It might not be something you’re comfortable bringing up at happy hour, but I’m sure you agree: Being constipated is pretty sh*tty.
Constipation is defined as pooping fewer than three times a week. And, unfair as it is, constipation is more common in men than women, especially during pregnancy or postpartum.
Thankfully, if you’re feeling backed up, eating the right foods can really help. “One of the best things you can do to get your bowels moving is to eat plenty of fibre,” says Amy Gorin, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area, specifically from food sources (and not, like, a powder or supplement).
The USDA recommends 25g of fibre per day for women.
The next time you’re having trouble squeezing one out, here are 12 of the best foods for constipation to add to your diet:
You know what they say: Beans, beans the magical fruit… So it makes sense that they can also help with bowel movements. “Beans provide a winning combination of soluble and insoluble fibre,” says Gorin – the former softens your poo, and the latter bulks it up, making it easier to pass through your digestive tract. “This fibre is very helpful for stimulating digestion, as well as for feeding gut bacteria. Additionally, eating a diet high in fibre will help bulk up the weight and size of your stool – and this makes it easier to pass!”
Per ½-cup (canned, drained) serving black beans: 456 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 20g carbs, 0g sugar, 166mg sodium, 8g fibre, 7g protein
Broccoli comes up in just about every discussion of good-for-you foods. That’s because the green stuff is an amazing source of essential vitamins, protein, and yup, fibre. Eating plenty of vegetables is essential to good digestive health, says Dr Gina Sam, director of the Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center. Add a cup of cooked broccoli to any lunch or dinner for an additional 5.5g of fibre.
Per 1-cup (raw) serving: 129 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 6g carbs, 2g sugar, 30mg sodium, 2g fibre, 3g protein
3. Oatmeal (and other whole grains)
Yet another reason to sneak in those whole grains. Oats are full of both soluble and insoluble fibre – a dream combo when you’re plugged up. Palmer recommends including three servings of whole grains in your diet every day, especially “intact grains” like oats and brown rice.
Per ½-cup (dry) serving: 627 kilojoules, 3g fat (0g saturated), 27g carbs, 1g sugar, 0mg sodium, 4g fibre, 5g protein
Want to add some green to your pasta? Throw in a cup of spinach. It’s full of fibre (one cup of cooked spinach has 4g) and contains magnesium, a mineral that can aid in moving stool, says Dr Sam. Magnesium is often found in laxatives, but incorporating it into your diet is a less extreme option for most people.
Per 1-cup (raw) serving: 29 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 1g carbs, 0g sugar, 24mg sodium, 1g fibre, 1g protein
Palmer recommends including a handful of nuts like pistachios, peanuts, almonds or walnuts in your diet every day. Toss them into your yoghurt, salad or just munch on them as a midday snack for a fibre boost. While they’re a great source of protein and healthy fats, just a quarter cup of whole almonds also serves up 5g of fibre.
Per ¼-cup serving almonds: 866 kilojoules, 18g fat (1g saturated), 8g carbs, 2g sugar, 0mg sodium, 5g fibre, 8g protein
6. Chia seeds or flaxseeds
Chia seeds and flaxseeds are an easy way to add more fibre into your diet, says Dr Sam. Sprinkling a spoonful of each into your smoothie, oatmeal or yoghurt, or using it as a salad topping, can give a low-fibre meal the extra poop-producing power it needs.
Per 28g serving chia seeds: 577 kilojoules, 9g fat (1g saturated), 12g carbs, 0g sugar, 5mg sodium, 10g fibre, 5g protein
Per 28g serving flaxseeds: 635 kilojoules, 12g fat (1 g saturated), 8g carbs, 0g sugar, 9mg sodium, 8g fibre, 5g protein
Berries are always in the superfood spotlight due to their abundance of antioxidants, but they’re also rich in other essential nutrients. “You are eating tiny seeds in each bite, so it increases your fibre,” says Palmer. Half a cup of both blackberries and raspberries pack in about 4g of fibre each. Half a cup of sliced strawberries offers about half the amount.
Per ½ cup serving raspberries: 221 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 7g carbs, 3g sugar, 1mg sodium, 4g fibre, 1g protein
Pears don’t get enough credit, especially because they’re bursting with antioxidants and vitamins. They’re also one of the most fibrous fruits, so adding them into your diet is another way to ease any discomfort you may be experiencing in the bathroom.
Per 1 medium pear: 623 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 27g carbs, 17g sugar, 2mg sodium, 6g fibre, 1g protein
In this case, “an apple a day” is still golden advice, especially when it comes to avoiding constipation. The peels of many fruits (including apples) contain insoluble fibre, which acts as a natural laxative.
Per 1 medium apple: 397 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 25g carbs, 19g sugar, 2mg sodium, 4g fibre, 0g protein
Love it or hate it, that slimy center inside okra is actually mucilaginous fibre – soluble fibre that’s been mixed with water and thus turns all gooey, which is what happens to all soluble fibre in your digestive tract. “Okra is my go-to to relieve constipation,” says Kendra Tolbert, registered dietician. “All that mucilaginous fibre softens stool, which can relieve constipation.”
Per 1-cup (raw) serving: 138 kilojoules, 2g fat (0g saturated), 7g carbs, 1g sugar, 7mg sodium, 3g fibre, 2g protein
11. Prunes (or other dried fruit)
Okay, your grandma totally swears by this – for good reason. “Prunes are a natural source of sorbitol, which helps stimulate digestion by helping to move water into your large intestine,” says Gorin. They’re also high in fibre, with about 6g per half-cup. Not into prunes? Try figs or apricots instead.
Per ½-cup serving prunes: 874 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 55g carbs, 33g sugar, 2mg sodium, 6g fibre, 2g protein
While there’s no fibre in coffee, some research shows that it can stimulate bowel movement. “You may not think of coffee as something that helps get things moving,” says Gorin, “but it does for about 30% of people. Some people even notice the effect from decaf coffee.”
Per 1-cup serving: 20 kilojoules, 0g fat (0g saturated), 0g carbs, 0g sugar, 2mg sodium, 0g fibre, 1g protein
If you change your diet and you’re still, ahem, stuck…
It’s time to see a doctor, says Dr Sam – especially if you’re also having bleeding and abdominal pain. “These are things that should be evaluated by a doctor or a gastroenterologist,” says Dr Sam.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com
Image credit: iStock