Constipation is a common problem that many people suffer from at some point in their lives. It can often be helped by making simple changes to diet and lifestyle.
There are certain foods which can help to relieve constipation whilst others can actually make it worse.
Common foods which can help to relieve constipation
- Fibre-rich foods – increasing soluble fibre in the diet can help to bulk up the stool, stimulate bowel movement and provide a gel-like lubrication to coat the stool making it easier to pass and relieve constipation. Foods which provide a good source of soluble fibre include beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato, pears, apples, nuts, seeds and oats.
- Flaxseed – as well as being a soluble fibre, flaxseed (linseed) is a type of functional food and is rich in essential fatty acids and lignans which are known to be beneficial in relieving constipation. Try including two tablespoons of flaxseed daily into oatmeal porridge, smoothies or sprinkled onto salads to relieve symptoms. Flaxseed absorbs a lot of fluid, so make sure that you drink a glass of water when having flaxseed, especially on their own.
- Psyllium husk – made from the husks of the Plantago ovata plant’s seeds, psyllium is a soluble fibre which acts as a natural laxative to relieve constipation. It helps to soften stools and makes them easier to pass by soaking up water in the gut and supporting regular bowel movements. It is also a prebiotic, meaning that it feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut which are essential for good gut health and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders which can be associated with constipation.
- Kiwi fruit – kiwi fruit are known to be effective in improving gut health. Kiwi fruit has natural laxative properties such as fibre and enzymes which increase the frequency of bowel movements, reduce straining and significantly reduce gastrointestinal symptoms when eaten with the skin still on. Eating two to three kiwi fruit daily with the skin on may help to alleviate constipation.
- Prunes and apricots – these stone fruits have been found to be beneficial in increasing bowel frequency due to their fibre and sorbitol content (a type of plant sugar). As well as influencing gut motility they can also be beneficial in increasing the amount of healthy bacteria in the gut. Eating prunes and apricots can support regular healthy bowel movements and help with constipation.
- Fluids - it is also very important to keep well hydrated to help soften stools, making them easier to pass and to keep the system moving. Aim for around two litres of water every day.
Aziz I, Whitehead WE, Palsson OS, Törnblom H, Simrén M. An approach to the diagnosis and management of Rome IV functional disorders of chronic constipation. Expert Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 Jan;14(1):39-46. doi: 10.1080/17474124.2020.1708718. Epub 2020 Jan 2. PMID: 31893959.
Eady, S. L., Wallace, A. J., Hedderley, D. I., Bentley-Hewitt, K. L., & Butts, C. A. (2020). The Effects on Immune Function and Digestive Health of Consuming the Skin and Flesh of Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit (Actinidia Chinensis var. Chinensis 'Zesy002') in Healthy and IBS-Constipated Individuals. Nutrients, 12(5), 1453. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051453.