When you're backed up, it can leave you feeling bloated, sluggish, and all-around uncomfortable. If not being able to go to the bathroom is weighing you down (literally!) then you're probably looking for some relief as soon as possible.
Fortunately, you don't need to turn to risky laxatives or other potentially disastrous over-the-counter medication. There are some natural foods that will move things along, and help you go to the bathroom easily and regularly. Note: These are healthy, fiber-rich foods that have other positive benefits beyond your digestive system — we're not including those junk foods that may make you run for the bathroom for all the wrong reasons!
If you're consuming the foods and drinks on this list and still having issues, be sure to see a doctor or gastroenterologist to help with your BM troubles. Have other bathroom issues? Don't miss these 37 IBS Strategies That Will Change Your Life.
"You can easily become constipated by not drinking enough water," Benjamin Levy, M.D., gastroenterologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, advises. "I recommend drinking at least eight 8-oz glasses of water per day. This is especially important during the summer because we sweat water away a lot." And if you're feeling a little full, try these 14 Detox Water Recipes That Banish Bloat.
But first, coffee. While the effects from a cuppa joe can vary from one person to the next, it's highly common for the beverage to make you head for the bathroom. Coffee has been shown to promote the release of gastrin, which can increase colonic spike and motor activity, reports the journal Gut. The effects of coffee on the body are pretty fascinating, but the study goes on to explain that coffee can't reach the colon that fast—but that it instead induces a response by acting on receptors in the stomach or small bowels.
"One trick is to drink coffee with breakfast because the combination helps stimulate the gastrocolic reflex which causes bowel contractions (peristalsis) and moves stool out of the body," Dr. Levy explains. "Many patients will feel the urge to have a good bowel movement after drinking coffee with breakfast."
Anything with greater than five grams of fiber per serving is considered a high-fiber food. One ounce (about two tablespoons) of chia seeds has double that amount! "Also, chia seeds turn gelatinous when wet and help carry away matter that might be stuck in your digestive tract," says Alexandra Napoli, certified holistic health coach. Intrigued? We've curated the best chia seed recipes on Instagram for plenty of how-to-use-em inspo.
If sluggish bowels are your problem, researchers say high-fiber kiwifruit may be the kick you're looking for. A study by researchers in Pacific Asia found that IBS sufferers who ate two kiwis a day for four weeks had less constipation and a general lessening of IBS symptoms than those who didn't.
Studies conducted at The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee suggest that consuming calcium—which milk has plenty of—may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Other studies have shown that increased calcium intake from dairy products (though not from supplemental calcium carbonate) caused study participants to poop out more fat as opposed to it sticking around on the body. See more of our picks for the 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss!
Oranges are another fibrous fruit that can help move things along. "Citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, and grapefruit are great because the fiber stimulates the growth of good colon microbiota/flora and subsequently increase fecal mass," Dr. Levy says. "These fruits are excellent snack and dessert choices for patients with constipation." Definitely a much better than sweet treats made from fiber-stripped refined carbohydrates.
There's a reason why we go nutty for pistachios. Research from 2012 suggests that pistachios have properties similar to probiotics, which helps the growth of a healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. And a healthy GIT equals healthy poops.
Whole Grain Cereal
If you reach for whole grain cereal in the morning, you’ll start your day off with a healthy dose of fiber that will keep you regular throughout the day. “Cereal fibers (such as whole grains) are great constipation relieving foods because their cell walls are difficult to digest and hold onto water,” Dr. Levy explains. He recommends oatmeal or fibrous boxed cereals — for our favorites, check out our Best Brand Name Cereals for Weight Loss.
It does more than just leaving your breath smelling minty fresh. Peppermint's soothing effect works wonders for a bad stomach but research from the University of Maryland Medical Center found that it can also help people who suffer from IBS. Basically, its calming properties help loosen up the muscles in the intestinal tract so your poo can move freely.
Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread is chock-full of the fiber that can help move your bowels along. Dr. Levy recommends whole wheat toast in the morning for breakfast with a little cheddar cheese or peanut butter. It’s also a great base for avocado toast.
Beans are an A-list food that everyone should add to their diets and one of the best high fiber foods. They offer a plethora of vitamins (Hey, Vitamin B!) and its high-fiber count helps bulk up your stools, making it easy for them to go down your GIT.
One cup of brown rice contains nearly four grams of fiber, making it a great food to eat when you just can't seem to go. A study from 2007 found that women who consumed brown rice decreased their chances of getting constipation by 47 percent than those who did not.
