The #1 Food to Help You Poop, According to a Dietitian
As a dietitian, I often find myself talking about poop or more specifically, someone not being able to poop, be it with my overly-comfortable Uber driver or a close family member. Everyone knows the uncomfortable, painful feeling of being constipated—it's not fun. Honestly, I don't mind talking about poop and actually think it's something we should be talking about more to get to the bottom of our bathroom problems (pun intended) but also because I have a pretty fool-proof strategy to help people relieve their constipation and feel better within a day. The secret? Chia seeds (learn more about why chia seeds are so good for you).
Why are chia seeds the best food to help you poop?
The number 1 food to help you go number 2, I swear by chia seeds when I or someone I know is constipated. They contain the kind of fiber that's especially helpful when you can't go: soluble fiber. Soluble fiber is the kind that absorbs water, hence why chia seeds swell up and turn into a gel-like consistency when soaked in water. While constipation can happen for a number of reason, dehydration is often at the center, either on its own or in addition to a diet too low in fiber and/or fat. When you're dehydrated, that means there isn't enough water in your GI system, causing your stool to harden and seriously slow down movement in your gut. The water-filled soluble fiber helps loosen things up to get it moving again.
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While there are other healthy sources of soluble fiber, like oatmeal and whole-wheat breads and pastas, they're typically not the kinds of foods you feel like eating when really backed up (or is any food for that matter). Chia seeds, on the other hand, pack a ton of fiber into a small serving that you can quickly and easily eat. For example, two tablespoons of chia seeds deliver 7 grams of fiber, most of which is soluble. You'd need to eat 2 cups cooked oatmeal, 4 slices of whole-wheat bread or 2 cups cooked whole-wheat penne pasta to get up to that same 7 grams.
So, what's the best way to eat chia seeds when you're constipated?
My go-to (especially when I'm desperate) is to toss them back straight out of the mason jar I keep them in and wash them down with a big glass of water (at least 16 ounces right away and then more after that). If I'm being honest, swallowing chia seeds dry doesn't result in the most pleasant mouth feel and you can't exactly control how many you're eating this way—but it's quick.
Another option is to add chia seeds to water (1 tablespoon chia seeds for every 8-ounce cup) and stir for about 30 seconds until they turn into that gel-like consistency. To give it a little more flavor, you can make our Healthy Gut Tonic with Chia (pictured above), which adds in lemon juice and a kick of cayenne pepper, which is also known to stimulate the gut. The best time to chug down chia seeds is at night, so they can do their magic while you sleep and you can do your business in the morning before leaving the house.
The right amount of chia seeds totally depends on your level of constipation and the rate at which your GI system moves. I'd suggest starting with 1 to 2 tablespoons and then adding an extra 1 to 2 tablespoons later in the day if there's still not much movement happening. Anytime you're adding more fiber to your diet, you also want to drink more water.
Preventing future ? problems
While chia seeds are a great quick-fix when you're really constipated, a better strategy is to make sure your overall diet includes a healthy combination of the foods that help keep you regular and free from chronic constipation. This means getting in plenty of water, healthy fats and fiber—both soluble and insoluble fiber (the other kind of fiber). Where soluble fiber mixes with water, insoluble fiber, does not and instead acts like the bristles of a broom, sweeping things through your gut smoothly. Getting a mix of both kinds of fibers, which is easy if you're eating a balanced diet, is the best combination to keep your bathroom routine normal. Try this 3-Day Meal Plan to Help You Poop or our 7-Day High-Fiber Meal Plan for our detailed meal and snack ideas to keep you regular.