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Does taking greens make you poop more?

Eating more greens and leafy vegetables is widely regarded as a healthy way to improve your diet. Greens are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. However, some people find that when they increase their intake of greens, they start pooping more. So what’s the connection between greens and pooping? Do greens really make you poop more?

Fiber in Greens Makes You Poop

The main reason greens make you poop is that they are high in fiber. Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that passes through our digestive system largely intact. The two main types of fiber are:

  • Soluble fiber – dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. Found in oats, peas, beans, apples, carrots, citrus fruits.
  • Insoluble fiber – does not dissolve in water. Found in wheat bran, vegetables, whole grains.

Insoluble fiber in particular acts as a natural laxative. It adds bulk and moisture to stools, making them softer and easier to pass through the intestines. Greens like spinach, kale, collard greens, broccoli and brussels sprouts are packed with insoluble fiber.

Here’s a table showing the insoluble fiber content of some common greens:

Green Vegetable Insoluble Fiber (grams per cup)
Spinach 2.2
Kale 2.6
Collard greens 5.4
Broccoli 2.4
Brussels sprouts 3.2

As you increase your insoluble fiber intake by eating more greens, it’s normal for bowel movements to increase as that fiber has a laxative effect. More frequent pooping is your body’s natural response to help clear out the additional roughage.

Other Benefits of Fiber for Digestive Health

In addition to making you poop more often, the fiber in greens provides other advantages for digestive and gut health:

  • Prevents constipation – Insoluble fiber bulks up stool and reduces transit time in the colon, helping prevent constipation.
  • Feeds good gut bacteria – Soluble fiber from greens is digested by beneficial bacteria in the intestines that produce short-chain fatty acids that promote gut health.
  • Reduces risk of diverticulitis – A high fiber diet may reduce pressure inside the colon thus lowering risk of pouches or diverticuli forming in weakened areas of the colon wall.
  • Aids weight loss – Greens are low in calories but the fiber adds bulk which helps you feel fuller on fewer calories.

So while greens may make you rush to the bathroom more often, that can be a small price to pay for improving your overall digestive health.

Other Causes of Pooping More on a High Greens Diet

While fiber is the primary reason greens make you poop more, there are some other factors that can come into play too:

  • Increased water intake – To help digest all that fiber from greens, you need to drink more fluids. This increased water consumption stimulates the bowels.
  • Fat displacement – Greens are low in fat. Eating more greens means you eat less fatty foods. A lower fat diet with more bulk speeds up digestion.
  • Irritation – For some sensitive individuals, a sudden increase in raw greens may irritate the digestive tract and cause diarrhea.
  • Bile acids – The calcium and magnesium in greens can trigger the release of bile acids that act as natural laxatives.

So while fiber is the main driver, upping your greens intake can influence other aspects of digestion and bowel habits too.

Tips for Increasing Greens Without Discomfort

If you’re looking to eat more greens but want to minimize the laxative effect, here are some tips:

  • Gradually increase green veggies over 2-4 weeks to give your body time to adjust.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Choose cooked greens which are lower in fiber than raw.
  • Cut back on other high fiber foods to balance the increased greens.
  • Take a fiber supplement like psyllium husk to help normalize pooping.
  • Consider following a low FODMAP diet to avoid greens that may irritate.

With some small adjustments, your digestive system should adapt well to an increase in greens without any major disruption to your pooping schedule.

The Bottom Line

Eating more green vegetables, especially cruciferous greens like kale, broccoli and brussels sprouts, often leads to pooping more frequently. This is mainly due to the high insoluble fiber content which has a laxative effect. But fiber offers many preventative health benefits too. With some care to gradually increase intake of greens, drink plenty of fluids, and eat a balanced diet overall, an increase in daily pooping should only be temporary as your digestion adapts.