Constipation is a common problem affecting an estimated 20% of the population (1).
Delayed colonic transit, or a decrease in the movement of food through the digestive system, is one of the most common causes. A low fiber diet, aging, and physical inactivity can also contribute to constipation.
While remedies for constipation typically include laxatives, stool softeners, and fiber supplements, incorporating a few regularity-boosting foods into your diet can be a safe and effective alternative.
Here are 15 healthy foods that can help you poop.
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Fiber passes through your intestines undigested, aiding the formation of stool and promoting regular bowel movements (3).
Apples also contain a specific type of soluble fiber called pectin, which is known for its laxative effect.
In one study, 80 participants with constipation took pectin supplements.
After 4 weeks, pectin sped transit time in the colon, reduced the symptoms of constipation, and even improved digestive health by increasing the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut (4).
Apples can be used as a healthy topping for foods like yogurt, crepes, and oatmeal, or enjoyed on their own as a travel-friendly and nutritious snack.
Prunes are often used as a natural laxative — and for good reason.
Four prunes (32 grams) contain 2 grams of fiber and about 7% of your daily requirements for vitamin A and potassium (5).
Prunes also contain sorbitol, a type of sugar alcohol that your body poorly digests. It helps alleviate constipation by drawing water into the intestines, spurring a bowel movement (6).
One review looked at four studies measuring the effectiveness of prunes on constipation. It found that prunes can help soften stool, improve consistency, and increase stool frequency (7).
Another study showed that prunes made improvements in both stool frequency and consistency, compared with participants treated with psyllium fiber supplements (8).
Prunes add a hint of sweetness when used to garnish salads and pilafs. A small glass of prune juice with no added sugar can also be a quick and convenient way to get the same constipation-busting benefits found in whole prunes.
Kiwi is especially high in fiber, which makes it an excellent food to help promote regularity.
One medium kiwi (2.6 ounces or 69 grams) contains 2 grams of fiber (9).
Kiwi has been shown to stimulate movement in the digestive tract, helping induce bowel movements (10).
One older study gave 33 constipated and 20 non-constipated participants kiwi twice daily over a 4-week period.
Kiwi helped speed up intestinal transit time, decrease laxative use, and improve symptoms of constipation (11).
Try adding kiwi to your next smoothie or breakfast bowl for a tasty, high fiber treat.
Each 1-tablespoon (10-gram) serving of flax seeds contains 3 grams of fiber, including a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber (12).
One study showed that eating 10 grams of flax seed daily for 12 weeks improved constipation, as well as other digestive and weight conditions (13).
Another study showed that flax seed may have dual effectiveness for both constipation and diarrhea (14).
Flax seeds can add extra fiber and texture when sprinkled onto oats, yogurt, soups, and shakes. Flaxseed oil can be used in salad dressings, dips, and sauces, too.
Pears can help alleviate constipation in a few ways.
Pears are also high in sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that acts as an osmotic agent to pull water into the intestines and stimulate a bowel movement (17).
Furthermore, pears contain fructose, a type of sugar that can only be absorbed in limited amounts.
This is due to the way in which your body metabolizes fructose. Not only is it absorbed at a slower rate, but also large amounts of fructose can only be metabolized by your liver (18).
Moreover, some individuals may have fructose malabsorption, a condition that affects the body’s ability to absorb fructose.
Pears are incredibly versatile and easy to add to your diet. They can be included in salads, smoothies, and sandwiches or consumed raw for a sweet snack.
Most varieties of beans are high in fiber and can help maintain regularity.
Beans also contain good amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber, both of which help ease constipation in different ways.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like consistency, softening stool and making it easier to pass (21).
On the other hand, insoluble fiber passes through the digestive tract intact and adds bulk to stool (22).
If you’re looking for an easy way to increase your fiber intake, beans are a good way to do so. Add them to soups, dips, or side dishes for a delicious dose of fiber.
Both rhubarb’s fiber content and natural laxative properties encourage regularity.
Each stalk of rhubarb (1.8 ounces or 51 grams) includes 1 gram of fiber, which is mostly bulk-promoting insoluble fiber (24).
Rhubarb also contains a compound called sennoside A, which has a laxative effect in the body. In fact, sennosides are even found in herbal laxatives like senna (25).
Sennoside A works by decreasing levels of aquaporin 3 (AQP3), a protein that controls water transport in the intestines.
Decreased levels of AQP3 result in increased water absorption, which softens stool and promotes bowel movements (26).
Rhubarb can be used in a variety of baked goods, added to yogurt, or even be added to oatmeal for a kick of added flavor.
