Constipation is a common bowel condition caused by a poor diet and lifestyle. You are constipated if the frequency of your bowel movements suddenly decreases from every other day to once a week. You will also notice that the quality of your stools has changed from soft and moist to hard and dry. In most cases, you may experience discomfort or pain while you are pooping.
If your bowel movement includes severe bleeding and pain, we advise consulting your doctor as this can be a sign of a more serious bowel condition. But if that isn’t the case, your constipation is most likely the result of a poor diet, and addressing it means you need to increase your fibre and fluid intake.
How Much Fibre Do You Need to Eat Daily?
The recommended fibre intake for women ages 31 to 50 is 25g, while men in the same age range should aim to eat at least 38g of fibre daily. As you age, your fibre requirement decreases. Women aged 51+ need only 21g of fibre every day, while men need 30g.
Increasing your fibre intake must be done gradually to minimise your risk for digestive problems such as bloating and excessive gas. You also need to drink around 2 litres of water per day to help the increased amount of fibre flow through your intestinal tract smoothly.
Now that you know how much fibre you need to consume every day, let’s take a look at these top 10 foods that are good for constipation.
Prunes often come first to mind when you think about remedies for constipation, and for many good reasons. They are rich in fibre and nutrients that can help increase the bulk of your stool so it can pass along your colon smoothly. A piece of prune has 0.7g of fibre, which is a concentrated amount when you only have to eat around 25g to 38g of fibre daily.
Prunes also contain fermentable sugars like sorbitol and fructans that can have a laxative effect on your gut. Based on a 2014 study, eating prunes may help increase the frequency of your bowel movements and improve the quality of your stools.
If you frequently suffer from constipation and want to speed up your bowel movements, prunes can be a great addition to your diet. We recommend eating around 100g of prunes daily to help ease or prevent constipation.
Soups are packed with nutrients and easy to digest. They also have high water content, which can soften your dry and hard stools, allowing them to pass through your intestinal tract easily.
If you need to increase your fluid intake, soups are a highly nutritious way to do it. One study found higher rates of constipation amongst people who consumed less than 1,882ml of fluid per day. If you find it difficult to drink almost two litres of water daily, soups and other healthy beverages are effective fluid alternatives that can help relieve you of your constipation.
Beans contain a fibre-like starch that can increase your stool’s transit time in the colon. Aside from its mild laxative effect, they also help balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
A cup of beans may provide more fibre than a lot of leafy greens. For instance, a half-cup of navy beans contain 9.5g of fibre, while the same serving size of pinto beans has 7.7g. Other beans like lima and kidney beans have 4.5g of fibre per ½ cup serving. You can toss these beans into your salad or as an added ingredient to your soups, pasta, or casseroles.
If your stomach finds these traditional beans difficult to digest, consider green beans instead. They contain less protein and carbs so they are easier to digest. More importantly, they have 4g of fibre per one cup, making them a great food choice for constipation. Additionally, green beans have less fermentable sugars than traditional beans so you’re less likely to have a gassy stomach or experience bloating after consuming them.
Packed with fibre but low in calories, broccoli is one of the best foods for fighting constipation. It also contains sulforaphane, a substance that can help protect your gut from common digestive problems. It may also help prevent bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine that can disrupt normal digestion.
Based on a 2017 study, participants without existing health problems were asked to eat 20g of raw broccoli daily for 4 weeks. The results showed that eating broccoli can help reduce the risk of getting constipated as it promotes regular bowel movements.
We recommend steaming, baking or broiling broccoli so as to avoid losing much of its fibre content. Better yet, eat it raw along with your favourite salad.
Another fibre powerhouse in our list, nuts have been used as a traditional remedy for constipation for centuries. They are packed with fibre and nutrients that produce a natural laxative effect, giving you an easier time to poop.
Almonds, pistachios, and pecans contain the highest amounts of fibre among nuts. A ⅛ cup serving of almonds provides 3.5g of fibre, while pistachios provide 2.9g and pecans 2.7g.
However, if you are trying to lose weight, you need to watch how many nuts you eat daily because they also have high-calorie content. One proven way to measure how much nuts you should eat is by holding enough nuts until they cover the palm of your hand. We also recommend buying nuts that are dry roasted or raw roasted rather than ones roasted in oil.
Your stool is made up of 25% to 54% bacteria. Some of these microorganisms are still alive, while some are dead. If you don’t poop for more than a week, they will stay stuck in your colon, causing a blockage that may result in faecal impaction. Constipation can also cause gut inflammation as waste products are reabsorbed back into your bloodstream, which can irritate your intestinal walls.
Either way, these conditions usually come with a host of symptoms, such as bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and unexplained weight loss.
Laxatives stimulate movement in your colon, bringing you quick relief from your constipation. Chia seeds, castor oil, senna, aloe vera, psyllium, and magnesium citrate are some foods that act as natural laxatives. These foods are safe for daily consumption so you can make them a part of your long-term dietary plan.
Over-the-counter laxatives like Dulcolax also provide instant relief. However, if symptoms still persist after taking a laxative medication for a week, consult a doctor immediately. Using OTC laxatives every day poses a great risk to your health.
Several studies have shown that probiotics can be useful for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and bacterial infections in the gut. One of the symptoms of IBS is constipation. If you have IBS, you will most likely benefit from eating probiotics.
Probiotics contain billions of live microorganisms that help improve your gut health. They help increase the frequency of your bowel movements and soften hard stools, allowing for an easier passage.
These live microorganisms may also help reduce gut inflammation due to a bacterial infection. They can help fight the diarrhoea-causing bacteria in your colon and repopulate the affected area with good bacteria.
Examples of foods rich in probiotics include yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, pickles, and miso. If you frequently suffer from constipation, we recommend you eat one of these foods every day.
8. High-Fibre Cereals
Start your day right with cereals that contain 6g of fibre per serving. For better results, add chia seeds, nuts, flaxseeds, berries, prunes, or yoghurt on top.
Eating a hearty breakfast helps stimulate your colon due to your digestive system being at its most active state in the morning. Consuming fibre-rich foods for breakfast will increase your urge to poop during the day.
9. Whole-grain Foods
Whole-grain foods are rich in insoluble fibre that add bulk to your stools and improve your bowel movement.
However, whole-grain products made from enriched flour don’t contain as much fibre as 100% whole-grain foods do. We suggest buying foods that are labelled “whole” rather than “multigrain” or “seven-grain”. Some types of bread also contain more fibre than the others, as bakers purposely add fibre-rich ingredients (e.g., nuts and seeds) in them.
To get the most out of your whole-grain foods, eat them raw or slightly cooked.
10. Citrus Fruits
The citrus family contains a good amount of fibre, making it an ideal snack or dessert for people with constipation. They also contain the soluble fibre pectin, which can speed up colonic transit time and ease your constipation.
A 131g serving of orange contains 3.1g of fibre, while grapefruit has 2.6g. This serving instantly covers around 10% to 13% of your daily fibre requirements. To maximise these nutritional benefits, eat your citrus fruits fresh as a snack or dessert, blended as a smoothie, or as an added ingredient to your salads.
Need Our Help?
Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, discover how we can help you manage your constipation.