Eating foods that are high in fiber, like certain fruits and vegetables, may help relieve constipation. These foods may soften, accelerate, and increase your stool frequency.

Constipation can be painful and uncomfortable and may happen to anyone.

Nearly 16 in 100 adults in the United States experience constipation, which may have symptoms like:

  • passing stools less than three times per week
  • straining, lumpy, or hard stools
  • feeling blocked
  • being unable to pass a stool

Increasing your dietary fiber intake may be a natural and effective remedy to help relieve your symptoms of constipation.

How fiber helps relieve constipation

Fiber may help soften, accelerate, and increase your stool frequency because it passes through your intestines undigested.

That said, nearly 90% of females and 97% of males don’t get enough fiber in their diets.

There are two types of fiber:

  • Insoluble fiber passes through your digestive tract intact. This may help increase the bulk and frequency of your stool.
  • Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel-like consistency. This may help soften your stool and reduce your blood cholesterol and sugar levels.

Having a healthy mix of both types may help reduce symptoms of bloating, gas, and constipation.

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Here are 17 foods that could help relieve constipation.

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Dried plums, known as prunes, are widely used as a natural remedy for constipation.

One 1/4-cup (40-gram) serving contains nearly 3 grams of fiber.

The insoluble fiber in prunes, known as cellulose, may increase the amount of water in the stool, which can add bulk.

Meanwhile, the soluble fiber in prunes is fermented in the colon to produce short-chain fatty acids, which might also increase stool weight.

Prunes contain sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol that’s not well absorbed by the body. It may help pull water into the colon and cause a laxative effect in a small number of people.

A 2011 study in 40 people with chronic constipation found that eating 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of prunes per day significantly improved stool frequency and consistency compared with psyllium treatment, a type of dietary fiber.

Prunes can be enjoyed on their own or added to foods like salads, smoothies, and baked goods.

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Apples are rich in fiber. One medium apple with the skin on (about 200 grams) contains 4.8 grams of fiber.

Apples contain pectin, which may have many benefits, such as:

  • increasing stool frequency
  • decreasing stool hardness and duration
  • decreasing the need for laxatives

Apples are an easy way to boost the fiber content of your diet and alleviate constipation. You can eat them whole on their own or slice them up to add to salads or baked goods.

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One medium-sized pear (178 grams) contains 5.5 grams of fiber.

Pears are high in sorbitol and fructose, which may have laxative properties. Fructose is a type of sugar that slowly gets absorbed because your liver metabolizes the bulk of it.

This means that unabsorbed fructose may bring water into your intestines and loosen up your stools.

That said, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.

You can add pears to your diet in a variety of ways. They’re great raw or cooked in salads, savory dishes, and baked goods.

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Kiwis are a great source of fiber that can be eaten on their own or make a great addition to fruit salads and smoothies.

One kiwi (75 grams) contains about 2.3 grams of fiber.

Kiwis have metabolic, immune, and digestive benefits.

They may help relieve constipation by:

  • improving stool consistency
  • decreasing stool duration
  • decreasing abdominal pain, strain, and discomfort

This may also be due to the enzyme actinidin, which might have positive effects on gut motility and bowel habits.

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One 1/2-cup (50 grams) serving of dried figs contains 7.3 grams of fiber.

One study in 40 people with constipation found that taking 10.6 ounces (300 grams) of fig paste per day for 16 weeks helped speed colonic transit, improve stool consistency, and alleviate stomach discomfort.

Figs are a delicious snack on their own. They also pair well with sweet and savory dishes, like cheese, meat, and baked goods.

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Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and mandarins are refreshing snacks and good sources of fiber.

One orange (154 grams) contains 3.7 grams of fiber, while one grapefruit (308 grams) contains nearly 5 grams.

Citrus fruit peels are rich in pectin, which may help accelerate colonic transit time and reduce constipation.

Citrus fruits also contain a flavanol called naringenin. Studies with mice suggest that this may have laxative effects. However, more research with humans is needed to confirm these benefits.

