Constipation can cause discomfort and may lead to health complications. High fiber fruits, probiotics, whole grains, pulses, and many other options can help ease and prevent constipation.

Constipation is the medical term for when a person has a reduced bowel movement or difficulty passing stool.

People with constipation may also experience the following symptoms:

  • hard, dry, or lumpy stools
  • stools that look like small stones or marbles
  • pain and discomfort during bowel movements
  • a feeling of being unable to empty the bowels fully
  • loss of appetite due to a continual sense of fullness
  • bloating

This article explains what constipation is and outlines the symptoms of the condition. It also lists foods and drinks that may help alleviate it.

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People’s bowels respond to foods differently. However, the following may help to relieve constipation.

Olive and flaxseed oils

Olive and flaxseed oils may have a mild laxative effect in some instances, helping to ease the flow of materials through the intestines.

These oils also contain compounds that improve digestion and have antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that may help to improve gut health and soften stools. In fact, a 2017 review suggested that probiotics improved constipation by 10–40% compared with a placebo.

Notable probiotic foods include:

  • Yogurt and kefir: Many dairy products contain probiotics, including yogurt and kefir. A 2017 study found that kefir significantly reduced constipation in people with certain physical or mental disabilities.
  • Sauerkraut: A 2016 study found that two tablespoons of homemade sauerkraut contain around the same amount of bacteria as probiotic supplements.

Discover more probiotic foods here.

Fibrous vegetables

Vegetables are high in insoluble fiber, which adds bulk to stools, promoting more regular bowel movements.

Other plant compounds may also protect the gut and ease digestion. For example, sulforaphane – which is abundant in broccoli – can prevent the overgrowth of intestinal microorganisms that interfere with healthy digestion.


Most beans, lentils, and peas are very high in fiber. A 2017 study found that 100 g of cooked pulses provides around 26% of the daily fiber intake that doctors recommend in the U.S.

High fiber fruits

High fiber fruits that may help to ease constipation include:

  • Kiwifruit: On average, 100 g of kiwifruit contains around 3 g of fiber. Kiwifruit also contains the enzyme actinidine, which alleviates upper gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Apples and pears: These fruits contain high levels of water, which can help to ease digestion and prevent constipation.
  • Grapes: These fruits have a high skin-to-flesh ratio and are fiber-rich. They also contain a lot of water, which helps to add moisture to hard stools.
  • Blackberries and raspberries: These fruits are rich in fiber and water, which can ease constipation. A person can try eating a handful or two of raw, washed blackberries or raspberries a day.
  • Prunes: Aside from containing a lot of fiber, prunes also contain sorbitol and phenolic compounds that may have gastrointestinal benefits.

Whole wheat bread, cereals, and pasta

Whole wheat products are an excellent source of insoluble fiber. To get the most nutrients from whole wheat products, a person should eat them raw or lightly cooked.

Wheat bran, for example, is the hard outer layer of the wheat kernel and is rich in insoluble fiber. A 2017 study investigated the effectiveness of wheat bran as a treatment for constipation in infants and older children. Researchers found increases in bran intake with significant improvements in bowel habits.


Liquids add moisture to stools, making them softer and easier to pass. Below are some liquids that people can try for constipation.

Dehydration is a common cause of constipation. When a person becomes dehydrated, their intestines cannot add enough water to stools. Dehydration results in hard, dry, lumpy stools that are difficult to pass.

Drinking plenty of water can help to ease or resolve the symptoms and prevent constipation.

Read more about drinking water here.

If diet or lifestyle changes are not enough to ease a person’s symptoms, a doctor or pharmacist may recommend laxative medications to use as a short-term cure for constipation.

There are several types of laxatives available, including:

  • Water-retention laxatives, such as magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) and polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX)
  • Bulk-forming laxatives, such as methylcellulose (Citrucel) and calcium polycarbophil (FiberCon).
  • stool softeners, such as docusate sodium (Docusate and Colace)
  • stimulants, such as bisacodyl (Correctol and Dulcolax)

Most cases of acute constipation are due to diet or lifestyle factors. However, chronic constipation can sometimes signal an underlying medical condition.

Some medical conditions that can cause constipation include:

Certain medications can cause or contribute to constipation, including

A person should see a doctor if constipation does not improve following appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes and treatment with over-the-counter medications.

A doctor can help determine what may be causing a person’s constipation and provide suitable remedies and treatments to enhance bowel movement and frequency.

Below are some answers to common questions about constipation types and causes.

What relieves constipation fast?

Drinking plenty of liquids, getting up and moving, and taking appropriate medication can all help to remedy constipation quickly.

What foods get rid of constipation?

High fiber, whole foods are often beneficial for constipation. These include:

  • whole wheat bread or wheat bran
  • oatmeal
  • apples, pears, and berries
  • broccoli, sprouts, and other green vegetables
  • beans, legumes, and pulses

What simple trick empties your bowels?

Techniques that may encourage bowel movements include:

  • massage the stomach in a circular, clockwise motion
  • exercise
  • eat more fiber
  • drink plenty of water
  • glycerol suppositories

What is a good natural laxative that works fast?

Foods with natural laxative properties include:

  • probiotics, including yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut
  • high fiber foods, including kiwifruit, vegetables, and pulses
  • whole grains

Constipation refers to a person’s difficulty passing stool.

Certain foods benefit a person’s gut health — people can promote bowel movements by consuming high fiber fruits and vegetables, probiotics, and whole wheat foods.

A person should consult a medical professional if both dietary and medical treatments do not remedy their constipation to determine what may be causing their reduced bowel movements.

Read this article in Spanish.