Top Constipation Foods: 5 Foods to Avoid and 5 to Eat

Medical Reviewer:

Sometimes nature just doesn't call. At some point, everyone has experienced the gas, bloating, and discomfort of constipation. Fortunately, there are certain foods you can eat and avoid for relief.

"Constipation is not usually caused by one or more foods on [its] own," says Kristi King, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and dietitian at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. "It's usually a combination of things."

Her best advice: Get 25 to 35 grams of fiber a day. That amount should keep your gastrointestinal system moving. Also, drink lots of water. "If there isn't enough water in the bowels to help the digestion process, it can most definitely stop you up," King says. "Make sure to consume 64 ounces of water on a daily basis to help prevent constipation."

Foods to Relieve Constipation

When planning your healthy diet, it helps to include plenty of high-fiber choices to help you stay regular. Try these five foods:

1. Prunes

Prunes were grandma's remedy. They could be yours, too. "Prunes and prune juice have been used for many years to help relieve constipation," King says. "Prunes are high in insoluble fiber as well as the natural laxative sorbitol. That combination will for sure make you go!"

Researchers at the University of Iowa tested dried, pitted plums (prunes) against psyllium (a laxative) in 40 adults who were constipated. Those given the plums had measurably higher spontaneous bowel movements than those given the laxative.

2. Beans

Beans have more than 10 grams of fiber per cup serving -- that's more than almost any other fiber source. "Beans have a great mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps the food keep moving through your intestines," King says.

Take your pick:

  • baked beans,
  • black-eyed peas,
  • garbanzo beans,
  • lima beans,
  • pinto beans, or
  • kidney beans.

Add any of these to salads, soups, casseroles, or pasta.

3. Kiwi

The luscious green flesh of the kiwi may be just what the doctor ordered. One medium kiwi has about 2.5 grams of fiber and lots of vitamins and nutrients that are important for good health, including your intestines.

A kiwi is a berry. And like most berries, it has edible seeds. You can even eat the peel though most people prefer to eat just the flesh.

A 2013 study of adults reported in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research found that eating kiwi promotes regular bowel movements. A previous study by researchers in Taipei also found eating two kiwis a day increased the number of bowel movements in adults with constipation.

4. Rye Bread

King advises eating whole grain breads and cereals to ease constipation. "Whole grains have lots of fiber, which is good not only for the bowels but also the heart," she says.

Researchers at the University of Finland in Helsinki found whole grain rye bread to be better than wheat bread and laxatives for relieving constipation. They reported their findings in the Journal of Nutrition in 2010. Their subjects ate enough slices (12.3 grams each) to get 30 grams of fiber a day. But you don't have to eat that much for it to work.

King says arabinoxylan, the main component of dietary fiber in rye, is what keeps food moving through your intestine.

5. Pears

Pears contain some of the most fiber, King says. Be sure to eat the skin to get the most fiber you can. With the skin, an average pear provides 5 to 6 grams of dietary fiber that you need to regulate your digestive system.

Foods That Can Cause Constipation

Just as some foods help you stay regular, others can have a binding effect. If you're having trouble with constipation, avoid these five foods:

1. Chocolate

Chocolate is a no-no, especially for people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, says King. "The exact mechanism isn't known, but it is thought that the large amount of fat in chocolate can slow the digestion process. It is thought to slow down muscle contractions (peristalsis) and thus foods moving through the bowel."