If it'll help you go to the bathroom, toss it on your plate!

Isadora Baum
January 15, 2020

Let's be real, constipation is basically the WORST. When you feel backed up, it can lead to bloating and lethargy, and you just don't feel like yourself. And there are so many things that can cause constipation, which can leave you feeling confused about what to do next.

Related: Sneaky Causes of Belly Bloat

"Constipation can be caused by a number of issues, but the most common causes are a low-fiber diet, dehydration and lack of exercise," says NYC-based dietitian Natalie Rizzo, M.S., RD. "Fiber, water intake and exercise all help move stool along, so that you're able to go to the bathroom," she says. Fiber, specifically, adds bulk to the stool, and water is necessary to soften the stool, both of which make it easier to pass. And exercise helps move the stool move through the intestines.

"By increasing your fiber intake through fruit, veggies, nuts, beans, seeds and whole grains, things should 'get moving' much better," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

"The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommends about 25 grams per day of fiber for women and 38 grams for men, and 9 out of 10 Americans fall way short of that goal," she says. So, being more vigilant is key!

As for specific foods though, there are definitely some foods that are better or worse for easing digestion discomfort and constipation to get things moving down there once again. Here are the top foods that dietitians eat when they're in need of a little help with their bowel movements. (There's no shame—it happens to everyone from time to time!)

See More: 3-Day Meal Plan to Help You Poop

Avocado

Recipe pictured above: Ceviche-Stuffed Avocados

That favorite green fruit of ours is great for easing constipation, since it's rich in fiber! "One cup of sliced avocado contains 10 grams of fiber, so I go for classic avocado toast or add it to salads or grain bowls, sandwiches and guacamole," says Maggie Michalczyk, M.S., RD. You can turn it into dips or use it in dressings for easy meals all week long, or you can simply chop or scoop when needed for a variety of healthy meals. Plus, avocados also have good fats to boost satiety and lower inflammation.

Raspberries

Recipe pictured above: Muesli with Raspberries

These red berries are great for any meal or snack, and they do your bowel movements some good too! "Raspberries are very high in fiber with 8 grams per cup. Eat a handful, or blend them into a smoothie to reap the benefits," says Michalczyk. You can also go with other berries, like blackberries, strawberries and blueberries, all of which have solid fiber content to help ease constipation trouble. Plus they are low in calories and high in antioxidants to improve heart health, she adds.

Chia Seeds

Recipe pictured above: Blueberry Almond Chia Pudding

Small but powerful, these handy seeds are great for getting rid of constipation, and Michalczyk loves using them in her meals when she's in need of some assistance. "One ounce of chia seeds [or about 3 tablespoons] has 10 grams of fiber! Add them to your oatmeal, smoothie or salad," she says. You can make an overnight oats recipe or chia pudding in advance to have on hand for breakfast and snacks during the week. They also give some nice texture for dressings, chicken and more.

Prunes

These dried plums are well-known for their constipation-fighting abilities. "They have fiber and a natural sugar called sorbitol, which helps the body hold water and increase the moisture content in the stool, making it easier to pass," says Rizzo. A serving of about five prunes has 3 grams of fiber or 12% of the amount women need in a day. You can add pitted prunes to a salad or smoothie, just as you would add dates or raisins. Or if you're feeling bloated or constipated, a cup (or more) of prune juice can help move things along.

Whole-Grain Oats

Recipe pictured above: Apple-Cinnamon Overnight Oats

There are two types of fiber in whole-grain oats—soluble and insoluble. "A half-cup serving has about 2 grams of insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to the stool, and 2 grams of soluble fiber which dissolves and creates a gel-like substance," says Rizzo. "These two things work together to soften the stool and make it easier to go to the bathroom," she says. You can use oats in so many ways, including the obvious oatmeal and granola, but also energy bites or smoothies.

Walnuts

You may not think of nuts when you're constipated, but walnuts have more fiber than you think. A 1-ounce serving of walnuts has 2 grams of fiber (or a little less than 10% of the Daily Value). "Plus, research has found that eating walnuts over an 8-week period can affect the gut microbiome and enhance probiotic species. And good gut health is related to healthy digestion, so reach for a handful of nuts at snack time or add them to cereal, oatmeal or salads," says Rizzo.

High-Fiber Cereal and Bran

Recipe pictured above: Good Morning Cereal Blend

"High-fiber cereal such as Fiber One or All-Bran can speed up the transit of food in the digestive tract and help prevent constipation, thanks to the insoluble fiber—just make sure to drink enough water to help push things through," says Harris-Pincus. And if you're not used to eating much fiber, increase the amount you eat slowly to prevent gas or bloating. Start with 1/4 cup (7 grams of fiber) and move up to 1/2 cup as tolerated, she advises.

Coffee

In addition to eating that bran, Harris-Pincus grabs herself a cup of java! "Coffee acts as a laxative for many people, though it's unclear if it's the coffee itself or the caffeine that contributes to keeping bowels moving," she says. Just make sure to keep the added sugars down to a minimum for the best health benefit, so ditch the sugar, whipped cream, syrups and sugary toppings!

Advertisement