Here are 10 healthy foods that relieve constipation and help you poop - no laxatives required! It's not a pretty topic, but it's one of the top three things I end up discussing with my clients. Whether you call it the toilet, the bathroom, the loo, the lavatory, the head, the crapper, the potty, the john, the porcelain god or the throne, it's important to make a pitstop at least once a day to…well, poop. And let's be honest, everyone loves a good poop.
Good poops are enviable. People who are irregular or constipated see red when a loved one brags about how their "morning constitution" was so spectacular. Strangers generally don't brag overtly, and those that do are just creepy. But the whistling you hear after someone prances out of the office bathroom like a prima ballerina? It's a subtle form of bragging.
Good poops can bring joy. Just ask the parent of a constipated child how much happiness they felt after their little one loads up a diaper with a long overdue bowel movement. Pure bliss.
Good poops make you run faster. No matter how disgusting or heinous they may look on the inside, go talk to anyone who ever ran a marathon, 10K or triathlon about the most beautiful site they've ever seen before a race, and provided the magic happens, they'll tell you it was a porta potty. Note: this has not been scientifically proven, but the psychological warfare caused by the inability to poop pre-race could never be understated enough.
Good poops mean your day can actually start. And now you can fully function without thinking about last night's dinner and the fact that it hasn't really made any effort to get a move on.
We don't poop enough. And it's not a laughing matter.
According to the National Digestive Disease Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), 63 million people are chronically constipated. Over one million of those people require hospitalization.
What is constipation?
Constipation is the inability to have a bowel movement at least three times a week. That's the black and white definition. In no way are a mere three bowel movements a week truly healthy. Really, everyone should have a bowel movement once a day. In fact, a bowel movement every 24 hours is considered good by many medical practitioners.
What causes constipation?
- Lack of dietary fiber (Check out my list of 70 high fiber foods.)
- Low magnesium levels*
- Prescription drugs, specifically antibiotics, antidepressants, narcotics
*Talk to a doctor before you supplement with magnesium as a means to remedy constipation, especially if you're taking any prescription or OTC drug.
Foods that help your bowels move:
1. Leafy Greens: Spinach, Swiss Chard & Kale
Loaded with a rainbow of phytonutrients, just one cup of these leafy greens gives you a good amount of dietary fiber and magnesium. What's more, they're full of water when eaten fresh.
Avocados are an incredible fruit that not only help to level off unsteady blood sugar levels, but they're full of muscle-soothing magnesium, too.
3. Cultured or Fermented Vegetables
So easy to make at home, cultured vegetables are full of fiber and an excellent source of probiotics and digestive enzymes. Just about any vegetable can be fermented. It's cheap, easy and an effective way to load your digestive tract with the healthy bacteria it needs. When we think of fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, pickles and kimchi come to mind. Unfortunately, most store-bought "fermented" foods aren't really fermented. Instead, they're soaking in vinegar, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's not quite the same as making a fermented vegetables the old school way with a brine full of healthy bacteria. Check out this video on fermented veggies at home.
Not all yogurts are created equal, so buyer beware. The type of yogurt you eat could bind you up or help you go. Many commercial yogurts are made with lots of constipating sugar, which is not what you need. However, plain organic yogurts and even homemade plain yogurts can provide a good amount of probiotics that increase regularity. Here is a simple homemade yogurt recipe. Add a few berries, some cinnamon and a little bit of honey for flavor.
You knew you'd see this on the list! They worked back in the day, and they work right now, too. Eat a small handful of prunes (3 to 4) before breakfast, and again an hour before bed. Along with plenty of water, hopefully your morning will be lots better. Prunes are a good source of fiber, but the skin of the fruit has a mild laxative property that will help with elimination.
Radishes are an amazing vegetable that go far too under appreciated. They have the ability to detoxify the liver, push excess bile out and our bodies. They also help promote the action of peristalsis, which is the relaxation and contraction of the intestines…exactly what needs to happen in order to produce a bowel movement.
7. Flax Seeds/Flax Seed Oil
Freshly ground flax seeds and expeller-pressed flax seed oil are not just great for helping relieve constipation, but they're both great for our heart and blood vessels. Additionally, flax seeds and flax seed oil is a great source of much-needed omega 3 fatty acid, something every inch of our body can use more of. Tip: if using flax seeds, they need to be freshly ground. Whole seeds might add some bulk to your stool, but they won't get digested. Grind them fresh in the morning with coffee grinder. Sprinkle onto oatmeal or in smoothies. Flax seed oil should be stored in the refrigerator and can be taken every morning on an empty stomach.
Beans, beans, the magical fruit…beans are both a great source of fiber and magnesium. When it comes to variety, you're not at a loss in the bean department, either. Black, adzuki, black eye, kidney and many more, beans pair well with just about anything. Looking for a creative and healthy way to get black beans into your diet? Try these black bean brownies.
9. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a great source of magnesium! Yet another reason to include a square or two of really good dark chocolate in your diet on a daily basis. Magnesium helps to relax the muscles in our digestive tract (and throughout our entire body), thereby increasing the likelihood that you'll go. Keep in mind, quality matters. Aim for an organic chocolate bar that has is at least 72% cocoa. Milk chocolate just doesn't do the trick. Looking for a healthy dessert that's fun and loaded with dark chocolate? Try these dark chocolate covered pumpkin pops.
10. Olives/Olive Oil
Olives and olive oil have long since been used to help stimulate bile juice, which aids in digestion and elimination. In fact, a teaspoon of olive oil in the morning on an empty stomach has been used to line the intestinal wall, ultimately relieving constipation.
Other than writing about going to the bathroom, I write about healthy eating, good recipes and staying fit. Get to know me by subscribing to my newsletter. I've always got a lot of fun (and healthy) stuff going on. Hope to see you there. Subscribe here.