Foods to Eat When You Are Constipated

When you have constipation, you need foods that will get your system moving. The key is foods with fiber. And you'll find fiber in foods that come from plants.

This article explains which plant-based foods are the most helpful for constipation. It also gives a few words of caution for people with certain health conditions who may need to avoid some types of fiber.

Best Foods to Eat When Constipated

Start with this quick-pick list of high-fiber foods. Then explore more in-depth about why these foods will help. You will also find precautions for those who may be sensitive to some of the foods on the list.

  • Fruit: Berries, peaches, apricots, plums, raisins, rhubarb, and prunes are some of the best high-fiber fruits. For a fiber boost, eat the peel as well.
  • Whole Grains: Steer clear of white flour and white rice. Enjoy whole grains instead; they provide more fiber. Whole grains include oats, brown rice, whole wheat, quinoa, barley, and rye.
  • Vegetables: Veggie leaves, stalks, and roots are rich in fiber. That includes potato skins.
  • Nuts: Walnuts and almonds will also add fiber to your diet.
  • Seeds: Several kinds of seeds are great sources of fiber. You can add them to smoothies or sprinkle them on yogurt or salads. Chia, ground flaxseeds, and psyllium are some of the most popular.
  • Beans and Legumes (with caution): Legumes such as chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, navy beans, and kidney beans are good sources of fiber. However, they have a well-earned reputation for making people gassy. If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), beans and legumes are on the list of high FODMAP foods. These are high-carb foods that may make IBS symptoms worse.
  • Hot Tea: An herbal tea made with anise or fennel might ease constipation.

Why Fiber Helps

The best thing you can do to ease constipation is to slowly increase your intake of dietary fiber. Fiber is the part of plant material that you cannot digest.

Fiber is helpful for constipation because it adds bulk and softens the stool.

  • Soluble fiber absorbs water. It binds with fatty acids, forming a gel-like substance that keeps stools soft.
  • Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk and moisture to the stool.

Both types are good for constipation. Since they're found in all plant foods, you won't need to remember which to eat if you want more fiber.

However, too much fiber too soon can be hard on your system. It can increase gas and bloating. Take it slow. For treating constipation, experts recommend that you increase your intake to 20 to 25 grams per day.

If you have IBS, you may find that your system is better able to handle foods with soluble fiber. Insoluble fiber may trigger your symptoms. 

10 foods to ease constipation

Verywell / Laura Porter

FODMAPs and Gassy Foods

If you have IBS, you may want to avoid foods that are high in short-chain carbohydrates (FODMAPs).

Some fruits and vegetables have a gassy reputation. It may be a good idea to choose foods that are less likely to give you gas until your system is working more smoothly. Once your constipation has passed, you can widen your choice of produce.

Recap

Plant-based foods are rich in fiber. Fiber softens your stool by adding bulk and moisture. Some fruits and vegetables can cause gas or bloating. If this is a problem, opt for low FODMAP choices such as leafy greens, melon, and berries.

Best Fruits for Constipation

Fruits are a great option for easing constipation. Most are an excellent source of dietary fiber, along with providing you with a host of other nutritional benefits. Although there is no hard science on the matter, you may find that your body responds better to fruit that has been cooked or dried, as opposed to raw.

Here are some fruits that can ease constipation:

  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries

Dried Options

  • Apricots
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Prunes
  • Raisins

Best Vegetables for Constipation

Eating lots of vegetables, including green leafy vegetables, is one of the best strategies for keeping your bowels moving. In addition to getting a healthy dose of fiber, vegetables also provide nutrients that are good for your overall health.

You may find that your body responds better to cooked rather than raw vegetables. If you like soup, try one made with a variety of high-fiber vegetables.

The following vegetables are thought to be beneficial for easing constipation.

Eat Your Greens

  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Fill Your Plate With Vegetables

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Peas
  • Red potatoes with skin
  • Squash
  • Zucchini

Whole Grains and Constipation

Switching from refined grains such as white flour and white rice to whole grains can make a big difference. Here are some good whole grain choices.

