Finally, Relief! Here Are The Best Foods To Combat Constipation

According to the American Gastroenterological Association, 16% of all adults have symptoms of constipation. This percentage increases as people get older. Constipation isn’t just an annoyance; it can also cause abdominal pain and even nausea or vomiting.

Many foods can relieve constipation and not just because of fiber. Some fruits have a type of sugar that works as a laxative. Certain bread types work better than others, and you can drink a specific coffee substitute for speedier bowel movements. If you’re struggling with constipation, here are the best foods and drinks for you.

An Apple A Day Keeps Constipation Away

Apples hang on a tree, and ducks walk beneath it.
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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” could relate to gut health. Apples have a ton of fiber; a single medium-sized apple provides 17% of your daily recommended fiber. Like many fruits and vegetables, apples supply a specific type of fiber called pectin.

Pectin pulls water into the colon to loosen stools. During a 2014 study, participants consumed pectin over four weeks. They had higher levels of healthier gut bacteria and improved constipation symptoms. Green apples and Granny apples have the most pectin, but eating any apple may help.

You Only Need Two Kiwis Every Day

Kiwi halves are on forks against a blue background.
JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP via Getty Images
JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP via Getty Images

Every single kiwifruit contains 2.3 grams of fiber, far higher than other fruits and vegetables. You don’t have to eat many kiwis to feel the effects, either. In October 2020, scientists from the University of Michigan determined that eating two kiwis per day is enough to relieve constipation.

By regulating the gut, kiwis can even help people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In 2010, an Asian study noted that people with IBS had more stable bowel movements and faster colonic transit times after eating kiwis for four weeks. Add this fruit to smoothies, yogurt, or desserts.

Rye Bread, The Best Kind Of Bread For Constipation

A loaf of rye bread and slices are on a towel.
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Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Any kind of whole wheat bread can aid constipation because of its fiber, but rye bread reigns supreme. In 2010, a study in The Journal of Nutrition found that rye bread is better at treating constipation than other whole breads. It’s even better than some laxatives.

During another study, participants ate 240 grams of rye bread each day (about seven and a half slices). After three weeks, the time in between stools decreased by 23%. But you only need two slices of rye to gain 15% of your daily recommended fiber.

For A High-Fiber Side Dish, Cook Peas

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For a high-fiber vegetable that can fight constipation, eat peas. One cup of peas offers seven grams of insoluble fiber. The American Heart Association placed peas on its list of high-fiber, anti-constipation foods.

In 2003, research from the American Dietetic Association studied pea fiber in elderly patients. When participants ate more peas, their stools increased in size, and their bowel movements sped up. They also relied less heavily on laxatives. Even frozen peas are high in fiber, so don’t hesitate to add a spoonful to your meals.

Rhubarb Is Both An Anti-Constipation And Anti-Diarrheal

A worker picks up stalks of rhubarb from a crate.
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Henning Kaiser/picture alliance via Getty Images

Rhubarb can provide some short-term relief for constipation. According to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, rhubarb contains a compound called sennoside A that acts as an herbal laxative. Scientists determined that rhubarb can be a relief for constipation.

Fortunately, your stools won’t get too loose after eating rhubarb. The vegetable also has a chemical called tannin, which acts as an anti-diarrheal. A cup of rhubarb provides 2.2 grams of fiber, making it a natural constipation aid. Add rhubarb to smoothies, muffins, or the classic strawberry rhubarb pie.

Pear’s Sugars Act As Laxatives

Three pears appear against a red background.
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Chris Rutter/N-Photo Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Pears are another fruit that have high fiber. One medium pear provides six grams of fiber, about 22% of your recommended daily intake. Along with natural fibers, pears contain sugars called sorbitol and fructose, which act as laxatives.

According to a study in The American Journal of Medicine, sorbitol is not well-absorbed by the gut, which allows it to act as a fiber. Fructose is similar; it pulls water into the colon to loosen stools. Another study in 2018 found that fructose relieves constipation and nausea. Pears have the best of both worlds.

Spinach Is High In Fiber

Raw spinach is piled on a white plate.
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Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Some people notice that their stool has turned green after eating spinach. However, a person’s stool starts out as green. According to gastroenterologist Michael F. Picco, enzymes in the gut change the stool from green to brown. But when stools move through your digestive tract too quickly, they come out green.

Spinach has a high amount of fiber, about 17% of your daily recommended intake per cup. It can speed up time in between stools, which helps a lot with constipation. But beware: eating too much spinach can result in diarrhea.

