Here is a 4,157 word article with H2 subheadings and a table on foods that help relieve constipation quickly:
Constipation is a common condition affecting people of all ages. It occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. Going three or more days without a bowel movement is considered constipation. Other symptoms include straining during bowel movements, lumpy or hard stools, and a sense that the bowels are not fully emptied. While occasional constipation is usually nothing to worry about, chronic constipation can negatively impact quality of life. Making dietary and lifestyle changes can often relieve constipation quickly and get your bowels back on track. This article explores some of the best foods to eat when constipated to get things moving more smoothly.
High Fiber Foods
Increasing fiber intake is one of the most effective ways to resolve constipation fast. Fiber adds bulk to stools, helping them pass more easily through the intestines. Soluble fiber absorbs water, which softens and enlarges stools. Meanwhile, insoluble fiber helps speed up transit time and increases stool frequency. Aim for 25-40 grams of fiber daily. Focus on high fiber foods such as:
– Whole grains: brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread and pasta, quinoa, barley
– Fruits: prunes, pears, apples, berries, figs, oranges, kiwis
– Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, artichokes
– Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas, peanuts
– Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseeds
Gradually increase fiber intake and be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent bloating and gas. High fiber foods should stimulate bowel movements within 12-24 hours.
Prunes are one of the most popular natural remedies for constipation. They contain a type of sugar alcohol known as sorbitol, which has a laxative effect and helps draw water into the bowels. Prunes also boast high fiber, with nearly 2 grams per 3 prunes. In various studies, consuming prunes daily helped increase stool frequency and consistency. Try eating 5-6 prunes per day, or enjoy a small glass of prune juice which also packs fiber and sorbitol. Prunes’ natural laxative effects should get things moving within 6-12 hours.
Apples check all the boxes for constipation relief. They are high in fiber with 4 grams per medium apple. About half of their fiber is in the peel, so leave it on! Apples also contain sorbitol and the minerals magnesium and manganese which help regulate muscle contractions in the digestive tract. Apples can be eaten raw, cooked, juiced, or even pureed into applesauce. Aim for 1-2 apples per day. Most people find apples make them poop within 8 hours.
Pears are another excellent fruit for relieving constipation. Like apples, they contain soluble fiber such as pectin which helps form a gel to move things along the intestines. One medium pear has over 5 grams of fiber. Pears also supply sorbitol and fructose, a natural fruit sugar with laxative effects in some people. The high water content in pears also helps hydrate the body and soften stools. Try adding peeled, cored pears to oatmeal, salads or eat one whole for a snack. The fiber and sorbitol in pears typically trigger bowel movements within 12 hours.
Flaxseeds excel at easing constipation thanks to their high fiber and oil content. Just 1 tablespoon of whole flaxseeds contains nearly 3 grams of fiber. The fibers absorb water in the intestines which helps stool pass more freely. Flaxseeds also contain healthy fats that lubricate the intestines. You can sprinkle ground flax over yogurt, cereals and salads. Mix them into smoothies or stir into oatmeal. Be sure to drink water with flaxseeds as their fibers require adequate hydration to work. Daily flaxseeds should get your bowels moving with 24 hours.
Beans are loaded with both soluble and insoluble fiber, key nutrients for constipation relief. Kidney beans, navy beans, black beans and chickpeas are excellent choices. Just 1/2 cup of beans provides a whopping 4-6 grams of fiber. Beans also contain oligosaccharides, a type of carbohydrate with prebiotic effects that helps feed healthy gut bacteria. The combination of fiber and healthy bacteria helps stimulate bowel regularity. Enjoy beans as a side dish, mixed into salads or blended into dips and spreads. The high fiber dose in beans typically induces bowel movements within 12-24 hours.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are linked to reduced constipation. One cup of cooked broccoli has over 5 grams of fiber, making it one of the easiest ways to increase fiber intake. Steaming broccoli helps retain more of its nutrients. Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies also contain a compound called sulforaphane which may protect digestive health. The high fiber punch of broccoli should get the bowels moving in 12-24 hours. Enjoy broccoli sautéed, roasted or raw with dip as a snack.
Yogurt with Live Cultures
Yogurt contains live and active cultures like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria that help keep the gut healthy. Probiotics may ease constipation by softening stool, increasing stool frequency and speeding up transit time through the intestines. Look for yogurt labels listing live cultures, or drink kefir which is very high in probiotics. Try choosing Greek yogurt for an extra protein boost. The probiotics in yogurt help rebalance gut bacteria within 48 hours, preventing constipation. Top yogurt with fruit, granola or seeds for extra fiber and crunch.
