How to Eat When You're Constipated

People make plenty of jokes about being constipated, but when you're the one dealing with it chances are you aren't doing a lot of laughing. Irregular bowels movements can make you feel bloated and uncomfortable, and when you finally are able to use the bathroom it can hurt to pass stools that are hard.

One answer is to reach for a laxative, but first try to change your eating habits. If you follow these five tips, you may find yourself back on track without a trip to the drugstore.

Woman drinking water

 JGI / Jamie Grill / Getty Images 

Eat a Large Meal in the Morning

You may not feel like it, especially if you're too bloated to buckle your belt. But eating a substantial breakfast in the morning will encourage your bowels to get a move on. Washing it down with caffeinated tea or coffee also will help to trigger intestinal contractions that lead to a successful bowel movement.

Eat Regular to Get (and Stay) Regular

Even if that morning meal brought some relief, plan on putting something in your belly every few hours throughout the rest of the day. Eating meals regularly and consistently can help encourage your system to keep moving along in a smoother way.

Add Some Fat to Your Diet

Dietary fat has been shown to increase the strength of intestinal contractions. Those contractions are what is needed in order to prompt your colon to initiate a bowel movement.

The kind of fat you include in your meals matters: Steer clear of saturated fats and foods made with saturated fats (think greasy chips).

Examples of healthy fats include avocado (mashed up it's a creamy and delicious alternative to mayo on a sandwich); coconut; olive oil; almonds, walnuts, and other nuts; and flax and chia seeds, which you can sprinkle into a smoothie or over cereal.

Increase Your Fiber Intake

Adding more fiber to your meals can help provide bulk that's needed to encourage bowel movements. But if the term "dietary fiber" sounds as appetizing to you as cardboard, you're only half right. It's true some sources of fiber, which is the non-digestible part of plant foods, are dry and tasteless. (Bland bran cereal, anyone?)

But many sources of fiber are downright delicious. Did you know that raspberries have more fiber per serving than any other fruit? And that artichokes lead the list among vegetables? Split peas and lentils both are rich sources of fiber, so if you're a soup lover you're in luck. The point is, you can get more fiber by eating foods that are delectable and delicious without resorting to ones that are flavorless and boring.

Keep in mind that it's important to increase fiber in the diet slowly, especially if your fiber intake is currently low. Introducing more fiber too quickly can lead to undesirable discomfort, gas, and bloating. Gradually increasing fiber intake allows the body time to adjust. 

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Water (and other sources of fluids, such as no-sugar-added fruit juice, unsweetened seltzer, even juicy fruits and soup) are key to relieving constipation. When your body is well-hydrated, it won't draw fluid from your stools, which is what can make them hard and difficult to pass. You should take in the equivalent of at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day to combat constipation.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.