The high fiber in bananas can help normalize bowel motility. With three grams of insoluble fiber, they help you push out waste better by making stools easier to pass. Bonus: They also help when things are loosey goosey. "Bananas are binding for anyone with diarrhea, and they also contain probiotics that are essentially 'food' for the healthy microbes that live in our guts," says Isabel Smith, MS RD CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.
The word "prunes" might bring up thoughts of your grandma's favorite afternoon snack, but the dried plums are a great food for keeping things regular. There are six grams of fiber for every 100 grams of pruney goodness. Prune juice is also a known natural laxative that can help boost your bowel movements.
Avocados' high magnesium content helps draw moisture into the digestive tract, which helps to soften stool and increase flow, says Natoli. Check out these 18 Tasty Ways to Satisfy Your Avocado Cravings.
Add “helps your bowels” to the long list of reasons why we love green tea here at Eat This, Not That! “Green tea is a good way to increase amount of fluid consumption, with the goal of loosening stool, while the caffeine in green tea is a natural laxative,” Dr. Levy explains. “Green tea also contains antioxidants; small studies have shown a possible association between green tea and a decreased risk of lung cancer and prostate cancer.” Green tea will also rev up your metabolism and help you melt fat.
Although your best drinks for constipation are water, coffee, and green tea, coconut water does have hydrating properties and is better for you than a sugary, food dye-laden sports drink. “Coconut water is a good alternative to higher sugar containing sports drinks as a tasty way to increase fluid consumption,” Dr. Levy says.
Probiotics are essential for a healthy digestive tract to help keep things moving along. An analysis from 2014 found the probiotics found in yogurt can help increase stool frequency. And yes, we've noticed how many items on this list are breakfast foods. It explains so much, right?
Pears have always been known as a constipation remedy. They're not only an excellent source of fiber, but pears have naturally-occurring, sorbitol which acts as a laxative to loosen up the stools, says Napoli.
Dried fruit packs a one-two punch when it comes to fighting constipation. “Dried fruit is an excellent source of dietary fiber and also contains sorbitol which is a natural laxative,” Dr. Levy explains. There are nearly 2 grams of sugar in one small box of raisins.
Apples are the quintessential healthy fruit that every person needs in their diet. One average-sized apple contains about 4.4 grams of fiber—and like pears it, it also contains sorbitol to increase bowel movements.
If you're not feeling so peachy about your #2 business, try eating a peach. Peaches also have a high concentration of sorbitol. (Do you see a pattern yet? P.S. – Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that acts as a laxative to help move things along in our intestinal tract.)
It may not be as popular as its other nutty counterparts (almond and peanut butter), but a spoonful of rich, creamy cashew butter still packs a nutritional punch—especially for your bathroom issues. It's a good source of magnesium, another nutrient that's essential for a healthy poop flow.
Figs—and we don't mean the Newtons—are a great way to add more fiber to your diet. Four of them will cost you 189 calories and provide 7.4 grams of fiber that's great for those suffering from IBS. The sugar count in this fruit is high—they're #1 on our exclusive list, in fact!—but the sugar is naturally-occurring and the high fiber content helps offset it.
We know: You wouldn't expect popcorn to be on the same list as healthy foods like avocados and leafy greens, but the air-popped kind is low calorie, high fiber, and makes a great snack for those who need a boost in the bathroom. “Popcorn is one of my favorite ways to increase fiber consumption because it’s such a delicious snack,” Dr. Levy says, “I recommend that patients air pop their popcorn.” As you know, the more fiber you consume, the more bulk it adds to your poop, making it easier to get down and out of you. And we have some amazing snack ideas for you with these 20 Delicious Ways to Dress Up for Your Popcorn.
Blackberries contain eight grams of fiber per cup—twice the amount of other popular berries (looking at you, strawberries and blueberries.) And as an added nutritious bonus, blackberries are one of the most antioxidant-packed fruits out there!
Leafy greens such as kale, arugula, and spinach contain indigestible fiber that adds bulk to stool, making it easier to pass through the digestive system. Additionally, they are low in fermentable carbohydrates responsible for triggering bouts of IBS.
Plums may be the younger, fuller, version of prunes, but they will still help you get the job done. They're a high source of naturally occurring sorbitol and even make the list of best-ever fat-burning foods!
“Cooking fresh artichokes or topping pizza with artichoke hearts is a great way to increase fiber consumption,” Dr. Levy explains. “ “Artichokes also contain a high amount of antioxidants which may help prevent cancer.” They can also fight off high blood pressure thanks to their magnesium and potassium amounts, he says.
A bowl of oatmeal is a great way to get the digestive tract moving in the morning. A cup of oats gives you a whopping 16 grams of fiber and there are plenty of ways to make oats for weight loss. Just stay away from the instant stuff in envelopes, which is usually packed with sugar.