Research shows that artichokes have a prebiotic effect, which can be beneficial for gut health and maintaining regularity.
Consuming prebiotics may also help relieve constipation.
A 2017 review looked at five studies including 199 participants and concluded that prebiotics increased stool frequency and improved consistency (28).
Artichokes, in particular, are a good source of prebiotics that can boost beneficial bacteria in the gut.
One study had 32 participants supplement with fiber extracted from globe artichokes. After 3 weeks, they found that concentrations of beneficial bacteria had increased, while amounts of harmful gut bacteria had decreased (29).
Another study looked at the effects of artichoke leaf extract on 208 participants with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Artichokes not only reduced the incidence of IBS but also helped normalize bowel patterns (30).
Probiotics have been shown to increase stool frequency, improve stool consistency, and help reduce intestinal transit time to speed bowel movements (31).
Several studies have demonstrated that kefir, in particular, may promote regularity.
In one study, 20 participants with constipation were given kefir for 4 weeks. Kefir was found to decrease laxative use, speed intestinal transit, increase stool frequency, and improve consistency (32).
A 2014 review of studies also found that probiotics may improve whole gut transit time and stool frequency and consistency (33).
Kefir makes the perfect base for smoothies or salad dressings. Alternatively, try making a probiotic-rich parfait using kefir and topping it with fruit, flax seeds, or oats for an extra boost of fiber.
Figs are an excellent way to get more fiber into your diet to encourage regular bowel movements.
Dried figs, especially, can provide a concentrated dose of fiber.
A 2011 animal study looked at the effects of fig paste on constipation over a 3-week period. It found that fig paste increased stool weight and reduced intestinal transit time, supporting its use as a natural remedy for constipation (35).
Another study in humans found that giving fig paste to 40 participants with constipation helped speed colonic transit, improve stool consistency, and alleviate abdominal discomfort (36).
In addition to providing a host of vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes also contain a good amount of fiber that can help increase regularity.
One medium sweet potato (4.5 ounces or 150 grams) contains 4 grams of fiber (37).
The fiber found in sweet potatoes is mostly insoluble and includes a few specific types, such as cellulose, lignin, and pectin (38).
Thanks to their fiber content, some studies have shown that sweet potatoes may help promote bowel movements.
A 2016 study measured the effects of sweet potato intake on constipation in 57 leukemia patients who were undergoing chemotherapy.
After just 4 days, most markers of constipation had improved, and the participants consuming sweet potatoes had significantly less straining and discomfort than the control group (39).
This edible pulse is packed with fiber, making it an excellent addition to your diet to relieve constipation.
Additionally, eating lentils can increase the production of butyric acid, a type of short-chain fatty acid found in the colon. It increases the movement of the digestive tract to promote bowel movements (41).
A 2019 study concluded that beneficial intestinal hormone secretion and gut barrier integrity was improved by increased butyrate via fiber supplementation (42).
In fact, chia seeds are made up of about 40% fiber by weight, making them one of the most fiber-dense foods available (43).
Specifically, chia seeds are a good source of soluble fiber, which absorbs water to form a gel that softens and moistens stool for easier passage (21).
One study found that chia seeds could absorb up to 15 times their weight in water, allowing for even easier elimination (44).
Avocados aren’t just trendy on toast and guacamole. They’re chock full of nutrients and can help with constipation.
One cup (146 grams) of sliced avocado contains 10 grams of fiber (45).
This source of both soluble and insoluble fiber can help relieve constipation.
Additionally, a 2019 study indicated that replacing carbs with the fats and fiber from avocados increased satiety, which could aid weight loss (46).
Other studies suggest avocados could also support healthy aging (47).
Oat bran is the fiber-rich outer casing of the oat grain.
Though it’s not as widely consumed as rolled or old-fashioned oats, oat bran contains significantly more fiber.
Just one-third cup (40 grams) of oat bran contains about 7 grams of fiber (48).
One older study gave 15 elderly participants oat bran over a 12-week period and compared the results with a control group.
Oat bran was not only well tolerated but also helped participants maintain their body weight and decreased their laxative use by 59%, making it a safe and effective natural remedy for constipation (49).
Though oatmeal and oat bran come from the same oat groat, they vary in terms of texture and taste. Oat bran works especially well when used in recipes for homemade granola and breads.
Constipation is a common problem that affects most people at some point.
Though medications and supplements can help, achieving regularity is possible for most people with a high fiber, healthy diet and a few regularity-boosting foods.
Including a few servings of these foods each day, along with drinking plenty of water and engaging in regular physical activity, can help increase stool frequency, improve consistency, and eliminate constipation once and for all.