Constipation is a common gastrointestinal condition affecting about 25 million people in the US per year and cutting across all ages. This article provides everything you need to know about constipation and the best fiber foods for constipation to consume to resolve constipation and improve digestive health.

It’s associated with reduced frequencies in bowel movements and hardening of stools often difficult to pass.

While conventional management of constipation involves fiber supplements, stool softeners, and laxatives, certain fiber foods have been shown to improve bowel frequency and regularity, helping alleviate constipation.

Common causes of constipation

  • Lack of adequate fiber in the diet
  • Inadequate water intake
  • Sudden changes in regular routine like travel or changes in sleeping or eating pattern etc.
  • Ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Lack of exercise
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Consuming large amounts of cheese and milk
  • Certain medications such as antacids containing calcium or aluminum, such as Tums, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, and strong painkillers like hydromorphone

Medical causes include:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Neurological disorders
  • Overuse or misuse of laxatives
  • Intestinal obstruction
  • Mental disorders

Characteristics of constipation

  • Dry, hard, and/or lumpy stools
  • The feeling of incomplete bowel emptying
  • Less than three bowel movements a week
  • Pain or difficulty when passing stool
  • Abdominal cramps
fiber foods chart

What are the best fiber foods for constipation?

Diet plays a significant role in managing the common causes of constipation.

Here are the foods you should incorporate into your diet to resolve constipation

1. Figs

Figs, especially dried ones, are loaded with fiber which can help soften stools, add bulk, and aid bowel movements.

A cup (149 g) of dry figs can offer up to 14.6 grams of fiber, equivalent to 58 percent of your daily requirement.

Similarly, consuming fresh figs can still offer fiber benefits, with 100 grams of fresh figs providing 2.9 grams of fiber, equivalent to 12 percent of your daily requirement.

A 2016 study compared the effect of fig paste on the management of constipation against a placebo for eight weeks. It found that fig paste improved stool consistency, increased colonic transit time, and improved abdominal discomfort compared to the placebo group.

Figs are not only delicious but easy to incorporate into your diet. They taste fantastic when eaten straight off the tree, but they can also be boiled into tasty jams or dried for different recipes. Dried figs can be soaked overnight and be added to salads or oatmeal. Read More.

Additional benefits of eating figs
  • Fig trees are a good source of potassium. Potassium is important for maintaining blood pressure levels and preventing heart disease.
  • They are a rich source of vitamin C that can help boost your immune system and protect your skin from damage caused by the sun.
  • A good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E can help prevent cell damage and support cognitive function.
  • They are rich in magnesium. Magnesium is important for maintaining healthy bones and muscles, as well as nerve function. Magnesium also helps improve your energy levels and maintain your weight. 
  • They are rich in folate. Folate is important for pregnant women and women trying to conceive, as it can help prevent congenital disabilities.
  • Figs are high in antioxidants, which can help to protect your body from damage caused by harmful free radicles.
  • Figs contain tryptophan, which is an essential amino acid that can promote relaxation and sleepiness.

2. Prunes

Prunes are simply dried plums. They are highly concentrated with fiber.

They are popularly known to aid bowel movements due to their high levels of sorbitol, a natural laxative known to draw water from the surrounding into the colon. This helps soften stools and improve bowel movements.

A cup of prunes contains 12.4 grams of fiber or 49 percent of your daily fiber requirement.

While prunes can be enjoyed alone as a snack, you can also add them to salads, breakfast cereals, oatmeal, baked goods, or blended in smoothies or make prune juice.

Additional benefits of eating prunes
  • Like figs, prunes are a good source of antioxidants, which can protect your body from damage caused by free radicals.
  • They are a good source of potassium, which can help to maintain your blood pressure levels and prevent stroke.
  • Prunes are high in vitamin C, which can help improve your immune system function and fight off infections.
  • Prunes are a good source of magnesium, which can help to reduce the risk of migraines and other headaches.
  • Prunes contain anthocyanins, which have been shown to fight diseases and improve the overall health of your skin and hair.
  • Prunes are a good source of calcium, which can help maintain your bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • High dietary fiber in prunes can help regulate blood sugar levels and promote digestive health.
  • Prune juice is an excellent natural remedy for relieving respiratory problems, such as congestion and coughs.
  • Prunes are a healthy snack option that can provide you with essential nutrients and antioxidants.

3. Apples

Apples are rich in fiber, with a medium-sized raw apple with the skin providing 4.4 grams or 17 percent of daily requirements.

They contain insoluble fiber, which increases stool bulk and promotes bowel frequency.

It also contains soluble fiber pectin, known to have laxative properties. In the gut, the pectin gets fermented by gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids that pull water into the colon, thus softening stools and boosting bowel transit.

Daily consumption of apples can increase your fiber intake, improve constipation symptoms, and promote gut health.

You can eat them on their own or slice them up and use them as a healthy topping on salads, oatmeal, yogurt, or baked goods. Read More.

Additional benefits of eating apples
  • Apples are low in calories and cholesterol-free.
  • Apples have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and arthritis.
  • Apples contain flavonoids, antioxidants that can help protect against cancer.
  • Apples can help improve your cholesterol levels
  • Apples may help lower blood pressure levels in those with hypertension.
  • Apples also contain vitamin C, which is important for maintaining healthy skin and bones. Vitamin C is also important for fighting against infections and preventing sickness.
  • Apples are a good source of potassium, which can help reduce the risk of hypertension and other heart problems.
  • The nutrients in apples can help to improve your mood and mental health.

