As far as digestive discomfort goes, there are few things worse than feeling like you need to use the bathroom and not being able to go. Virtually everyone experiences constipation every now and again, but often don’t know what caused it or how to relieve it.
We know it’s not the most fun thing to talk about, but it’s definitely not fun to endure. So we decided to dish out the facts on constipation and round up all of the best foods to help relieve it. Here’s what you need to know.
What Exactly Is Constipation?
Constipation is reduction in bowel movements or difficulty passing stools. Constipation means you can’t poop — even when you feel like you really need to go.
Constipation often results from lifestyle and diet habits, including poor food choices and not drinking enough water. It leaves you feeling overly stuffed, like you’ve got a wad of socks in your intestines. Constipation can also cause cramps and an upset stomach.
If you are able to pass stools while constipated, they might be hard, dry, and/or lumpy, and they might come out in very small pieces.
Best Foods To Eat To Relieve Constipation
Fortunately, certain foods can help relieve constipation and the discomfort that comes with it. Try adding these high-fiber foods to your diet to get your digestion back on track.
Fruit, Especially Berries
All fruit is good for adding fiber and nutrients to your diet, but berries offer one of the highest fiber-per-calorie yields. Raspberries, for instance, contain eight grams of fiber per cup at just 65 calories per cup. It’s unlikely you’ll eat an entire cup of berries in one sitting, but you can spread out your intake across the day. Other fruits, including apples, pears, bananas, citrus fruits, and tropical fruits, also provide a lot of fiber.
Steer clear of refined grains and go for 100 percent whole grains. Look out for terms like “multi-grain” and “cracked grain” that don’t always mean the product is whole-grain. Rolled oats, whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and other whole grains that include the nutritious bran and germ are chock-full of fiber.
Just about any and all seeds are fair game when you’re trying to relieve constipation. Sprinkle small seeds such as chia, flax, and hemp on yogurt or in smoothies; snack on larger seeds like pepitas and sunflower seeds.
Beans and Legumes
Add beans, peas, and legumes to your diet with caution. One of the most fibrous food groups, beans and legumes will definitely help ease constipation — but if you eat too much at once, you may experience severe gas and bloating. These foods contain a good mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as protein, making them extremely well-rounded and nutritious.
Yogurt and Kefir
Good brands of yogurt and kefir contain high concentrations of probiotics, the healthy bacteria that your gut microbiome needs to flourish. Eating fermented foods rich in these good bacteria can improve your gut health, which in turn may ease constipation and other digestive discomfort.
Prunes could technically fall under the fruit category, but they’re so good at relieving constipation that they deserve their own shoutout. Prunes, which are dried plums, contain 2 grams of fiber per 1-ounce (28-gram) serving. One ounce is about three prunes. Two grams of fiber is about 8 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake (25 grams). Be careful with prunes, though, as they’ve been known to cause a laxative effect in some people.
Greens such as spinach, kale, and collards are not only rich in several vitamins and minerals, but they contain an impressive amount of fiber. One cup of cooked spinach provides more than four grams of fiber, or about 17 percent of the daily recommended 25 grams. To add greens into your diet, eat a big salad, blend them up in smoothies, or add them to quiches and casseroles.
Jerusalem Artichokes (and Other Fibrous Veggies)
Jerusalem artichokes are one of the top 10 foods you can eat for better gut health. Other vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and asparagus do wonders for digestion. All of these veggies contain fiber, and many of them are considered prebiotic foods (foods that contain fuel for the good bacteria in your gut).
This last item isn’t a food, but a steaming cup of tea — especially an herbal variety — can certainly help ease constipation. Try brewing a mug of hot tea with anise, fennel, peppermint, ginger, dandelion, chamomile, licorice root, or senna (or one of these herbs and spices for better gut health).
Why Eat Fiber When You’re Constipated?
The number-one action you can take to relieve and prevent constipation is to (slowly!) increase your daily fiber intake. Fiber is the part of plant material that your body can’t digest, so it adds bulk and softness to your stool. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are good for treating and preventing constipation.
Just be sure to increase your consumption of fiber slowly: Adding too much too quickly can result in even worse digestive discomfort, especially gas and bloating.