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Bulgur
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Whole wheat

Note: If you have chronic constipation, you may want to try an elimination diet—stop eating one grain at a time to see how it affects your symptoms. Check with your healthcare provider first. Then load up on fiber from the other sources listed here.

Recap

Variety is key. Eat lots of different fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, both raw and cooked.

Best Teas for Constipation

One way to ease constipation is to reach for a soothing cup of tea. Hot liquids may help to prompt your system to action.

A tea made with herbs that have laxative effects is ideal.

The two best teas for constipation include:

  • Anise tea: This licorice-tasting tea is thought to have both laxative and antispasmodic effects.
  • Fennel tea: Also licorice-tasting, fennel tea is thought to speed up intestinal contractions. It also acts as a laxative and an antispasmodic.

Best Nuts for Constipation

Nuts are a good source of fiber and omega fatty acids. Here are some good choices to try when you are constipated:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts

Best Seeds for Constipation

Several different types of seeds can be helpful in easing constipation.

  • Chia seeds: These little seeds are a good source of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Sprinkle them on salads or add them to smoothies.
  • Fennel seeds: Chewing on fennel seeds is thought to help to ease gas and bloating. They may also help with constipation.
  • Flaxseed: Grinding these nutty-flavored seeds gives you the most benefit from their fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They can be used in baking or added to smoothies.
  • Psyllium: Research supports the use of psyllium to ease constipation. It's considered a bulk laxative.

Best Snacks for Constipation

Fruit: Apples and pears are easy take-along snacks.

Granola: Make your own granola to reduce added sugar and to ensure that you are adding grains, seeds, and nuts you can handle.

Hummus: This fiber-rich snack is portable. You can enjoy it with raw vegetable sticks such as carrots or celery.

Nuts: Brazil nuts, pecans, and walnuts are generally well-tolerated by all.

Trail mix: Make your own to ensure it contains foods your body can handle. You can add some nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and dried fruit if they work for you.

Vegetables: Carrots and celery are classic nibbles.

Drink Plenty of Water

Every cell in your body needs water to function at its best. If you don't drink enough water, your body will make up for it by pulling water out of your intestines. This may result in hard stools that lead to constipation.

Recap

Eat nuts and seeds for their fiber. And don't forget liquids. Drinking water and herbal teas helps restore your bowel function. You will know that you are drinking enough if your urine is clear.

Summary

Your best bet for relieving constipation is drinking water and eating fiber-rich foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, herb teas, and seeds are good options. Increase these foods slowly, and check with a healthcare provider if you have a digestive disorder such as IBS.

A Word From Verywell

When you have constipation, remember that foods from plants are your best choices to help get things moving. Be sure to drink four to six glasses of liquids per day and be physically active as well.

While laxatives and stool softeners can definitely help ease constipation symptoms, they should never be used for longer than two weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes constipation?

    Constipation is caused by stools that move too slowly through the digestive tract. Some of the most common reasons include:

    • Eating foods low in fiber
    • Not drinking enough fluids
    • Lack of exercise
    • Older age
    • Pregnancy
    • Diabetes
    • Stress
    • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement
    • Changes in routine, such as travel or irregular sleep habits
    • Digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
    • Certain medications, such as opioids


  • What foods should you avoid if constipated?

    Avoid low-fiber foods that are harder to digest, including red meats, dairy products, processed foods, and anything made with refined flour (like white bread). You should also steer clear of fried foods.

  • What other ways can you treat constipation?

    In addition to diet, exercise can help stimulate the bowels and move stools faster through the digestive tract. Over-the-counter fiber supplements can also help.

  • Is a fiber supplement just as good for constipation as the fiber in plant-based foods?

    Fiber supplements such as Metamucil are an effective way to get your bowels moving again. The fiber in plant-based foods relieves constipation, plus you get all the other health benefits that come with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

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