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Is eating olives good for constipation?

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become hard, dry and difficult to pass. Constipation can cause bloating, discomfort and stomach pain. Making dietary and lifestyle changes is often recommended as first-line treatment. Some claim that eating olives may help relieve constipation. This article examines the evidence on olives and constipation.

What causes constipation?

There are several potential causes of constipation:

  • Inadequate fiber intake
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Medications
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Changes in routine or travel
  • Ignoring urge to have a bowel movement
  • Specific diseases affecting the colon

The most common cause is inadequate fiber intake. Fiber helps add bulk and moisture to stools. It also promotes regular bowel movements. The recommended daily fiber intake for adults is 25–30 grams.

Do olives help relieve constipation?

Olives are a nutritious fruit commonly enjoyed in Mediterranean cuisine. They provide fiber, antioxidants and healthy fats. Some sources claim that eating olives may help get things moving if you are constipated due to their fiber content. However, evidence directly linking olive consumption to reduced constipation is lacking.

Fiber content

Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion of plant foods. It passes through the digestive system mostly intact. Fiber comes from the cell walls of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. It promotes regular bowel movements by adding bulk and absorbing water in the colon. This helps soften and increase the size of stools for easier passage.

The fiber content of olives is around 3.3 grams per 100 grams. Black olives contain slightly more fiber than green olives. While olives do provide a source of fiber, there are many other foods that are richer sources per serving. Here is how the fiber content of olives compares to other high-fiber foods:

Food Serving Size Fiber (grams)
Black olives 100 grams 3.3
Green olives 100 grams 2.6
Oat bran 1/2 cup 8.0
Black beans 1/2 cup 7.5
Raspberries 1 cup 8.0
Broccoli 1 cup 5.1

While olives provide fiber, you would need to eat a large portion to get a significant amount. One serving of other high-fiber foods like beans, berries or bran provides much more fiber.

Other nutrients in olives

In addition to fiber, olives provide other nutrients that support digestive health:

  • Monounsaturated fats: These healthy fats may help keep the digestive tract running smoothly.
  • Vitamin E: This antioxidant vitamin promotes immunity and gut barrier integrity.
  • Polyphenols: These plant compounds act as prebiotics to feed beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Iron: Olives provide a source of iron, which is necessary for energy production.
  • Copper: This mineral helps form connective tissue and nerves involved in digestive movements.

While these nutrients may support overall gut function, there is little proof they relieve constipation specifically. More research is needed on olives and constipation.

Other dietary remedies for constipation

Making certain dietary changes may help get things moving if you are constipated. Here are some evidence-based ways to relieve constipation through diet and lifestyle:

1. Eat more fiber

Consuming more high-fiber foods softens stools and makes them easier to pass. Good sources include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and beans. It’s best to get fiber from foods rather than supplements. Increase fiber intake gradually and drink plenty of water to prevent gas or bloating.

2. Stay hydrated

Dehydration can lead to constipation by hardening stools. Drink plenty of water and limit caffeine and alcohol, which have dehydrating effects. Fruit infused waters, herbal tea and broths also contribute to fluid intake.

3. Exercise regularly

Physical activity helps increase motility in the digestive tract.Aim for at least 30 minutes per day of moderate activity like brisk walking. Yoga poses and abdominal exercises can also stimulate bowel movements.

4. Consider probiotic foods

Probiotics may help relieve constipation by balancing gut bacteria. Try adding probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi to your diet. Probiotic supplements may also be beneficial.

5. Eat prunes

Prunes contain fiber and sorbitol, a natural laxative. Several studies found prunes and prune juice effective at relieving constipation. Start with a small glass of prune juice or a few prunes per day.

6. Try magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium helps relax muscles involved with pooping. Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, avocados, yogurt and bananas. Magnesium supplements are another option.

7. Consider flax, chia and hemp seeds

These tiny seeds provide fiber and healthy fats to aid digestion. They can be sprinkled on oatmeal, yogurt, salads or smoothies. Make sure to drink plenty of water with them.

8. Drink coffee

The caffeine in coffee may stimulate bowel movements in some people. However, too much caffeine can become dehydrating. Moderation is key.

9. Eat fermented foods

Foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha contain probiotics for gut health and may promote regularity.

10. Try triphala

Triphala is an Ayurvedic herbal formula containing three dried fruits. It has been traditionally used to relieve constipation. You can find triphala supplements or powders to add to water or smoothies.

When to see a doctor

Diet and lifestyle approaches often help relieve mild constipation. However, seek medical advice if you experience:

  • No bowel movements for 3 or more days
  • Hard, painful stools
  • Bloating and abdominal pain
  • Blood in stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant constipation not improved by changes in diet

These symptoms could indicate an underlying health condition requiring treatment. Older adults should tell their doctor about new-onset constipation, since it can signal a serious issue.

The bottom line

There is limited evidence directly linking olive consumption to reduced constipation. However, olives provide fiber, healthy fats and other nutrients that may support overall digestive health.

Adding olives to your diet may be beneficial, but is likely not a magic bullet for constipation relief. More proven ways to get things moving include eating high-fiber foods, staying hydrated, exercising and taking probiotics. Prunes, coffee and magnesium supplements also show promise.

Making targeted, evidence-based changes to your diet and lifestyle can often help relieve mild to moderate constipation. Check with your healthcare provider if symptoms persist or you experience any red flags.