



6. Raisins:


a handful of grapes

Raisins and dried grapes are not only a sweet and convenient snack but also contribute to digestive health. They are rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber, aiding in regular bowel movements.

The natural sugars present in raisins can also provide a gentle laxative effect, helping to alleviate constipation.

Add a handful of raisins to your cereals, yogurt, or enjoy them on their own as a tasty and fiber-packed treat to support a healthy digestive system.



7. Beans and Legumes:


yellow lentils

Lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are excellent sources of fiber, promoting a healthy digestive system.

Both soluble and insoluble, they promotes regular bowel movements. The fiber content in beans and legumes adds bulk to the stool, making it softer and easier to pass through the digestive tract.

Including a variety of beans and legumes in your diet is a nutritious way to support digestive health and prevent constipation.



8. Broccoli:


plate of kale and broccoli

Broccoli is rich in fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to the stool and helps regulate bowel movements. It also contains a significant amount of water, contributing to hydration, which is essential for maintaining healthy and regular digestion.

Broccoli contains antioxidants that support overall gut health.



9. Chia Seeds:


chia pudding

Chia seeds are a fiber powerhouse, absorbing water and forming a gel-like consistency in the digestive tract that helps with bowel regularity.

Chia seeds are versatile and can be incorporated into your diet in various ways:


  • Sprinkle chia seeds over yogurt and layer with fruits, and nuts for a nutritious parfait.

  • Mix chia seeds into your morning oatmeal or cereal to add a boost of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Sprinkle chia seeds on top of salads to add a crunchy texture and enhance the nutritional content.

Remember to stay hydrated when consuming chia seeds, as they can absorb a significant amount of liquid. Start with smaller amounts and gradually increase as you become accustomed to them. Chia seeds are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, making them a nutritious addition to a balanced diet.


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buy chia seeds package


10. Apples:


a handful of apple

Apples are high in fiber, especially if you eat them with the skin, and they contain sorbitol, contributing to digestive health.



11. Water


man drinking a glass of water

While not a food, staying well-hydrated is crucial for preventing constipation.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep stools soft and easier to pass.



12. Water-rich foods:


cucumber

Water-rich foods like watermelon, cucumber, and celery can also play a crucial role in easing constipation and promoting optimal digestive health. These foods are not only packed with essential nutrients but also have high water content, contributing to overall hydration.




Combating Constipation: Tailored Solutions for Impaired Transit and Pelvic Floor Issues


A study published by the National Library Of Medicine on September 26, 2021 concluded that:


For constipation caused by slow bowel movements, making changes in your diet can be effective.

Increasing your fiber intake and drinking mineral water can add moisture to your stool, making it move through your intestines more easily.

However, it's important not to go overboard with fiber supplements, as this might lead to more bloating and harder stools.


On the other hand, if your constipation is due to difficulty coordinating bowel movements (dyssynergic defecation), dietary changes alone might not be enough.

In these cases, where there's an issue with the muscles in your pelvic floor, the recommended treatment is pelvic floor rehabilitation.

The pelvic floor muscles play a crucial role in the process of bowel movements. These muscles help control the opening and closing of the anus and support the rectum.

In cases of dyssynergic defecation, a condition mentioned above, there is a dysfunction in the coordination of pelvic floor muscles during bowel movements. This dysfunction can lead to difficulties in the passage of stool and contribute to constipation. Pelvic floor rehabilitation, or physical therapy for the pelvic floor, is often recommended in such cases to address muscle coordination issues and improve overall pelvic function.

It's important to note that constipation can have various causes, and pelvic floor dysfunction is one of the factors that healthcare professionals may consider when evaluating and treating individuals with chronic constipation issues.

While the impact of dietary changes may be less clear in these situations, they can still play a role in improving the consistency of your stool. This can help prevent the formation of hard stools, making them easier to pass.



Is coffee good to relieve constipation?


Coffee can have a mild laxative effect and may help ease constipation for some people. The caffeine in coffee stimulates the muscles in the digestive tract, promoting bowel movements. Additionally, coffee can increase the production of stomach acid, which can also contribute to the laxative effect.


However, it's important to note that excessive consumption of coffee or caffeine can lead to dehydration, which may worsen constipation in the long run.

It's advisable to drink coffee in moderation and ensure you stay well-hydrated by also consuming water and other fluids throughout the day.

Individual responses to coffee can vary, so if you find that coffee helps alleviate constipation for you, it can be included as part of a balanced approach to maintaining digestive health.

As always, it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.


If you're looking for recipes ideas to reduce constipation, we really like this book from Joe Correa.

Click on the image for more information.

Recipes book to reduce constipation

Conclusion


Incorporating these 12 foods into your diet, along with maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, can contribute to regular and comfortable bowel movements, and relieve constipation naturally. However, individual responses to foods may vary, so it's advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice based on your specific needs.

For instance, people with IBS (Irritation Bowel Syndrome) and certain other tummy issues might feel worse when they eat foods high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols (FODMAPs). These are types of carbohydrates that can ferment in your tummy, causing problems like gas, constipation, or diarrhea.

Some foods high in FODMAPs are garlic, onions, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, wheat, barley, rye, sweeteners like xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol, and certain fruits like apples, watermelon, and blackberries. If you have trouble digesting these foods, you might feel better by following a low FODMAP diet, which means avoiding these high FODMAP foods for a while.



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