Why do greens make you poop so much?

Greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are packed with fiber, which can make you poop more than usual. The high fiber content in greens passes through the digestive tract undigested, adding bulk to stool and stimulating bowel movements.

Fiber Content in Greens

Greens are loaded with two types of fiber:

  • Soluble fiber – dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. Found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
  • Insoluble fiber – does not dissolve in water. Found in veggies and whole grains. Mainly provides bulk for bowel movements.

Here’s the fiber content in 1 cup of some common greens:

Green Total Fiber (grams)
Spinach 4.3
Kale 5.2
Broccoli 5.1
Brussels sprouts 4.1
Green beans 3.4
Asparagus 2.8

As you can see, greens provide a significant amount of fiber per serving. The high insoluble fiber content explains why eating greens can make you poop.

How Fiber Affects Bowel Movements

When you eat high-fiber foods like greens, here’s what happens in your digestive system:

  • Fiber remains undigested as it passes through the small intestine.
  • It absorbs water in the colon, softening the stool.
  • It adds bulk and weight to stool.
  • It stimulates the intestinal wall to contract and move stool along.

So insoluble fiber from greens basically acts like a scrub brush for your colon. The extra bulk and water soften the stool while the fiber gently “scrapes” the intestinal walls, triggering contractions that push stool through the colon.

If you suddenly add a lot of greens to your diet, be prepared for more frequent bowel movements. However, this effect should taper off as your body adjusts to the extra fiber.

Other Factors That Make You Poop

While fiber is the main reason greens make you poop, other compounds in greens can also stimulate bowel movements:

  • Sugar alcohols: Found naturally in some veggies. Not fully absorbed and can draw water into the colon, stimulating poop.
  • Resistant starch: Starch that resists digestion, acts like soluble fiber. Found in cooked then cooled greens like potatoes, beans, lentils.
  • Magnesium: Mineral that relaxes intestinal muscles. Spinach and Swiss chard have high levels.
  • Bile acids: Released to help digest greens. Their buildup triggers contractions to move stool.

So while fiber has the biggest impact, other compounds in greens can also make you poop.

Tips for Increasing Fiber Intake

To take advantage of the poop-promoting effects of greens, try these tips:

  • Gradually increase high-fiber foods over several weeks to allow your body to adjust.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help fiber pass smoothly through the colon.
  • Choose a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans to get both soluble and insoluble fiber.
  • Eat the skins and peels of produce when you can for extra fiber.
  • Aim for at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day.

Possible Side Effects of Too Much Fiber

While fiber offers many benefits, too much too fast can cause unwanted side effects like:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced mineral absorption

That’s why it’s important to ramp up fiber intake slowly and drink plenty of fluids. This gives your body time to get used to the extra fiber.

Who May Need to Limit Fiber Intake

Some people may need to limit dietary fiber, including:

  • People with bowel obstruction or colon surgery
  • Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Diverticulitis patients during symptom flare-ups
  • Anyone who experiences negative side effects from high fiber intake

People with these conditions should talk to their doctor before increasing the amount of fiber-rich greens in their diet.

The Bottom Line

Greens can make you poop due to their high insoluble fiber content. Fiber stays undigested, adds bulk and weight to stool, and stimulates the colon to move things along.

Other compounds in greens may also contribute to their poop-promoting effects. However, be sure to increase high-fiber greens gradually and stay hydrated to avoid unwanted side effects.

Overall, the fiber and nutrients found in greens like spinach, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts provide important health benefits. Just be prepared for more frequent trips to the bathroom, especially when increasing your intake.

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