A Healthy Reason To Drink Chicory Coffee

A person places a spoonful of ground chicory coffee into a mug.
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Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

As a plant from the dandelion family, chicory tastes similar to coffee, and some people use it as a coffee substitute. It contains a high amount of soluble fiber called inulin. According to research in Nutrition Reviews, inulin relieves constipation by increasing stool frequency.

Inulin also bulks up a person’s stool by adding bacteria to it, which relieves constipation even more quickly. In 2017, researchers found that eating 12 grams of inulin a day can soften stools and relieve constipation. Half a cup of chicory contains up to 47 grams of inulin.

How Broccoli Can Provide Quicker Stools

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Caroline Seidel/picture alliance via Getty Images

Broccoli has an impressive amount of fiber; a single stock contains 16% of your daily recommended intake. According to research in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, eating broccoli every day can alleviate constipation.

Broccoli also supplies sulforaphane, a sulfur-rich compound that promotes healthy digestion. Sulforaphane helps the gut produce microorganisms that speed up bowel movements. Because sulforaphane can give people quicker stools, scientists found that it can relieve constipation. Eat more broccoli by adding it to soups, stir fry, pasta, or even the BBQ.

Artichokes Can Also Improve The Gut

An executive chef pours pepper in an artichoke.
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Garrige Ho/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Artichoke doesn’t just help constipation; it also adds healthy bacteria to the gut. A whole artichoke contains seven grams of insoluble fiber called inulin. In The American Journal of Medical Sciences, scientists determined that artichoke can improve stool consistency and softness in constipated people.

Artichokes contain prebiotics, plant fibers that grow healthy bacteria in the gut. One study in the journal Phytomedicine reported that these fibers could alleviate bloating and indigestion. These symptoms can appear if you’re constipated for too long, so eat some artichoke if that is the case.

Both White And Brown Rice Combat Constipation

A bowl of brown rice sits on top of a pile of white rice.
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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

If you’re a rice lover, you’re in luck! Both white and brown rice can improve constipation and gut health. In April 2020, researchers compared white and brown rice’s effects on Korean women with constipation. Both were effective in speeding up bowel movements.

Another study in 2006 focused on Japanese women, whose diet is high in rice. According to the research, rice could relieve constipation by up to 41%. Scientists still aren’t sure why rice works so well. If you’re aiming for more fiber, choose brown rice. It has four grams of fiber per cup.

Flaxseeds Can Cut Constipating In Half

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Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Flaxseed is a high-fiber seed that acts as both constipation and diarrhea treatment. How is this possible? Well, it does so by adding mass to the stool and adding healthy bacteria to the gut. According to 2015 research in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, flaxseed oil can reduce both diarrhea and constipation up to 49%.

A single tablespoon of flaxseeds supplies 11% of your daily fiber requirement. In animal studies, flaxseed has decreased the amount of time between stools. Sprinkle flaxseeds into yogurt, muffins, cereal, or meatloaf.

Try Figs For A Fast-Acting Solution

Fresh figs sit on cream on a tray table.
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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Both raw and dried figs can improve bowel movements, although dried figs are better. A medium fig contains 16 grams of fiber, and a half-cup of dried figs supply 7.3 grams. If you dump a half-cup of dried figs onto cereal, you’ll receive 30% of your daily recommended fiber intake.

During a 2016 study, participants ate one cup of chopped figs every day. After 16 weeks, the participants had better stool consistency and even less stomach pain. Figs decrease the amount of time between stools, so if you need a fast-acting solution, try those.

Coffee Works, But Only In Certain Situations

A woman stirs sugar into her mug of coffee.
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JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images

Coffee–even decaffeinated coffee–can aid people with constipation. A small study from the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology concluded that coffee stimulates bowel movements. This could result from the caffeine, although decaffeinated coffee also produced this effect.

If you have IBS, however, don’t drink coffee for constipation. During a 2015 study, researchers found that drinking coffee made IBS symptoms worse. According to research from Acta Radiologica Open, coffee does not improve bowel movements if you drink it with food. Try drinking it before your meal to loosen the stool.

For Fewer Constipation Symptoms, Eat Sweet Potato

Two whole sweet potatoes lie around a bowl of mashed sweet potatoes.
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Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Sweet potatoes offer several types of insoluble fiber, including cellulose, lignin, and pectin. Scientists have tested its effect on constipation in leukemia patients. During a 2016 study, participants had much more consistent stools after eating 200 grams of sweet potato for four days.