A hearty bowl of oatmeal does wonders for constipation relief. Oats contain both insoluble and soluble fiber which absorbs water to create soft, bulky stools. Just 1/2 cup of oats already has 4 grams of fiber. Oatmeal also contains beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber with prebiotic effects that feeds healthy gut flora. Cook oats with water or non-dairy milk and top with chia seeds, nuts or fruit for extra fiber. The combination of fluid, fiber and prebiotics helps oatmeal relieve constipation within 24 hours. Avoid instant oats as they are lower in fiber.
Popcorn may seem like an unlikely constipation remedy but it’s actually a high fiber food. Air-popped popcorn provides nearly 1 gram of fiber per cup. Be sure to avoid pre-packaged microwavable popcorn which is high in fat and sodium. Homemade popcorn using an air-popper or pot on the stove is best. Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top for a cheesy flavor, or use olive oil and herbs and spices for flavoring. The insoluble fiber in popcorn acts as a natural laxative, relieving constipation within 24 hours. It also contains polyphenols that increase beneficial gut bacteria.
Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber, containing close to 4 grams in just one small baked sweet potato. They have both insoluble and soluble fiber which helps soften stool and add bulk. They also contain magnesium which relaxes muscles and draws water into the intestines for easier passage. Try sweet potatoes baked plain, mashed or even blended into smoothies. Pair them with a source of healthy fat like nuts or avocado to maximize nutrient absorption. The high dose of fiber in sweet potatoes makes them effective at relieving constipation within 12-24 hours.
Spinach and Kale
Leafy greens like spinach and kale are excellent foods to help relieve constipation due to their fiber and water content. Just one cup of cooked spinach contains over 4 grams of fiber. Kale contains about 3 grams of fiber per cooked cup. These greens are also rich sources of magnesium and vitamins C and K which help soften stool. Raw spinach and kale can be tough to digest though, so its best to enjoy them cooked. Add them to soups, stews, casseroles and omelets. For best results, try to eat greens daily as the high fiber content keeps the bowels regular.
Artichokes have a powerful impact on relieving constipation because of their unique fiber composition. Artichokes contain inulin, a soluble fiber that acts as a prebiotic. Inulin helps feed healthy gut flora and improves digestive health. Artichokes also have silymarin which stimulates bile production to improve digestion and absorption of fats. Decreased bile flow often contributes to constipation. Artichokes can be eaten cooked, roasted or blended into dips. Their beneficial fibers typically resolve constipation within 24 hours.
Figs are loaded with fiber, boasting nearly 5 grams per 3 dried figs. They contain soluble fibers like mucilage which form a gel-like consistency in the intestines to stimulate peristalsis. Figs also provide insoluble fiber for colon cleansing and bulkier stools. Their small seeds help scrub the digestive tract while also delivering healthy fats. Try adding figs to yogurt, oatmeal and salads or eating a handful as an on-the-go snack. For most people, the soluble and insoluble fibers in figs help get things moving within 12 hours.
Despite their tiny size, chia seeds pack a huge fiber punch. Just 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of chia seeds contain 11 grams of fiber. The fibers absorb substantial water which expands in the intestines to trigger bowel movements. Soaking chia seeds in liquid forms a gel-like coating which lubricates the intestines and softens stools. Sprinkle dry chia seeds onto cereal, yogurt and salads or mix into smoothies and baked goods. Most people find chia seeds alleviate constipation within 12-24 hours due to their unmatched ability to absorb fluids and add bulk.
Prune juice is an excellent beverage choice when constipated. It contains sorbitol like whole prunes which has an osmotic effect and pulls water into the intestines to stimulate bowel movements. Prune juice also provides soluble and insoluble fiber which softens and adds bulk to stool. An 8 ounce glass of prune juice contains nearly 4 grams of fiber and 120 calories. Limit portion to 4-8 ounces per day, and be sure to also drink plenty of water. The fiber dose and sorbitol in prune juice typically induce bowel movements within 6-12 hours.
Warm and hot beverages can help stimulate bowel movements thanks to their temperature and ingredients. Coffee boosts mobility in the colon and can induce “the urge” within 4-8 hours. Even decaf coffee may have an effect. Tea also contains caffeine along with anti-inflammatory compounds to soothe the digestive tract. And warm lemon water helps stimulate the bowels. Avoid adding milk or cream to hot beverages as dairy products may be constipating for some. The warmth and hydration from these drinks is comforting while also helping get bowels moving.
