Whether you are battling a bout of bloat, riding the menstrual wave, or struggling with a hangover, there are times in life when you find yourself backed up. Instead of forcing a BM (bowel movement), which can actually be harmful to your health, try adding certain foods to your diet to help ease constipation. Here is a dietitian’s list of recommended foods that help relieve constipation.
What is constipation?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, constipation is incredibly common (only 2.5 million cases per year, you know, no big deal or anything). It occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become difficult to pass.
Some of the most common causes of constipation are due to changes in our diet or routine. However, something as infinitesimal as dehydration, inadequate fiber intake, lack of sleep, medication, a sedentary lifestyle, or travel can also cause constipation. What’s a person to do? Stock up on these foods, of course.
Best foods to relieve constipation
With over two decades of experience, Wendy Lord, RD, and consultant for Sensible Digs, has a few foods that help relieve constipation. Here are some of her top picks.
An easy way to battle a bout of constipation is to grab an apple. “Apples eaten with the skin are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber which provides essential fuel for the beneficial bacteria in the gut, maintaining the integrity of the gut lining and preventing constipation,” notes Lord.
2. Bran cereal
A classic option to relieve constipation is probably a favorite among your grandparents and parents – bran cereal. Bran cereal is well known for its constipation-relieving benefits, shares Lord. “Although bran is an insoluble fiber, when it is finely ground it absorbs water and helps to get things moving.”
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are an extremely fiber-rich food, providing both soluble and insoluble fiber, says Lord. They absorb water, forming a gel, which helps to soften the stool and make it easier to pass.
If you are looking for an easy way to include more fiber in your diet, add a sprinkle or two of chia seeds to your favorite recipes like overnight oats and salads. You can even make a chia seed pudding for a snack or meal, or try the viral chia seed internal shower.
4. Fermented foods
Fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, and kombucha are sources of probiotics, shares Lord. They contain the good bacteria found in the gut, so when you eat fermented foods you introduce more beneficial bacteria into the gut which helps to keep the gut lining healthy and prevent constipation, explains Lord.
5. Hot coffee or tea
Drinking a cup of hot coffee or tea is another option to relieve constipation. Lord says it stimulates the peristaltic movement of the intestines, which helps to move the food through the colon so that it can be digested, nutrients absorbed, and the waste excreted.
Both the caffeine content and the heat may stimulate the muscle contractions in the bowel, but Lord warns not to rely too heavily on caffeinated beverages to remedy a case of constipation. “Caffeine is a diuretic that may cause dehydration if too much is consumed,” she says.
If you are looking for another low lift way to relieve constipation, pair your morning cup of coffee or tea with a bowl of oats. One of the best foods to relieve constipation, oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber that helps to soften the stool by absorbing water and by providing essential fuel for the beneficial gut bacteria, shares Lord.
Just remember to increase your water intake when you increase your fiber intake. “Too much fiber and not enough water will result in constipation,” cautions Lord.
Another age-old remedy for constipation is eating prunes. Lord says prunes are a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, absorbing water, feeding the healthy gut bacteria, and providing structure to the stool.
8. Split lentils
Split lentils are a group of foods that help relieve constipation. Lord says split lentils are a good form of soluble fiber (so are split peas).
“By including split lentils and peas in the diet, you are able to increase the soluble fiber intake without adding even more roughage to the diet,” notes Lord. The soluble fiber will draw water into the colon and make the stool softer and easier to pass. Split pea soup, anyone?
9. Stewed dried fruit
If you are not a fan of prunes, you can try any dried fruit. “Stewed dried fruit can help to soften the stool by softening the fiber in the fruit,” says Lord.
Just like prunes, stewed dried fruit provides a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. It also draws water into the colon, feeds the healthy bacteria, promotes a healthy gut microbiome, and gives the stool structure.
One of the best foods to relieve constipation is water.
“Water is number one on my list,” says Lord. “For most of the people I have consulted with [for] constipation, increasing their water intake has brought about relief.” Drinking more water helps to soften the stool and make it easier to pass.
The next time you are dealing with a bout of constipation and feeling backed up with a sluggish digestive tract, reach for these foods that help relieve constipation. Adding these foods to my grocery list right now…
Need more ideas on how to help relieve constipation? Check out these lifestyle tips for easing constipation.