Eating foods 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 assigned at birth (FAABs) and 97% of males assigned at birth (MAABs) 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 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 divided into categories.

Many fruits naturally contain fiber, but some contain more than others. They may also contain other ingredients that can help support frequent bowel movements.

  • Prunes (dried plums): One 1/4 cup (40 gram (g)) serving contains nearly 3 g of fiber, which helps add bulk to stool. The soluble and insoluble fibers in prunes also help retain water and produce fatty acids that increase stool weight. Some people may experience a laxative effect from the sugar alcohol sorbitol found in prunes.
  • Apples: One medium apple with the skin on (about 200 g) contains 4.8 g of fiber. They also contain pectin, which may have many benefits, such as increasing stool frequency, decreasing stool hardness and duration, and decreasing the need for laxatives.
  • Pears: One medium-sized pear (178 g) contains 5.5 g of fiber. Pears contain sorbitol and fructose, which may act as a mild laxative. The liver absorbs fructose, so any excess may draw water into your intestines and aid in bowel movements. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects.
  • Kiwis: One kiwi (75 g) contains about 2.3 g of fiber. Kiwis may help relieve constipation by improving stool consistency, decreasing stool duration, and 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.
  • Figs: One 1/2 cup (50 g) serving of dried figs contains 7.3 g of fiber. Research suggests consuming figs regularly may not only help with stool frequency but may help alleviate abdominal discomfort such as pain or bloating.
  • Citrus fruits: One orange (154 g) contains 3.7 g of fiber, while one grapefruit (308 g) contains nearly 5 g. Citrus fruit peels are rich in pectin and a flavanol called naringenin, which may help reduce constipation. Studies with mice suggest this may have laxative effects, though more research with humans is necessary.

Like with fruit, some vegetables are more fibrous than others. The following options are known for having a bit more, and eating them can help reduce constipation.

  • Spinach and other greens: Greens like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli are full of fiber, which might help add bulk and weight to stools, making it easier to pass. 100 g of cooked spinach has 1.6 g fiber. Just 5 Brussels sprouts contain 3.5 g of fiber, while broccoli has 2.4 g of fiber in just one cup (91 g).
  • Jerusalem artichoke and chicory: Jerusalem artichokes and chicory are part of the sunflower family and contain inulin, a fiber that promotes gut health. A study with 44 adults showed that taking 0.4 oz or 12 g of chicory-derived inulin per day can improve stool frequency and softness.
  • Artichoke: One medium raw artichoke (128 g) also contains 6.9 g of fiber. These have a prebiotic effect, which may help increase stool frequency. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, known as probiotics.
  • Rhubarb: One cup (122 g) of rhubarb contains 2.2 g of dietary fiber. The plant contains sennoside A, a compound that decreases aquaporin 3 (AQP3), a protein regulating the movement of water in the intestines. Less AQP3 means less water is moved from the colon back into the bloodstream, leaving stools softer and promoting bowel movements.
  • Sweet potatoes: One medium sweet potato (150 g) contains 3.6 g of fiber. This root vegetable mostly contains insoluble fiber in the form of cellulose and lignin. But, they also contain pectin, a soluble fiber, suggesting it may have a positive effect on bowel movements.

Seeds and legumes are other great sources of fiber. In particular, consider trying the following if you’re experiencing constipation.

  • Beans, peas, and lentils: One cup (182 g) of cooked navy beans contains a whopping 19.1 g of fiber, while one 1/2 cup (99 g) of cooked lentils contains 7.8 g. With their mix of both insoluble and soluble fiber, they may help alleviate constipation by adding bulk and weight to stools and by softening them to facilitate passage.
  • Chia seeds:These seeds are one of the most fiber-dense foods available, containing nearly 28% of fiber by weight. Just 1 ounce (28 g) contains 9.8 g of fiber. The insoluble fiber in chia forms a gel in the gut when mixed with water, helping to soften and pass stools. Chia can also absorb up to 12 times its weight in water, which helps add bulk to stools.
  • Flaxseeds: One tablespoon (9 g) of whole flaxseeds contains 2.5 g of soluble and insoluble fiber. In one study, 53 people with type 2 diabetes ate either flaxseed or placebo cookies. After 12 weeks, the flaxseed group had reduced constipation and improved blood sugar and fat levels. However, speak to your doctor before trying flaxseed if you’re pregnant or lactating.

Grains also contain a lot of fiber. That said, stay away from processed grains like white bread. On the other hand, most dairy won’t necessarily help constipation, but it can help if it’s fermented.

  • Rye bread: Two medium slices (64 g) of whole-grain rye bread contain 3.7 g of dietary fiber. Rye bread may help relieve constipation due to its high soluble fiber content, which absorbs water and promotes the formation of larger and softer stools, making them easier to pass.
  • Oat bran: This is the fiber-rich outer casing of the oat grain. One 1/3 cup (31 g) of raw oat bran contains 4.8 g of fiber, compared with 2.7 g in quick oats. Although more research is needed, there is some evidence to suggest that eating oat bran can have a positive effect on bowel movements.
  • Kefir: This fermented milk beverage is a probiotic, which means it contains bacteria and yeasts that benefit your health when ingested. For example, one study in 45 people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) found that drinking 13.5 oz (400 milliliters (mL)) of kefir twice daily improved the composition of the gut microbiome and decreased abdominal pain.

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

These may include:

What food is good for constipation?

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

There are two types of fiber, which may each 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.

How do I get rid of constipation fast?

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

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

What simple trick can help empty my bowel?

Other than eating foods that promote easy bowel movements, you can also try taking fiber supplements and staying hydrated. In more severe cases, you may need an over-the-counter laxative, an enema, or a suppository.

Learn more: Tips and home remedies for fast constipation relief.

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.