To get the maximum amount of fiber and vitamin C, eat citrus fruits fresh.

Oranges and mandarins are great snack foods, and grapefruit goes well in a salad or cut in half for breakfast.

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Greens like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

These greens might help add bulk and weight to stools, which makes them easier to pass through the gut.

One cup (180 grams) of cooked spinach contains 4.3 grams of fiber.

Spinach can be added to a quiche, pie, or soup. Baby spinach or tender greens could also be added raw to salads or sandwiches, too.

Brussels sprouts are also super healthy, with just 5 sprouts containing 3.5 grams of fiber.

They can be boiled, steamed, grilled, or roasted and enjoyed hot or cold.

Meanwhile, broccoli contains 2.4 grams of fiber in just one cup (91 grams).

It can be cooked and added to soups and stews, as well as eaten raw in salads or as a snack.

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Jerusalem artichoke and chicory belong to the sunflower family and are important sources of inulin, a type of soluble fiber.

Inulin is a prebiotic, which means it helps stimulate the growth of bacteria in the gut, promoting digestive health.

A study in 44 healthy adults with constipation suggests that taking 0.4 ounces (12 grams) of inulin from chicory per day may increase stool frequency and softness.

Additionally, prebiotics have been found to increase stool frequency and improve stool consistency in people with constipation.

Despite their name, Jerusalem artichokes are not a type of artichoke. They have a nutty flavor and are found in most supermarkets. They’re great roasted, steamed, or mashed.

Chicory root is not commonly found in supermarkets but has become a popular coffee alternative in its ground form.

9. Artichoke

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Artichokes may have a prebiotic effect, which may:

Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, known as probiotics. Prebiotics help increase the number of probiotics and protect against the growth of harmful bacteria.

A 2010 study found that people who ate 10 grams of fiber extracted from artichokes every day for 3 weeks had greater numbers of beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli bacteria. The researchers also found that levels of harmful bacteria in the gut decreased.

One medium raw artichoke (128 grams) also contains 6.9 grams of fiber.

You can find artichokes both fresh and jarred. They’re great roasted, or in tarts, creamy dips, and salads.

10. Rhubarb

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Rhubarb is a leafy plant that’s well known for its bowel-stimulating properties.

One cup (122 grams) of rhubarb contains 2.2 grams of dietary fiber.

The plant contains a compound known as sennoside A, which may have a laxative effect. This compound works by decreasing levels of aquaporin 3 (AQP3), a protein that regulates the movement of water in the intestines.

A lower level of AQP3 means less water is moved from the colon back into the bloodstream, leaving stools softer and promoting bowel movements.

Rhubarb is great in tarts, pies, and crumbles. Or, it can be added to oats for a fiber-rich breakfast.

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Sweet potatoes are a versatile source of fiber. They can be roasted, steamed, or mashed and you can substitute them in recipes that call for other types of potatoes.

One medium sweet potato (150 grams) contains 3.6 grams of fiber.

This root vegetable mostly contains insoluble fiber in the form of cellulose and lignin. But, they also contain pectin, a soluble fiber.

One study looked at the effects of eating sweet potatoes on people undergoing chemotherapy, which could cause constipation.

After just 4 days of eating 7 ounces (200 grams) of sweet potato per day, participants reported having experienced improved symptoms of constipation and less straining and discomfort compared with the control group.

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Beans, peas, and lentils — also known as pulses or legumes — are one of the cheapest fiber-packed food groups you can include in your diet.

One cup (182 grams) of cooked navy beans contains a whopping 19.1 grams of fiber, while one 1/2 cup (99 grams) of cooked lentils contains 7.8 grams.

Pulses contain a mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber, so they may help alleviate constipation by adding bulk and weight to stools, as well as softening them to facilitate passage.

You can add pulses and legumes to many different recipes, such as in soups, dips, or salads.

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Chia seeds are one of the most fiber-dense foods available, containing nearly 28% of fiber by weight. Just 1 ounce (28 grams) contains 9.8 grams of fiber.

