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 can all 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 these 12 foods that can help you poop.
The oats in oatmeal contain soluble fiber that can help with digestive issues and support heart health — talk about a win-win! Plus, if you get bored with your usual oatmeal, there are plenty of other tasty ways to add oats to your diet.
OK, it’s not a food, but H2O can’t stop, won’t stop, especially with health benefits. It not only keeps you hydrated but 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 one you pick contains 5 or more grams of fiber per serving, like All Bran or Fiber 1, and doesn’t have a load of added sugar, Karlitz says.
You can always boost the fiber content by sprinkling on some chia seeds or ground flaxseed too.
Ditching white bread for the whole grain variety gives you a little dose of antioxidants and other nutrients, plus 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’d get in white bread.
Here’s just another reason to get your fill of nature’s candy. Strawberries are high in fiber, thanks to those tiny, edible seeds. And 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 your 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: If you don’t eat enough veggies or fruit, you’re 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. Plus, chopped raw broccoli contains 2.4 grams of total fiber per cup. Bottom line: You should probably listen to mom about that whole eat-your-veggies thing.
These little guys may be the single easiest way to sneak more fiber into your diet. Just 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed 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 flaxseed has been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels. Bonus: Whole flaxseed also contains alpha-linolenic acid, one of the omega-3 fats, which is good for your heart!
As far as cravings go, popcorn is one of the healthier ones — as long as you don’t overload it with butter and salt. Plus, it’s a good snack to reach for when you’re plugged up.
Air-popped popcorn has about 1 gram of fiber (and just 31 calories) per cup, 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. That may make trips to the bathroom much more pleasant.
While experts recommend staying away from most dairy products — yes, that includes ice cream — yogurt may be an exception to the rule if you’re dealing with constipation. You probably already know that the Lactobacillus bacteria in yogurt is good for you in a million ways.
And yep, research suggests that probiotics — another name 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 relieve 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, allowing it to pass more easily 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. Adding too much too fast can cause gas and stomach pain.
While eating certain foods can help you poop, these habits can be just as essential:
- Be careful with the pills you pop: Some medications and supplements, including antacids and iron supplements, are known constipation culprits.
- Be mindful of a low fiber diet: While foods low in fiber won’t directly cause constipation, Karlitz says, you want to make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber and water in your diet.
- Be wary of special diets: Some can be lacking in the fiber department. If you go extremely low carb and skip most fruits and veggies, you could end up plugged up from the lack of fiber. High fat diets can also slow things down since your body takes longer to digest fat than other macronutrients.
- Be sure to increase fiber intake slowly: Adding too much too quickly can actually make constipation worse. Instead of fiber-loading your morning smoothie, spread out your fiber intake throughout the day to avoid overtaxing your digestive system. And don’t forget to increase your water intake while you’re at it.
- Be active: Exercising can help boost your digestion and get things moving.