Yes, constipation is a little awkward to talk about, but it’s way worse to suffer in silence. And you’re not alone if you commonly experience the telltale signs: bloating, pain when you try to poop, or a general lack of good, regular pooping.
Pinpointing what’s causing you to be plugged up can be tricky, though.
Traveling, changing your work schedule, and skipping workouts all can cause a change in your bathroom habits, says Jordan Karlitz, MD, a gastroenterologist and associate clinical professor at Tulane University School of Medicine. But the biggest constipation culprit is what you eat.
The next time you need help keeping things moving, turn to the 12 foods that help you poop, below.
The oat grains in oatmeal contain soluble fiber that help with digestive issues and support heart health — talk about a win-win! And it’s hard to be bored with oatmeal when you have all of these ideas to take it from ordinary to outstanding.
Okay, it’s not a food but H2O can’t stop, won’t stop, especially with health benefits. It not only keeps you hydrated, it also helps make bowel movements more regular. Yet another reason to hit the water cooler, stat.
Start your day right with a bowl of high-fiber cereal. Just make sure the brand you pick contains 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, like All Bran and Fiber 1, and doesn’t have a load of added sugar, Karlitz says.
Ditching white bread for the whole-grain variety gives you a little dose of antioxidants and other nutrients — one of which is insoluble fiber.
It’s not a lot: The average slice of whole-wheat bread has less than 2 grams of fiber, but that’s more than double what you get in white bread.
Just another reason to get your fill of nature’s candy. Strawberries are high in fiber, thanks to those tiny, edible seeds. What goes great with strawberries? Bananas!
Bananas also have a substantial amount of soluble fiber, which registered dietitian Gina Hassick says can help push waste through the bowels (you really needed that visual, didn’t you?).
With heart-healthy fats and tons of other good-for-you attributes, nuts are no doubt small but mighty — and almonds, in particular, come with a good dose of fiber. Two handfuls (23 almonds for those who are counting) have 3.5 grams of fiber.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Research suggests that if you don’t like veggies — and fruit for that matter — you’re much more likely to develop constipation. So, it should come as no surprise that vegetables made the cut here.
Broccoli contains a special substance that may help you poop.
These little guys may be the single easiest way to sneak more fiber into your diet. Just one tablespoon of ground flax seed contains 2 grams of total fiber, and because it’s super versatile, you can add it to basically anything, from smoothies to salads to baked goods.
Its fiber is potent stuff, too: Supplementing with flax seed has been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
As far as cravings go, popcorn is one of the healthier ones — provided you don’t overload it with butter and salt. Plus, it’s a good thing to reach for when you’re plugged up. Air-popped popcorn has about 1 gram of fiber per cup, and just 31 calories, so it’s cool to dig in.
Sure, we all joke that beans make you toot, but they do a little more than that. They’re a good source of soluble fiber — 1 cup of black beans contains a whopping 15 grams of total fiber — making trips to the bathroom much more pleasant.
While experts recommend staying away from most dairy products — yes, that includes ice cream — if you’re battling constipation, yogurt may be the exception to the rule. You probably already know that the Lactobacillus bacteria in yogurt is good for you in a million ways.
And yep, research suggests that probiotics, the other term for those friendly bacteria, can help keep things running smoothly.
There’s a reason doctors and grandmas tell you to drink prune juice when you’re constipated. The dried fruit contains sorbitol and a substance called dihydrophenylisatin, which can help alleviate constipation, says registered dietitian Justin Robinson.
“The key is having enough fiber in your diet,” Karlitz says. “You want a good balance of soluble and insoluble fiber, as well as enough water intake.” Most plant foods contain some of both types of fiber.
Insoluble fiber bulks up stool, which makes it easier to pass through your system. Soluble fiber attracts water and turns into a gel during digestion, which helps your body process the fiber without discomfort, says Hassick.
Just be sure to add fiber to your diet slowly to let your body adjust. Too much too fast can cause gas and stomach pain.
Be careful with the pills you pop. Some meds, including antacids and iron supplements, are known constipation culprits. Low-fiber foods won’t cause constipation directly, Karlitz says, but you want to make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber and water in your diet.
Some diets can be lacking in that department. If you go extremely low-carb and skip most fruits and veggies, you could end up plugged up from the lack of fiber. Also, high-fat diets can slow things down, since fat takes the longest for our body to digest.