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All Backed Up? These Foods Can Help

While people have gotten less embarrassed about the fact that everybody poops, what about when we can’t? You know...constipation. The word itself sounds uncomfortable. Not only can it be painful, but constipation can also make you look and feel bloated. Everybody is different, but if you’re having less than three bowel movements a week, then you’re probably constipated. 

What is Constipation? 

Constipation can be a sign that something is off in your body. When food is processed, it moves into your colon where water is absorbed and waste forms stool. The colon’s muscles then move the stool to the rectum, continuing to absorb excess water until the stool is more solidified.  Constipation often occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or hasn’t contracted enough to pass the stool through. 

Why Do We Get Backed Up? 

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to constipation: 

  • Not eating enough fiber 
  • Not drinking enough water 
  • Low physical activity 
  • Traveling 
  • Stress
  • Not using the bathroom when the urge is present
  • Certain medications 

Although some factors are unavoidable, being dehydrated isn’t! Because constipation can occur from a lack of water, it’s extremely important to drink enough water each day to stay hydrated. 

Symptoms of Constipation 

stomach ache


In addition to having less than three bowel movements a week, there are a host of other symptoms associated with constipation: 

  • Passing hard stool 
  • Exerting yourself to have a bowel movement 
  • A sensation that your rectum isn’t completely empty 

If you’ve ever been constipated, you know that you want it to be over as quickly as possible. Thankfully, there are plenty of foods that you can eat to help you move past it. Many of the foods on this list will contain fiber, which can help naturally soften stools. 

1. Apples 

We finally know why an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Apples contain fiber, sorbitol, and fructose—all compounds that aid digestion. Not only do apples have 4.8g of fiber, their specific type of fiber is called pectin. Pectin aids digestion and bowel movement. Bacteria ferments and transforms it into short-chain fatty acids that pull water into the colon to soften stools. Plus, apples naturally have high levels of water, further supporting the body’s need for hydration.

How to eat them: Keep it simple; eat them raw and whole.

2. Flaxseeds

These tiny seeds are packed with powerful nutritional benefits. Taken from the flax plant, flaxseeds contain beneficial amounts of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Ground flaxseeds are easier to digest, and just one tablespoon contains 2 grams of dietary fiber. Bear in mind, flaxseeds need to be introduced to the body slowly. Start with 1 teaspoon and slowly incorporate more until you reach 2 tablespoons each day.

There are countless, easy ways to include flax seeds into your diet:

  • Add ground flaxseed to your smoothie
  • Sprinkle on yogurt
  • Mix into baked goods 

3. Probiotics 

If the bacteria in your gut gets thrown off, it can affect your bowel movements. Consuming probiotics can help the balance gut bacteria and encourage stool softening. 

How can you increase your probiotic intake? You can increase your consumption by eating foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut–or you can take a supplement. 

4. Beans and Lentils 



We’ve all heard the song, but beans really are a magical fruit. (Yes, they are technically a fruit!) Any type of bean or lentil is very high in fiber and will help get things moving. With just one serving, you can get 7g of fiber from beans or 8g of fiber from lentils.

Beans and lentils can be incorporated into your diet in many ways. We suggest adding them to salads, soups, casseroles, or stews.

5. Prunes

Born a plum and then dried, prunes are packed with important nutrients. Not only are they high in fiber, they also have a high sorbitol content. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that can help alleviate constipation because it draws water into the colon from nearby body tissue.

Blend prune juice into a smoothie, mix them into a trail mix, or eat them on their own!

6. Wheat Bran 

If you’re feeling backed up, wheat bran is a great choice for a couple of reasons. First, its insoluble fiber content helps add more mass to stools, increasing their movement through the colon. Second, wheat bran is full of prebiotics. While you already know the importance of probiotics, prebiotics play a significant part of their own. Prebiotics help support good bacteria to keep them abundant in the gut.

You can add wheat bran into your diet in a variety of ways. Look for foods made with whole-wheat flour, cereals, or by adding wheat bran flakes to yogurt or baked goods.

7. Avocado

avocado toast


Guacamole lovers rejoice! Avocados are rich in both fiber and magnesium, making it an especially beneficial food. Magnesium is a fantastic addition because it relaxes the muscle in the digestive tract and pulls water into the intestines to soften stools so that they can pass through. Not ingesting enough magnesium can contribute to constipation.

Use avocados to create fancy toast, add it to a smoothie, or scoop it up with vegetables.


Slow and Steady 

When starting to add more fiber to your diet, it’s important to go slow. Drastic changes to fiber intake can end up doing more harm than good. To help encourage regular digestive health, refer to the list of foods above to increase your fiber by only a few grams each week. Be sure to drink plenty of water!


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