4. Lentils

With both soluble and insoluble fiber, lentils can make a great addition to your diet to help fight constipation.

A cup of boiled lentils provides 8 grams of fiber or 20 percent of your daily requirement.

Soluble fiber absorbs water to form a gel-like substance that improves stool form and consistency. On the other hand, insoluble fiber bulks up the stool and speeds colon transit, which helps prevent constipation. It also increases butyric acid production, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces bowel difficulties by stimulating intestinal mucus production, which aids bowel movements.

Additional benefits of lentils
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Boosts energy
  • Stabilizes blood sugar levels
  • Promotes healthy teeth and bones
  • Lentils are a good source of protein. They contain all nine essential amino acids, which are important for muscle growth and repair.
  • Lentils are a good source of vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc. These nutrients help to support overall health and well-being.
  • They are rich in antioxidants which help protect your body from damage by the harmful effects of free radicals.
  • Lentils are a good source of vitamins A and C. These vitamins can help to support skin health and immune function.
  • Lentils are low in calories and fat. This makes them a healthy choice for those seeking to maintain or lose weight.

Lentils make a great addition to soups, salads, and stew.

5. Pears

Pear is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, water, and fiber, which can help with constipation.

They are a good source of sorbitol, a laxative that pulls water into the intestines, helping soften the stool and improve bowel movement.

A medium-sized pear contains about 6 grams of fiber, or 17 percent daily requirement.

Additional benefits of pears
  • Prevents cancer
  • Fights osteoporosis
  • Controls blood sugar levels
  • Protects against free radicles
  • Boosts the immune system
  • Increases energy levels
  • Speeds up healing
  • Fights inflammation

Pears can be eaten alone as a snack or be added to smoothies, salads, and oatmeal, or take them a step further by poaching or roasting.

6. Artichokes

Artichokes are high in prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds the good gut bacteria, thus promoting a healthy microbiome and digestive system.

A 2010 study to establish the effect of a fiber supplement extracted from globe artichokes found that daily supplementation of the extract for three weeks increased the good gut bacteria while decreasing the harmful ones.

This fiber has also been shown to improve stool frequency, consistency, and other constipation-related symptoms.

Additional benefits of artichokes
  • Reduces bad cholesterol
  • Balances glucose levels
  • Prevents and treats cancer
  • Prevents oxidative stress
  • Promotes a healthy heart
  • Promotes liver health
  • It’s a natural diuretic
  • Prevents anemia and fatigue

Artichokes can be boiled, grilled, braised, or stuffed and enjoyed cold or hot, depending on your preference.

7. Chia seeds

Almost all carbohydrates in chia seeds are fiber, with 100 grams providing 34.4 grams of fiber or 135 percent of your daily requirements.

Though they contain insoluble fiber that helps add bulk to stools and improve bowel movement. Chia seeds are loaded with soluble fiber that forms a gel-like substance in the gut, which helps soften stools and improve the passage.

Additional Chia seed benefits

  • Rich in nutrients
  • Fights premature aging
  • Good for the heart
  • Promotes weight loss and muscle mass
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Promotes digestive health

Chia seeds can be sprinkled on oatmeal, salad, yogurt, or added to smoothies or baked goods.

8. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are a great source of fiber, omega 3, and antioxidants. They have traditionally been used as a stool softener and a natural laxative to prevent constipation.

One tablespoon of flax (10g) contains 2.8 grams of fiber or 11 percent of your daily requirement.

One study showed that flaxseed could help relieve both constipation and diarrhea.

Additional benefits of flaxseeds

  • Flaxseeds are a good source of antioxidants. They can help to protect your body from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Flaxseeds can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. They contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for your heart health.
  • Flaxseeds can help reduce the risk of cancer. They contain lignans, which have anti-cancer properties.
  • They can regulate blood sugar levels. They contain complex carbohydrates and fiber, which help keep your blood sugar levels in check throughout the day.
  • Flaxseeds can improve your mood and energy levels. They are a good source of magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost your mood and energy levels throughout the day.

You can add flaxseeds to bread, muffins, cereals, yogurt, or smoothies.

9. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes contain significantly high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which have improved constipation in both children and adults.

In a study conducted on leukemia patients undergoing chemotherapy, consuming sweet potatoes helped relieve constipation, a common side effect of chemotherapy, by the fourth day.

Additional benefits of sweet potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, which is essential for growth and development, vision health, and fighting against infections.
  • Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
  • They are a healthy alternative to other carb sources like bread and pasta.
  • They contain antioxidants that can protect your body from cell damage and diseases.
  • Sweet potatoes are low in calories and can help you lose weight if you consume them in moderation.
  • They have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
  • Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium which is essential for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and muscle function.
  • Sweet potatoes are a good source of beta carotene. Beta carotene is a powerful antioxidant that promotes eye health and lowers the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Sweet potatoes can be roasted, mashed, boiled, steamed, whatever method works for you. They can also replace regular white potatoes in various potato recipes.

In conclusion

Constipation is a common digestive problem across the globe, but especially in the US, due to a poor diet low in dietary fiber and a lack of adequate hydration.

Incorporating these high fiber foods into your daily diet along with other healthy habits like regular exercise and drinking adequate amounts of water can help manage and prevent constipation and improve your overall digestive health.

If your constipation lasts longer than three weeks, you may want to see a doctor. Still, proper hydration with the right kind of food should be enough to solve constipation unless you have underlying medical conditions.

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