Virtually everyone has experienced constipation at some point in their lives, and the chances of developing this annoying and often painful issue increases with age. Because of how awful laxatives can feel, you’ll often wind up in discomfort whether you take them or not. Luckily, there are plenty of foods you can eat that have positive effects on bowel movements! Let’s consider some foods that relieve constipation better than laxatives.
“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” – Maimonides
Here Are 10 Foods That Relieve Constipation Better Than Laxatives
Dried plums, more popularly known as prunes, are fantastic for constipation. Thanks to their high-fiber content, they help bowel movements by increasing water content in stools while improving stool weight through fatty acids. Prunes also contain special phenolic compounds and a sugar alcohol called sorbitol, both of which boost gastrointestinal health.
Not only do they produce a mild laxative effect, but they also stimulate the production of good bacteria. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that people who consume just 10 prunes a day – approximately 100g – experience more frequent bowel movements and see better consistency of waste. You can also drink prune juice if you prefer.
2. Whole Wheat Bread and Pasta
All varieties of whole wheat products are great replacements for traditional varieties. This doesn’t just cover bread, though, as it also encompasses pasta and rice. This is because whole wheat foods have lots of insoluble fiber, which helps to add weight to stools.
If you’re going for bread, buying a variety that also contains nuts and seeds will give you an even stronger effect. Rye bread is especially helpful in this respect. Just two slices of it make up 15% of the recommended daily dietary fiber intake. This kind of bread certainly works much better than laxatives, and it is more effective at easing constipation than other varieties of wheat bread.
3. Raspberries and Blackberries
Both these kinds of berries have high water content and lots of fiber, so they have been known to relieve constipation well. Thanks to their high vitamin C content and a good boost of calcium, they’re generally good, healthy fruits to eat regularly. Do note that you shouldn’t consume too much of these fruits daily due to their high fat and sugar content, but they’re safe to eat in a small handful, mixed with cream or yogurt, or even in baked goods.
4. Pears and Apples
Eating these two fruits raw can promise several benefits, not just to your gut but for overall health. Both contain a lot of water and high amounts of fiber, which naturally help bowel movements overall, and they contain plenty of helpful components for gut health.
One of the fibers contained in apples is called pectin, which is great for increasing stool water content, making stools softer and heavier through the use of fatty acids. Studies have shown pectin can boost stool travel time, too! The best apples to consume for constipation are the Granny Smith variety. On the other hand, pears have high fructose, which stimulates the bowels; and sorbitol, which acts as a minor laxative.
Pulses are a food group comprised of things like lentils, beans, and even peas. These are packed with huge amounts of fiber. One cup of baked beans can contain nearly 80% of the recommended daily fiber intake. As an added bonus, they’re also often very inexpensive!
Pulses contain a mix of different kinds of fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Together, these fiber types help to add bulk to waste material, while also softening them, thus helping with constipation. If you’re not too big a fan of eating pulses unaccompanied, you can blend them into dips, add them to soups or salads, or even throw them in with dishes involving ground meat.
That’s right, even this movie snack can be great for relieving constipation. Popcorn is very low in calories and eating it is a great way to add extra fiber into your diet while still satisfying cravings. Choosing popcorn over chips can go a long way! Just make sure the popcorn you’re eating is air-popped and not completely smothered in butter and salt for a healthier yet tasty snack.
7. Citrus Fruits
Oranges, mandarins, and grapefruits are loaded with fiber, especially pectin, which we discussed when talking about apples. This component is mainly present in the peel. These fruits also have naringenin, which is a type of flavanol that helps to add to their constipation-relieving properties.
Citrus fruits are also great for helping fluids secrete into the colon, which produces a mild but noticeable laxative effect. Plus, they taste so refreshing and juicy! Thanks to how much vitamin C they contain, they make a great snack food.
Flaxseeds are a long-known remedy for constipation, and they have been used in medicine for centuries for this very purpose. This is because they have all the effects of a natural laxative due to their high insoluble and soluble fiber content. Eating just one tablespoon of this food gives you 11% of your daily recommended fiber. Flaxseed can boost the frequency of bowel movement while boosting the weight of stools.
It almost acts like a large intestine sponge that can soften stools with the water it collects, all while stimulating good bacteria growth with short-chain fatty acids. You can consume flaxseeds as they are or through flaxseed oil, and even olive oil has a similar effect. Do note that you should not consume flaxseeds if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as it can stimulate the start of menstruation when taken in excess.
Kiwifruit has a very high fiber content. Studies have shown that those who eat one kiwi per 30kg of body weight per day will have softened stools that pass more frequently and easily. Some studies have also found that eating two of these fruits per day can result in much better and healthier bowel habits.
This fruit also has an enzyme known as actinidine. This component has the ability to boost movement that occurs in the gastrointestinal tract. On top of that, kiwi has a number of phytochemicals, which – while understudied – have been suggested to help improve overall digestion.
Greens are good for your health in more ways than one. You’ll especially want to eat lots of spinach, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts! Not only are these high in fiber, folate, and vitamins C and K, but they also add stool bulk, allowing them to pass more easily.
Spinach has high levels of magnesium that attracts water into stools, softening them and making them easier to pass. Broccoli has a lot of sulforaphane, which is a component that aids digestion and helps keep the gastrointestinal system healthy. Most soft, leafy greens have a lot of fiber alongside plenty of other health benefits, so feel free to load up on them!
Being constipated might often be the butt of jokes – no pun intended! – but it can have detrimental effects on the body, and even in mild cases can cause discomfort that negatively affects productivity, positive thinking, and eating patterns. Eating these listed foods can help to relieve this problem without the use of laxatives, and some may even prevent constipation altogether.