Pretty much everyone experiences constipation at one time or another. It could be something you ate, not drinking enough water, or the side effect of a medication. The good thing is this is usually temporary. Even if it isn’t, and you must make lifestyle changes to help ease the problem, there are plenty of foods that can help you.
The first thing to do is understand why constipation happens. It’s usually for one of three reasons: Some medications, endocrine, or neurological disorders can slow down gastric motility, or cause spasms in your colon. The colon absorbs water, so being dehydrated can result in hard, dry stools. Not having enough bulk in your diet can also result in small, hard stools that are difficult to pass.
Here’s what you can eat to help things move along more easily:
What list of anti-constipation foods would be complete without prunes? These little wrinkled fruits have a reputation for getting things working, so to speak, and it’s well-deserved. They’re loaded with fiber, which helps add bulk and retain moisture in stools. They also contain sorbitol, a natural sugar alcohol. The body can’t digest sugar alcohols, so they get excreted. As they get excreted, they pull more water into the colon. The result is larger, softer, easier-to-pass stools.
This vegetable might best be known as a companion for strawberries in strawberry rhubarb pie, but it’s also a great remedy for constipation. It contains a compound known as sennoside A, which you may recognize as senna, from senna tea. Senna tea is used to help encourage the passing of stool by stimulating the colon. Sennoside A also regulates the protein aquaporin 3, which controls the flow of water in and out of the colon.
Like prunes, rhubarb also contains fiber for added bulk and moisture absorption.
Legumes, like chickpeas, black beans, and lentils, are rich in fiber. A one cup serving can contain as much as three quarters of your RDA! That’s not all, either — this fiber exists as a mixture of soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber helps add bulk and absorb more moisture into stools, while soluble fiber increases their water content to soften them. This fiber is also great fodder for your gut flora, which can help you avoid constipation in the future.
If you’ve ever eaten chia seeds, you know just how easily these little guys absorb water. It doesn’t take long for a tablespoon to become a thick, jelly-like mass. Not only do these seeds absorb tons of water (as much as twelve times their own weight), but they’re also packed with fiber. That makes them very useful for fighting constipation. Add them to cereal or smoothies with other blockage-busting foods.
Oats are renowned as a heart-healthy food, and the thing that makes them good for your heart also makes them great for your colon: fiber. Oat bran, specifically, contains almost 5 grams for 1/3 of a cup. Not just any oats will do, however. Quick oats are processed so they cook quickly, but this also strips them of their beneficial bran. For best results, stick with rolled or steel-cut varieties.
Probiotic drinks like kefir or tibicos.
Kefir is a beverage made by inoculating milk with specific bacteria and yeast strains. These turn it into a pleasantly thick, tart beverage, like a yogurt smoothie. Tibicos is sometimes called “water kefir.” It’s very similar but is typically used to ferment sugar water and fruit juices rather than milk. Both beverages help you get more water in your diet, which means more water to soften your stools, and help seed your gastrointestinal tract with loads of beneficial microorganisms.
Pears are another fruit that’s packed with fiber, as well as sugars that are generally digested poorly. When your body doesn’t digest a sugar, it passes it along to your gut flora. Whatever they don’t use ends up in your colon, where it pulls more water into your stools via osmosis. Not only do these delicious fruits help add bulk, but they also help make your stools softer. As a bonus, they have a high-water content — perfect for those who may have a harder time staying as hydrated as they should be.
Constipation is rough. Not only is it uncomfortable, but it can also be embarrassing to seek help for. If you’re struggling with it, there’s no reason to suffer in silence. These seven foods can help you get your gut health back on the right track.