They’re mostly comprised of insoluble fiber, which forms into a gel when it comes into contact with water in the gut. This may help soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Chia could absorb up to 12 times its own weight in water, which could also help add bulk to stools.

Chia seeds can be eaten in many different ways, such as sprinkled onto cereal and yogurt or mixed into smoothies and salad dressings.

14. Flaxseeds

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Flaxseeds have many benefits.

One tablespoon (9 grams) of whole flaxseeds contains 2.5 grams of fiber, which consists of both soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. This makes them an ideal digestive aid.

In one study, 53 people with type 2 diabetes received cookies with either 10 grams of flaxseed or placebo for 12 weeks.

Researchers found that after 12 weeks, the cohort that ate the flaxseed cookies had overall reduced symptoms of constipation, as well as improved blood sugar and fat levels.

Flaxseed is easy to add to cereal and yogurt, or you can use it in muffins, breads, and cakes.

However, not everyone should use flaxseed. People who are pregnant and lactating are often advised to exercise caution when using flaxseed, although more research is needed.

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Rye bread is a traditional bread in many parts of Europe and is rich in dietary fiber.

Two medium slices (64 grams) of whole-grain rye bread contain 3.7 grams of dietary fiber.

A 2010 study in 51 adults with constipation investigated the effects of eating 8.5 ounces (240 grams) of rye bread per day.

Those who ate rye bread showed a 23% decrease in intestinal transit times, on average, compared with those who ate wheat bread. They also experienced softened stools, as well as increased frequency and ease of bowel movements.

Researchers also suggest that rye bread may be more effective at relieving constipation than regular wheat bread.

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Oat bran is the fiber-rich outer casing of the oat grain.

It has more fiber than the commonly used quick oats. One 1/3 cup (31 grams) of raw oat bran contains 4.8 grams of fiber, compared with 3.4 grams in quick oats.

Although more research is needed, two older studies have shown the positive effects of oat bran on bowel function.

One 1985 study in the United Kingdom suggested that eating two oat-bran biscuits per day significantly improved the frequency and consistency of bowel movements and reduced pain in participants ages 60–80.

Another 2009 study in nursing home residents in Austria suggested that adding 7–8 grams of oat bran to their diet per day resulted in a significant reduction in laxative use.

Oat bran can easily be combined with granola mixes and baked into bread or muffins.

17. Kefir

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Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that originated in the Caucasus mountains in West Asia.

It’s a probiotic, which means it contains bacteria and yeasts that benefit your health when ingested.

One study in 45 people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) found that drinking 13.5 ounces (400 mL) of kefir twice daily improved the composition of the gut microbiome and decreased abdominal pain.

In another small study of 24 children with cerebral palsy, half of them consumed kefir for 7 weeks, while the control group consumed yogurt. The researchers found that kefir may have helped soften stool, increase its frequency, and decrease constipation.

Kefir can be enjoyed on its own, or added to smoothies and salad dressings.

If you’re experiencing constipation, certain foods and beverages may make your symptoms worse.

These may include:

What should you eat when you are constipated?

Foods that are high in fiber may help soften, accelerate, and increase your stool frequency.

There are two types of fiber, which may both have different effects on your bowel movements.

Insoluble fiber may help increase the bulk and frequency of your stool, while soluble fiber may help soften your stool.

What foods help constipation the fastest?

Foods that are high in fiber may help quickly relieve constipation, such as:

  • rhubarb
  • sweet potatoes
  • spinach
  • broccoli
  • kefir
  • artichoke
  • chia seeds

Foods that are high in fiber may help relieve constipation.

A high-fiber diet helps add bulk and weight to stools, soften them, and stimulate bowel movements.

However, high-fiber diets could make constipation worse for some people.

If you’re experiencing recurring bouts of constipation, it’s important to speak with a doctor to come up with a proper treatment plan for you.

Additionally, drinking plenty of water will help keep your bowel movements frequent and your stool soft.