Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food that may provide health benefits as part of a balanced diet. As a source of dietary fiber, oatmeal may be good for constipation relief.

Oatmeal is a nutritious whole grain that can be beneficial for health. Oats are high in dietary fiber, so eating oatmeal may help someone prevent or manage constipation or difficulty with passing stool.

A person who has fewer than three bowel movements per week may have constipation. In the United States, around 16 in 100 adults experience symptoms of constipation. It often occurs when stool passes through the colon too slowly or due to another condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

This article discusses whether oatmeal helps constipation, other foods for constipation, foods to limit, treatments for constipation, and when to consult a healthcare professional.

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Oats are a whole grain cereal that a person may use to make a low cost and nutritious meal or snack. Oatmeal refers to a preparation of oats that involves stewing the oats in a heated liquid, such as milk or water. A person may add fruits, nuts, or seeds for additional nutritional value.

A common cause of constipation is the slow movement of stool through the colon. Eating plenty of fiber and drinking enough fluids may help soften stools and make them easier to pass. As such, some people may find that increasing their fiber intake helps to treat their constipation.

Research indicates that oats are a good source of dietary fiber, particularly soluble fiber. Experts note that 100 grams (g) of oatmeal can contain 10.1 g of total dietary fiber. As such, eating oats may help to relieve constipation.

Soluble fiber refers to a type of fiber that dissolves in water. Conversely, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Both types of fiber help to reduce the risk of constipation.

However, many other fiber-rich foods may also help with constipation, in addition to over-the-counter (OTC) medications and other treatments.

People’s bowels respond to foods differently. However, to help prevent constipation, it is generally advisable for a person to consume enough fiber and drink plenty of liquids. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025 recommend that adults have a fiber intake of 22–34 g a day, depending on age and sex.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the following foods are good sources of fiber and may help relieve constipation:

Food typeExamples
Whole grainsoatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, and bran flake cereals
Vegetablescarrots, broccoli, green peas, and collard greens
Fruitsapples, berries, oranges, and pears
Legumeslentils, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, and chickpeas
Nutspecans, almonds, and peanuts

Additionally, it is important to avoid dehydration. As such, it is advisable to drink water and other liquids, such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups, to help move the fiber along better. Having both fiber and fluids can help make stools softer and easier to pass.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to their diet. A healthcare professional can advise a person about how to modify their diet safely.

Learn more about foods that are good for constipation.

It is advisable for a person to avoid foods that contain little to no fiber to help prevent or relieve constipation symptoms. Examples of these foods may include:

  • processed foods, including hot dogs and microwavable dinners
  • prepared foods, such as frozen meals and snack foods
  • meats
  • chips
  • fast food

People should speak with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to their diet. A doctor can advise a person about how to safely make changes to their diet.

In addition to consuming more fiber and drinking more liquids, people may take other steps to help relieve their constipation symptoms. This can include:

  • Regular physical activity: Regular exercise may help with constipation as it encourages food to pass through the intestines. For example, some yoga poses may help a person find relief from constipation.
  • Bowel training: This refers to a person training themselves to have regular bowel movements at similar times of the day.
  • Stopping certain medications: Some medications or supplements may contribute to constipation. As such, changing the dose or medicine may help. However, a person should not change or stop any medications or supplements without first consulting a doctor.
  • OTC medications: In some cases, a person may benefit from taking a laxative. This is a type of medication that helps people to empty their bowels. Different options may include stimulants, lubricants, and stool softeners.

A person can speak with a healthcare professional about which treatments may work best for them.

Learn more about home remedies for relieving constipation.

If self-care treatments are not relieving symptoms of constipation or if someone has a family history of colorectal cancer, then they may want to consider contacting a doctor. A healthcare professional may recommend other treatments to relieve symptoms, such as:

People should also speak with a healthcare professional immediately if they notice the following symptoms:

These symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Learn more about when constipation is an emergency.

Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food that is a good source of fiber. As such, it may help provide relief for individuals with constipation. This is because fiber, alongside fluids, may help make stools easier and more comfortable to pass.

People can also consume other fiber-rich foods, drink plenty of water, exercise, and use OTC medications to help with constipation.

If these treatments do not help relieve constipation, it is advisable for a person to contact a doctor.