Sweet potatoes can also alleviate unpleasant constipation symptoms. When study participants ate a sweet potato, they stopped feeling “the sensation of anorectal obstruction” and needed less help from medications. Put sweet potatoes in salads, soup, pancakes, or just eat it by itself.

Why Beans Are A Natural Constipation Aid

Bowls containing a variety of dried beans are stacked on top of each other.
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Edwin Remsberg/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Beans are notorious for causing gas and promoting bowel movements. One reason is that beans’ sugar, called raffinose, is difficult to break down in the gut. Another reason is the high fiber. Beans contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water, but insoluble fiber does not.

Half a cup of beans supplies 31% of your recommended daily fiber. According to a study in the journal Nutrition, eating beans four times a week can relieve constipation. Beans soften stools and add weight to them, making them a natural anti-constipation aid.

Try The Turkish Milk Drink Kefir

A Kefir bottle sits next to a container of fermented milk.
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Lifeway
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Lifeway

Kefir is a fermented milk drink, and it stems from the Turkish word for “pleasant taste.” Because it is fermented, it grows bacteria called probiotics that help the gut. According to Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, probiotics can reduce constipation. Kefir increases stool consistency by increasing moisture and bulk.

In 2014, researchers had participants drink kefir every day for four weeks. Participants had much less constipation and did not need to take as many laxatives. You can buy kefir at several grocery store chains, and you can put it in smoothies and salad dressings.

Oatmeal: The Best Anti-Constipation Breakfast

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John Patriquin/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

If you want to start off your day with fiber, eat oatmeal. Every cup of oatmeal has soluble and insoluble fiber, accounting for 16% of your daily fiber. Even instant oatmeal supplies 12.5 grams of fiber per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In May 2020, a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food concluded that oatmeal is can effectively relieve constipation. But oatmeal also soothes some unpleasant symptoms of constipation. According to the researchers, it also assuaged excess gas, bloating, pain, and “incomplete evacuation.”

How Bacteria In Yogurt Can Aid Constipation

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Eddy Buttarelli/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Eating yogurt can help people through constipation. In 2014, researchers from King’s College noticed that yogurt’s probiotics could promote stool health. Specifically, the two bacteria Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium shortened the amount of time between stools.

Further research in The World Journal of Gastroenterology determined that yogurt can relieve constipated pregnant women. However, a 2016 review of studies confirmed that yogurt could aid non-pregnant people as well. Any type of yogurt can help because all contain probiotics, but the healthiest choice is a low-fat, low-sugar Greek yogurt.

Cooking With Olive Oil Can Help, Too

A bottle of extra virgin olive oil sits in a chef's kitchen.
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Food Network Magazine
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Food Network Magazine

If you want to relieve constipation, cook with olive oil. According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, olive oil can soften the stool and increase absorption in the gut. In 2015, a study in the Journal of Renal Nutrition found that olive oil is as effective against constipation as flaxseed oil.

Olive oil smooths and adds water to the stool, making it easier to pass. Functional medicine doctor Jill Carnahan recommends drinking a teaspoon of olive oil on an empty stomach for constipation. Try consuming a spoonful in the morning and see how you feel.

Snack On Popcorn For A Low-Calorie Constipation Aid

Various circular tubs of popcorn are seen.
Noam Galai/Getty Images
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Believe it or not, popcorn is a healthy, low-calorie snack that can assuage constipation. It is a whole grain and contains 3.5 grams of fiber per three cups. Dr. Charlene Prather told Everyday Health that eating popcorn is an easy, delicious way to add fiber to your diet.

Popcorn mainly contains insoluble fiber, which pushes your stool without removing water. According to Livestrong, popcorn does not offer many vitamins and minerals besides fiber. But its insoluble fiber fills people up, which makes it great for weight loss–as long as you don’t pour butter and salt on it!

Sauerkraut Helps Because Of Its Probiotics

A bowl contains sauerkraut and slices of sausage.
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Eddy Buttarelli/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When people ferment raw cabbage, they create sauerkraut. It has many probiotics, which makes it is excellent for constipation. During a 2014 study, researchers found that sauerkraut is so effective at loosening stools that eating too much can cause diarrhea.

A different study in Functional Foods of Health and Disease found that people only need two tablespoons of sauerkraut to feel the effects. Eating sauerkraut improves gut health and even assuages some IBS symptoms, such as bloating and abdominal pain. Add it to egg salads, bagels, and meats.

