Popcorn is a whole grain that may help prevent constipation. As a source of fiber, popcorn may help support regular bowel movements and prevent constipation.

Constipation is a common condition, affecting around 16% of adults in the United States and 33% of those aged 60 years or older. People with constipation may have fewer than three bowel movements each week and pass stools that are hard, lumpy, or painful.

Possible causes of constipation include low fiber intake, certain medications and dietary supplements, and health issues, such as certain gastrointestinal disorders. As a source of fiber, popcorn may be useful to include in a diet for constipation relief and prevention.

This article explains how popcorn may help with constipation. It also discusses other foods to eat and avoid to help relieve constipation. Finally, it explores other treatments for constipation and when someone should contact a doctor.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) states that people who eat little or no fiber are more likely to become constipated. Therefore, it recommends eating more foods that have high fiber content and drinking plenty of liquids to help soften stools and make them easier to pass.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that a person eats roughly 14 grams (g) of fiber for every 1,000 calories. This recommended fiber intake varies slightly depending on a person’s age and sex. For example, the guidelines recommend that males aged 19–30 years who consume 2,400 calories daily eat 34 g of fiber per day and that females of the same age who consume 2,000 calories daily eat 28 g of fiber per day.

A medium single-serving bag of popcorn, which is about 57 g, typically contains 5.76 g of fiber. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises that popcorn is a healthy whole grain snack, as long as people prepare it without adding excessive amounts of butter or salt.

In addition, it notes that a recent analysis found that popcorn was one of the five most cost-effective sources of whole grains, so it may be more affordable for people on a budget.

Eating enough fiber and staying hydrated may help people avoid constipation and relieve symptoms. The NIDDK recommends that people add fiber to their diet gradually so their body gets used to the change. Good sources of fiber include:

Fiber sourceExamples
Whole grainswhole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, popcorn, and barley
Beanskidney beans, mung beans, soybeans, black beans, navy beans, and garbanzo beans
Lentilsred, green, brown, and puy lentils
Vegetablesbroccoli, leafy greens, artichokes, carrots, pumpkin, green peas, and mushrooms
Nutspistachio, almond, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts
Seedsflax, hemp, chia, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds
Fruitsguava, berries, apples, and passion fruit

The NIDDK explains that someone with constipation should drink water and other liquids, such as vegetable juices and clear soups, to help the fiber work better. If a person stays hydrated, it may help soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Learn more about which foods are good for constipation.

The NIDDK and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) advise that the following foods may cause constipation or worsen symptoms:

  • high fat and processed meats
  • dairy products and eggs
  • potato chips
  • fast food and processed food
  • prepared foods, such as microwaveable dinners and frozen snacks

Learn more about which foods may cause or worsen constipation.

Changing what someone eats and drinks may be the doctor’s first recommendation for relieving constipation. Other treatments and changes that a doctor may advise include:

  • staying physically active and exercising regularly
  • trying to have a bowel movement at the same time each day
  • putting the feet on a footstool to relax the muscles when trying to have a bowel movement
  • changing medications that may be causing constipation
  • taking certain over-the-counter medications, such as:
    • stool softeners
    • lubricants
    • osmotic agents
  • taking prescription medications such as:
  • trying biofeedback therapy
  • undergoing certain surgical procedures

Learn more about medications for constipation.

The NIA advises that, in some cases, constipation may be a sign of a more severe illness, such as colorectal cancer or other types of cancer. People should speak with their doctor if their bowel habits change and are accompanied by any of the following:

A person should also speak with a healthcare professional if constipation symptoms persist with higher fiber intake and more frequent exercise.

Popcorn is a whole grain that contains fiber. Eating popcorn and other fiber-rich foods can help keep the bowels regular and prevent constipation. Experts recommend that people exercise regularly and drink plenty of fluids to help the fiber work.

People may wish to speak with a healthcare professional to learn more about which constipation treatments may work best for them.