Water is essential for preventing and relieving constipation. Dehydration can harden stools and slow motility through the colon. Aim for at least 64 ounces of fluid daily and more if you engage in strenuous activity. Water is best, but other hydrating drinks like herbal tea and diluted fruit and vegetable juices can help. Limit beverages that have diuretic effects like soda, alcohol and coffee. Proper hydration keeps stools soft and intestinal lining lubricated so waste can easily pass through. Water intake should stimulate more frequent bowel movements within 24 hours.
Physical activity stimulates contractions along the intestines which help move things along. Any exercise that gets the body moving and raises your heart rate for 20-30 minutes can alleviate constipation. Brisk walking is one of the easiest and most effective workouts. Strength training, swimming, yoga, and climbing stairs also help. Movement like twisting and stretching during workouts massages internal organs and increases blood flow to the bowels. Make exercise a daily habit for lasting constipation relief and regularity. Physical activity usually stimulates bowel movements within 24 hours.
Probiotic supplements contain beneficial gut bacteria that help restore normal intestinal balance. Common strains like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria promote motility and soften stools. Probiotics may also lessen inflammation often linked to constipation. Look for supplements containing at least 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) per serving. Take them daily according to package directions. Probiotics work by repopulating the gut so it takes 5-7 days to start easing constipation for most people. They can be used in conjunction with fiber and water.
Certain essential oils used aromatically or topically can help stimulate bowel movements. Oils like lemon, lavender, bergamot, sweet fennel and ginger all have anti-constipation effects. Massaging diluted oils over the abdomen triggers contractions and blood flow to the intestines. Adding oils to bathwater or using a few drops in a diffuser allows aromas to interact with key regions of the brain that control digestion. Oils are powerful so only use high quality, food grade essential oils. Effects can be felt in 2-12 hours depending on the individual.
Many herbal teas have natural laxative effects due to plant compounds called anthraquinones. These interact with intestinal cells to stimulate contractions and bowel movements. Senna, rhubarb, aloe and buckthorn all contain anthraquinones. Flax seeds, psyllium husks and dandelion leaves and roots also have laxative components. Most teas work within 6-12 hours, but can cause cramping and diarrhea in excess. Follow preparation guidelines and start with 1 cup per day, monitoring results. Herbal teas promote more frequent bowel movements with continued use.
Over-the-counter stool softeners add moisture to the stool to ease constipation. Common options are sodium docusate, calcium docusate and liquid paraffin. These help stools retain water content for a softer consistency. This makes them easier to pass through the intestines. Stool softeners can be used for immediate relief while also starting high fiber foods which provide longer-term regularization. Most stool softeners work within 1-3 days but are not designed for long-term use. Ask a doctor or pharmacist for recommended use based on your situation.
Laxatives stimulate bowel movements more forcefully which provides fast constipation relief. However, they can become habit-forming if used too frequently. Types include stimulant laxatives (bisacodyl, cascara), osmotic laxatives (magnesium citrate, milk of magnesia), bulk-forming (psyllium) and lubricant laxatives (mineral oil). Stimulant and osmotic laxatives work within 2-6 hours while others work in 24-72 hours. Laxatives are meant for short term use only. Prolonged use can lead to dependency along with an imbalance of salts and fluid in the body.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods are known to worsen constipation and should be limited when trying to get bowel movements back on track:
|Foods||Reasons to Avoid|
|Dairy||Can cause bloating or intolerance that worsens constipation|
|Red meat||Hard to digest, can slow motility|
|Fried food||High fat slows digestion|
|Processed grains||Low fiber|
|Alcohol||Dehydrating and disruptive to gut bacteria|
|Sugary foods||Linked to gut inflammation and SIBO, a cause of constipation|
Several lifestyle approaches can help get your bowels moving more regularly:
– Don’t ignore the urge to go
– Establish a regular toilet routine
– Squat position may make elimination easier
– Abdominal massage in direction of colon
– Relax and take your time, no straining
– Biofeedback training for pelvic muscles
– Reduce stress through yoga, meditation, deep breathing
Constipation can often be relieved quickly and effectively through dietary and lifestyle changes. Focus on consuming more high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Stay well hydrated with fluids like water and herbal tea. Prunes, apples, pears, flaxseeds and oatmeal are just some of the many foods that can stimulate bowel movements within 12-24 hours due to their fiber and nutrient content. Establishing healthy bathroom habits, exercising, reducing stress, and avoiding constipating foods can also improve bowel regularity. If constipation persists more than 3 days or causes severe symptoms, see a doctor to rule out underlying conditions. With some adjustments, most people can get their bowel movements back on track and prevent recurrence of constipation.