Skip to Content

What can I drink to open my bowels?

Introduction

Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, becoming hard, dry and difficult to eliminate. Constipation has many causes, including poor diet, lack of exercise, certain medications, dehydration and various medical conditions.

While constipation may seem like only a minor annoyance, it can negatively impact your quality of life. Fortunately, making diet and lifestyle changes can often provide constipation relief. What you drink is particularly important, as staying hydrated and consuming certain beverages can help get your bowels moving regularly.

Water

Drinking enough water is crucial for preventing and treating constipation. Water adds fluid to the colon, softening stool and allowing it to move through the intestines more easily. Aim for 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day. Drink water throughout the day, and have a glass first thing in the morning and between meals.

If plain water is boring, add lemon, lime, cucumber or fruits like strawberries or watermelon to infuse flavor. Sparkling water or mineral water can also help with hydration. Just avoid carbonated beverages like soda, which can worsen constipation.

Prune Juice

Prune juice is a traditional remedy for constipation, and for good reason. Prunes contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol with natural laxative effects. Sorbitol pulls water into the large intestine, stimulating a bowel movement. Prune juice also provides fiber, which adds bulk to stool.

Drink a glass of prune juice (about 8 ounces) once or twice a day on an empty stomach. You should have a bowel movement within a few hours. Prune juice works best when consumed regularly. Look for brands with no added sugar.

Warm Beverages

Warm and hot drinks can help get your bowels moving in the morning. Try drinking warm water with lemon first thing when you wake up. You can also sip on a warm cup of coffee or tea. The heat helps stimulate the intestines, while the hydration makes stool softer.

Some herbal teas are especially beneficial for relieving constipation. Look for teas containing:

  • Senna – Has natural laxative properties
  • Peppermint – Soothes intestinal muscles
  • Ginger – Reduces inflammation and stimulates contractions
  • Dandelion – Acts as a diuretic to relieve water retention
  • Chamomile – Reduces intestinal cramping

Aim for 1-2 cups of herbal tea per day. Most work best when consumed first thing in the morning.

Coffee

The caffeine in coffee helps get your digestive system moving. Caffeine stimulates the muscles in your intestine, encouraging contractions that move stool along. Coffee’s acidic nature also stimulates gastric juices that aid digestion.

Drink one to two cups of plain black coffee daily to prevent and relieve constipation. More than that may lead to dehydration, which could worsen the problem. Coffee works best when consumed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk beverage similar to drinkable yogurt. It contains probiotics, beneficial bacteria that promote gut health and regularity. Kefir adds good bacteria to the intestines that help break down waste and decrease intestinal transit time.

Consume a few ounces of kefir once or twice a day. Look for plain, unsweetened varieties to avoid added sugars. Other probiotic drinks like kombucha can also aid digestion.

Vegetable Juice

Fresh vegetable juices can provide a boost of nutrients, fiber and fluids to get you regular. Good options include juiced carrots, celery, fennel, spinach, kale, cabbage and beetroot. These vegetables increase fiber intake, which adds bulk to stool while stimulating bowel contractions.

Aim for 8-12 ounces of fresh vegetable juice daily. Consume the juice slowly first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for best results. Combining different vegetables can improve the taste.

Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe vera juice is an excellent drink choice for relieving constipation. Aloe vera contains anthraquinones, compounds with laxative effects that encourage intestinal contractions. Plus, its high water content keeps you hydrated.

Drink 2-4 ounces of aloe vera juice twice daily. Look for pure inner leaf aloe vera juice with minimal processing. You can also add aloe vera juice to smoothies. Limit intake to avoid diarrhea.

Smoothies

Fruit and vegetable smoothies are a more filling way to increase fluid and fiber intake compared to juice. Blend fruits like papaya, berries, kiwi and pineapple which contain digestive enzymes. Add insoluble fiber-rich greens like kale and spinach.

You can include flax or chia seeds for omega-3 fatty acids that lubricate the intestines. For probiotics, add kefir, yogurt or fermented foods like sauerkraut. Avoid adding ice and drink smoothies slowly. Consume 12-24 ounces daily.

Milk of Magnesia

Milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) is an over-the-counter laxative used to relieve occasional constipation. It works by drawing water into the intestines to soften and loosen stool, while also neutralizing stomach acid and promoting bowel movements.

Take 2-4 tablespoons of milk of magnesia before bed. Effects occur in 6-12 hours. Do not exceed the recommended dose. Chronic use can cause diarrhea and mineral imbalances. Consult a doctor before use if pregnant, breastfeeding or on medications.

Sports Drinks

Sports drinks like Gatorade contain electrolytes including sodium, potassium and chloride. Electrolytes help draw water into the colon to hydrate and soften stool for easier passing. The small amount of sugar also gives the intestines a light stimulant effect.

Drink 12-16 ounces of sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade when experiencing constipation. Limit intake to avoid excess sugar. Look for lower-sugar varieties. Sports drinks work best alongside increased water intake.

Osmotic Laxatives

Osmotic laxatives help relieve constipation by pulling water into the intestines to soften and loosen stool. They include magnesium citrate, polyethylene glycol (Miralax), lactulose and prescription lubiprostone (Amitiza). Most come in powder or liquid form.

Follow dosage instructions carefully when using osmotic laxatives for constipation relief. They typically produce a bowel movement within 3 days. These should only be used for short-term relief. Long-term use can disrupt fluid balance.

When to See a Doctor

While adjusting your fluid intake and diet can often get your bowels moving, see a doctor if you experience:

  • No bowel movement in 3+ days
  • Hard stool and straining without relief
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Blood in stool
  • Persistent abdominal pain

Your doctor can check for underlying conditions and provide stronger laxatives if needed. Seek immediate care for symptoms like vomiting, severe pain and rectal bleeding.

Tips for Preventing Constipation

Making certain lifestyle changes can help prevent constipation and keep your bowels regular:

  • Drink plenty of fluids – aim for 8-12 cups per day
  • Eat more high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds
  • Exercise regularly to stimulate the bowels
  • Establish a bathroom routine, like going after meals
  • Reduce stress through yoga, meditation or relaxation techniques
  • Avoid holding in bowel movements when you feel the urge

Foods and Drinks to Help Relieve Constipation

Here is a table summarizing some of the best foods and drinks for getting rid of constipation:

Type Foods and Drinks How They Help
Fruits Prunes, prunes juice, figs, kiwis, apples, pears, papaya Provide fiber, sorbitol, and enzymes
Vegetables Spinach, kale, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, artichokes High in fiber, magnesium, and potassium
Grains Whole grains like oats, bran, quinoa, brown rice Rich in fiber to add bulk to stool
Legumes Beans, peas, lentils Fiber fills intestines and stimulates contractions
Nuts & Seeds Almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds Omega-3s lubricate intestines, fiber adds bulk
Beverages Water, prune juice, teas, coffee, kefir, vegetable juices Hydration and compounds that stimulate bowels

Conclusion

Constipation can negatively affect quality of life and health. Staying hydrated and consuming foods and drinks that add fluid, stimulate bowel contractions and provide fiber and bulk can help get your bowels moving regularly.

Water, prune juice, coffee, aloe vera juice, smoothies with fruits/veggies and probiotics, and sports drinks are go-to beverages for constipation relief. Osmotic laxatives like milk of magnesia can provide short-term relief. See a doctor for persistent issues. Adjusting your diet, fluid intake and lifestyle can help prevent constipation.