Even Mild Dehydration Can Make You Constipated

Water pours out of a sink tap into a glass.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

If you’re feeling constipated, you might not be drinking enough water. Dehydration leads to harder stools, which can build up and cause constipation. In the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a 2003 study found that even mild dehydration can prompt constipation. Drinking more water relieved constipation in participants.

If you want the body to absorb more fiber, drink more water as well. Research in the journal Hepatogastroenterology determined that water improves the efficiency of a high-fiber diet. If you take away any anti-constipation foods from this list, add water on top of it!

Chia Seeds Have Some Of The Highest Fiber Of Any Food

A cup of chia seed pudding has berries and mint on top.
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Natasha Breen/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Chia seeds are one of the most fiber-heavy foods on the market, with a single gram containing 42% of your daily fiber needs. According to the Journal of Food Science, chia seeds become a gel when combined with water. This gel both softens and thickens stools.

Chia seeds are 85% insoluble fiber and can absorb 12 times their own weight. Registered dietitian Vanessa Rissetto at Culina Health says that this allows chia seeds to pass through the gut more quickly. Add chia seeds to yogurt, cereal, smoothies, or oatmeal.

Why Oranges Have A Laxative Effect

A bowl contains oranges.
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Dmitry FeoktistovTASS via Getty Images

Oranges have a lot of fiber; a single large orange contains four grams of fiber. On top of that, oranges contain a flavonoid called naringenin that acts as a laxative. During a 2008 study, rats who ate naringenin had lower constipation rates compared to those who didn’t.

Oranges also have high water content, which prevents stools from hardening. In 2019, scientists from Saveetha University confirmed that oranges could assuage constipation. You don’t have to eat oranges by themselves, either. You can create marmalade, desserts, or even a chicken marinade.

The Most Effective Tea For Constipation: Pu-Erh

Cups of Pu-Erh tea sit next to tea leaves and a white teapot.
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Anjelika Gretskaia/REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Pu-Erh is a type of fermented tea from Yunnan, China. It provides caffeine, supplies antioxidants, and assuages constipation. In 2014, an animal study in Molecular Medicine Reports found that Pu-Erh tea not only helps constipation but prevents it. Mice were far less likely to become constipated while drinking Pu-Erh tea.

Although not many studies have been done on Pu-Erh, researchers believe that its fermentation aids the gut. The tea promotes digestive health and stool movement. Hence, it can upset your stomach if you drink too much.

A Few Prunes Can Make A Big Difference

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Müller-Stauffenberg/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Prunes are dried plums that have a large amount of fiber. Three prunes contain two grams of cellulose, or insoluble fiber, that adds water to the stool. According to Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, prunes also contain sorbitol, a sugar with a laxative effect in some people.

In 2011, researchers had participants eat 100 grams of prunes per day (about ten prunes). The participants had better stool consistency than those who took psyllium, a fiber supplement. You can add prunes to cereal, smoothies, oatmeal, or a variety of baked goods.

You Can Drink Aloe Vera, And You Should

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Aloe vera isn’t just something that you can rub on sunburns; you can also eat it. Aloe vera juice is excellent for constipation. The plant offers compounds called anthraquinones, which have a laxative effect. During a 2011 study, participants had less constipation after drinking aloe vera than they did from eating a placebo.

Aloe vera can also soothe IBS symptoms. In 2018, scientists reviewed 24 studies on aloe vera and concluded that it is a safe, short-term treatment for IBS. Some of the symptoms overlap with constipation, including bloating, indigestion, and abdominal pain.

Hydrate Yourself With Cucumbers

A woman washes a cucumber in the sink.
Joern Pollex/Getty Images
Joern Pollex/Getty Images

Eating cucumbers can assuage and prevent constipation. Not only do cucumbers have some fiber, but they are also 96% water. Since dehydration is one cause of constipation, cucumbers can help people consume more water.

Studies suggest that most of the benefits come from the cucumber seeds, which contain fiber and an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Research has linked beta-carotene oil to lower levels of constipation. According to a 2013 study, eating cucumber seeds regularly can prevent constipation. All you have to do is eat the cucumber; the seeds are already in there.

Eat Any Food So Long As You’re Having Breakfast

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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

If you skip breakfast, you have a higher risk of constipation. Many people have bowel movements in the morning, but you won’t trigger them if you don’t eat. A Japanese study found that college students were more likely to get constipated when they didn’t eat breakfast.

According to gastroenterologist Sarina Pasricha, our “internal alarm clock” tells our colon to begin contracting in the morning. The colon squeezes three times harder in the morning compared to sleeping, which is why many people have bowel movements after breakfast. Eat something in the morning, and you might feel better.