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Foods to Relieve Constipation

Foods to Relieve Constipation

Constipation is a common problem. It is said to affect around 20% of Americans, which causes 8 million medical appointments per year. It is characterized by less than three bowel movements per week and has several unpleasant symptoms such as bloating and pain during defecation which can possibly lead to the formation of hemorrhoids.  

The process that leads to constipation is simple. As food goes through your digestive tract your body absorbs the nutrients and water from it. What leftover is considered stool. When this process slows down, your body absorbs too much water, leaving your stool dried and hard to pass, causing constipation.

6 Common Reasons for Constipation:

  1. Lack of foods that have fiber
  2. Lack of exercise
  3. Lack of fluid intake
  4. Taking too much laxatives
  5. Not emptying your bowel when you feel the urge
  6. Pregnancy

Along with regular exercise the best way to improve your bowel movements to ensure that your diet is consisted of foods rich in fiber.

How Foods Rich in Fiber Relieve Constipation

If you are constipated, you should have second thoughts about laxatives since frequent and overuse of laxatives can worsen the situation. In addition, most people who are mildly constipated don’t need laxatives so look to your diet instead. The key is intaking foods to relieve constipation – foods rich in fiber. Foods that have fiber help keep stools soft and speed the digestive process[1]. How? Fiber is the indigestible part of plants that cannot be broken down by the colon. There are two types of fiber. Insoluble fiber found foods like in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains bulks up your stool and acts like a brush sweeping your digestive tract encouraging movement. Soluble fiber found in foods like oat bran, nuts beans, fruits and certain vegetables absorbs water and form a gel like substance keeping your stool soft and improving its consistency to allow ease through the colon.  Fermentation of prebiotics, a type of soluble fiber, in the large intestine can help digestion by maintain a good environment for good bacteria[2].  

Benefits of Foods that Have Fiber

According to the Mayo Clinic a high fiber diet has many benefits other than constipation.

  • Normalizes bowel movements
  • Helps maintain bowel health
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Helps control blood sugar levels
  • Aids in achieving healthy weight

How Much Fiber Do You Need

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises everyone to take in between 20 and 30 grams of fiber a day, but most adults never get even half in their diet daily. Why?  Most American foods are refined which stripped the foods of their rich fiber. Unless, you frequently eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts you probably are not getting enough fiber. Thus missing out on one of the best and healthiest component of foods.

You need varying amounts of fiber, depending on age and gender. Below is the current daily fiber recommendations by the health institute of medicine[3] by age and gender:  

Children between ages 1 and 18 should eat 14 to 31 grams of fiber per day, depending on their age and sex.[4]

How to Take Foods to Relieve Constipation

The best way to take foods to relieve constipation is to do it gradually because increasing intake quickly in a short time could cause side effects like gas, bloating and pain.

Foods to Relieve Constipation

High Fiber Foods List

Insoluble Fiber Foods to Relieve Constipation[5]

  • Wheat bran, 11.3 grams of insoluble fiber per 1/2 cup
  • All Bran cereal, 7.2 g per 1/3 cup
  • Most beans (1/2 cup)
    • Kidney beans, 5.9 g
    • Pinto beans, 5.7 g
    • Navy beans, 4.3 g
  • Lentils, 4.6 g per 1/2 cup
  • Shredded Wheat cereal, 4.5 g per cup
  • Most Whole grains. Bulgur, for instance, contains 4.2 grams of insoluble fiber in 1/2 cup
  • Flax seeds, 2.2 g per 1 tbsp
  • Vegetables (1/2 cup)
    • Okra, 3.1 g
    • Turnip, 3.1 g
    • Peas, 3 g

Soluble Fiber Foods to Relieve Constipation

  • Purple passion fruit, 6.5 g of soluble fiber per 1/2 cup
  • Psyllium husk, 3.5 g per 1 Tbsp
  • Metamucil, 3.4 g per 1 Tbsp
  • Oat/Oat bran, 2.2 g per 3/4 cup
  • Some Beans (1/2 cup)
    • Black beans, 2.4 g
    • Navy beans, 2.2 g
    • Kideny beans, 2 g
  • Soy
    • Tofu, 2.8 g per 3/4 cup
    • Edamame, 1.5 g per 1/2 cup
  • Vegetables (1/2 cup)
    • Avocado, 2.1 g
    • Brussels sprouts, 2 g
    • Sweet potato, 1.8 g
    • Asparagus, 1.7 g
    • Turnip, 1.7 g
  • Fruit
    • Dried figs, 1.9 g per 1/4 cup
    • Orange, 1.8 g, medium size
    • Fruit with skin, like pear, apricots, and nectarine, ~ 1.2 g
  • Flax seed, 1.1 g per 1 tbsp

Supplement Foods to Relieve Constipation

Although we encourage everyone to consistently take in the recommended dose of fiber, we understand that this may be difficult. Whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables are not the cheapest foods when comparing them to processed and refined foods. In addition, busy schedules make it complicated to keep track fiber intake. Therefore, supplementing your diet with a fiber supplement is an easy and affordable way to ensure healthy bowel movements.  

 Read next: Probiotic Side Effects | How to Avoid Them


[1] Nutr Rev. 2009 Apr;67(4):188-205. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00189.x.

[2] Nutrients. 2013 Apr 22;5(4):1417-35. doi: 10.3390/nu5041417.




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