Feeling a little backed up? With gut health at the forefront of many of our minds, it’s natural to wonder why constipation happens. There are several reasons for it, but eating the right foods for constipation can not only help get things moving, but also boost your overall health.
Dealing with constipation can be quite uncomfortable. If you’re going three times a week or less, have lumpy or hard stools that are difficult to pass, feel like your bowel movements are incomplete, or are generally feeling bloated and blocked up, it’s probably time to take some additional measures to take care of your digestive system.
Constipation can happen as a result of a poor diet, certain medications, health conditions that affect the nervous system, illness, imbalanced gut bacteria, and dehydration. Regardless of the reason, adding a few key nutrients to your diet can help bring you back into balance.
Two of the most important nutrients to get in your diet when you’re feeling constipated are fiber and probiotics. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is the kind which absorbs water to soften your stools in the digestive tract, making them easier to pass. Insoluble fiber does not absorb water, so it forms bulk to help move food through your system. Both are essential for healthy bowel movements. Ideally, you should aim to get somewhere between 25 and 35 grams of fiber per day. If you’re not used to having so much in your diet, start slowly and gradually increase your intake, being sure to consume lots of fluids as well!
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria in your gut that help with the breakdown and digestion of the food you eat. When gut bacteria becomes unbalanced, your food is not broken down as well, so nutrients are poorly absorbed into the blood stream. When bad bacteria outnumbers good bacteria in the gut, your intestinal lining can also become damaged, leading to a condition called “leaky gut” where toxic substances can enter your blood stream and cause a wide range of illnesses, from thyroid disorders to skin conditions like eczema.
The Best Foods for Constipation
As you can see, taking care of the digestive tract is extremely important not only for a happy belly, but also for a healthy body. Check out the list below of foods you can start incorporating into your diet that will fight constipation and nourish you from the inside out.
Chia seeds are one of natures most powerful superfoods. They’re loaded with fiber, containing 10 grams in just three tablespoons! Even further, chia seeds contain other important nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron. The best part? They’re super easy to add to your diet in the form of a delicious snack, or thrown into smoothies and on top of salads or oatmeal! Check out these chia pudding recipes that are absolutely to die for.
You’ve probably heard some old wives tales about prunes and constipation, and they’re not just myths. Prunes are actually just dried plums, but they contain hefty amounts of fiber with eight grams per 4 ounce serving. They also contain a sugar alcohol called sorbitol as well as phenolic compounds which stimulate good gut bacteria and creates a laxative effect when eaten.
Dates are another fiber-rich food, with about seven grams per 3.5 ounce serving. Not only do dates contain fiber, but they have also shown in studies to help reduce blood sugar levels! So if you’ve got a sweet craving, reach for a few of these delicious treats.
An apple a day keeps constipation away! Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, and a medium sized fruit with the skin on boasts about 4.5 grams. The type of fiber in apples is called pectin which gets fermented rapidly in the gut and forms short-chain fatty acids that boost production of good gut bacteria and help pull water into the stool. Studies have shown that pectin fiber actually accelerates the rate at which stool moves through the intestines.
There are a number of reasons to add more leafies to your diet, and one of them is warding off constipation. Leafy greens like spinach and kale contain high amounts of fiber. For example, a cup of cooked spinach has about five grams of fiber packed into it. On top of that, leafy greens boast high amounts of other nutrients like vitamin A and C, so they’re always a great addition to a health diet. Add cooked greens into recipes like omelettes, frittatas, soups, and stews.
Tiny green kiwi fruits may not be on your typical grocery list, but you may want to start adding them on. One kiwi has about 2.5 grams of fiber, as well as an enzyme called actinidain which is thought to have positive effects on gut motility, increasing the frequency of bowel movements and speeding up colonic transit times. You can eat kiwis on their own, or cut them up and throw them into fruit salads!
In addition to about five grams of fiber per fruit, mangoes contain powerful digestive enzymes called amylases that have shown to improve digestive conditions like constipation and diarrhea.
Pulses like beans, lentils, and peas are all packed with gut-boosting fiber. For instance, just a half cup of cooked lentils contains nine grams of fiber, while a cup of cooked black beans contains a whopping 15 grams! Beans, lentils, and peas also contain high amounts of other important nutrients like folate, iron, and B vitamins. You won’t regret adding them to your diet!
Oats and Oat Bran
Whole grain foods like oats and oat bran also tend to have high amounts of fiber. For example, 1/3 cup of oat bran contains about five grams of fiber while a half cup of cooked rolled oats contains about 10 grams. Oats also contain antioxidants which fight oxidative damage in the body, helping to reduce your risk of sickness and disease. A bowl of oatmeal can be added to your diet as a delicious breakfast option, while oat bran can be added to bread or muffin recipes, or eaten atop granola.
Yogurt and Kefir
Yogurt and kefir are two foods that contain probiotic bacteria and are said to improve digestive health. Specifically, probiotic strains like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus in yogurt have shown to improve stool quality and transit time. Other research has also demonstrated that drinking kefir, a fermented milk drink, also improved stool quality and frequency, resulting in less use of stimulant laxatives in adults with constipation.
When it comes to yogurt, look for varieties that have “live active cultures” on the label, and aim for a serving a day. Greek yogurt tends to fall into this category. In the study mentioned, a glass of kefir was consumed after morning and evening meals. You can also try adding it to smoothies!
There you have it. These foods for constipation will not only help your tummy feel better, but they’re likely to gift you with better overall health. Here’s to a happy belly — and body!