By Matt Gowan, BSC, ND
July 7, 2017


Kiwi Fruit - Top foods for constipation

Foods for Constipation – Effective foods for sluggish bowels

By Matt Gowan, BSC, ND
July 7, 2017

Most people suffer from constipation periodically.  Sluggish bowels produce chronic bloating and gas and cause significant discomfort.  People should consume 30-50g of fiber/day but few achieve this. Although there are a number of natural laxatives that people can take to improve their bowel health, it’s always best to start with diet.  The following foods for constipation were selected because they are supported by research and people can easily incorporate them into their daily routine.

1. Prunes – The classic food for constipation

Drinking prune juice is the most common home remedy for constipation and it has research to support it. Prune consumption was found to be associated with increased bowel movement and improve stool consistency.1–3 Furthermore, eating prunes may do more than just relieve constipation. Significant research suggests that they are loaded with antioxidants and that eating prunes may also help prevent osteoporosis.4

Prunes - Foods for constipation


How do prunes work?

Although prunes contain fiber, prune juice is essentially void of fiber. Because prune juice works as a laxative the fiber alone is not primarily responsible for its effects. Prunes also contain high amounts of sorbitol which has a natural laxative effect.5 Sorbitol is an “alcohol sugar” that is not readily absorbed and pulls water into the stool. This helps to hydrate the stool making it easier to pass. Sorbitol alone is considered safe to take even in the elderly.6

How do I take prunes as for constipation?

Research studies show 100g of prunes per day improves constipation.3

2. Flax seeds – Rich in fiber and healthy oils

Flax seeds are rich in fiber and oil which both help relieve constipation.7  Flax seeds are natural laxatives that can act as both a bowel lubricant and bulk laxative. Moreover, flaxseed is a rich source of an important phenolic compound known as lignans which can lower blood pressure,8 reduce the risk of cancer9 and decreases risk for cardiovascular disease.10

Flax seeds - food for constipation

Flax Seeds

How do flax seeds promote bowel movements?

Flaxseeds are rich in fiber: two tablespoons have roughly 4 g of fiber. Fiber-rich foods act as bulk laxatives because they absorb water and expands in the bowels. This hydrates the stool and stimulates stretch receptors in the bowels to promote peristalsis. Also, the flax seeds are rich in oils that may help lubricate the bowels making it easier to pass.11

How do I take flax seeds to prevent constipation?

Take 1-2 tbsp of ground seeds per day with breakfast. Sprinkle the ground seeds on fruit salad or add it to your smoothy.

Note: I recommend getting a coffee grinder and grinding flax seeds every week or so and storing them in the fridge. The oil in flax seeds will go rancid if exposed to air and warm temperature for extended periods of time.

3. Kiwis – A high fiber food for constipation

Two kiwis have roughly 4 g of fiber making them a great bulk laxative. Research shows that kiwi fruit consumption increases bowel movement 12,13 14,15 and reduces abdominal pain and flatulence.16 Furthermore, kiwi feeds the good bacteria to improve various biomarkers of the large intestine, leading to better digestive health.17

Kiwi - Food for constipation


How do kiwis work as a laxative?

Kiwis contain both fiber and sorbitol.  The fiber absorbs water acting as a bulk laxative while the sorbitol functions like an osmotic laxative.

4. Apples – A rich in source of pectin

An apple a day can help keep constipation away. Although human studies have been performed, animals studies show that increasing apple fiber helps reduce the drug induced constipation caused by opiate drugs.18

Apple - Food for constipation


How do apples work?

Apples are rich in fiber and sorbitol. One medium apple has roughly 4g of fiber most of which is pectin. Therefore apples may have a dual function to promote bowel movements. The fiber as a bulk laxative while the sorbitol act as an osmotic laxative to pull water into the stool. Furthermore, pectin feeds the good bacteria in the gut and helps to stimulate their growth which also improves bowel health.19

5. Olive oil – Helps lubricate the bowels

Olive oil has numerous health benefits research suggests it can help constipation.   One study showed hospitalized patients given olive oil received the same benefit as those taking the standard treatment. Olive oil acts as a bowel lubricant.

How does olive oil work?

Unlike the other foods for constipation, olive oil is void of fiber and sorbitol and therefore works by a different mechanism.  Olive oil is a natural laxative that acts as a bowel lubricant. When excess olive oil is consumed, it remains in bowels and helps to soften and lubricate the stool.

How much olive oil should I take to lubricate the bowels?

Start with a teaspoon of olive oil and increase if required.

Summary of Foods for Constipation

Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will reduce the risk of constipation by providing fiber and other substances (e.g. sorbitol) that can help promote bowel movements. Foods can act as an osmotic laxative (e.g prunes), bulk laxative (flax seeds, kiwis, and apples) and bowel lubricants (e.g. olive oil and flaxseed oil).  In some cases eating foods for constipation may be insufficient to relieve constipation.  Consider using natural supplements to prevent and treat constipation.  Also, consult a naturopathic doctor to rule out other causes of constipation like SIBO or food sensitivities.

Author & Photographer: Matt Gowan, BSc, ND
All images are copyright of Matt Gowan ©2017 Reference

Disclaimer: This content is subject to change. The information is intended to inform and educate; it does not replace the medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. © 2017 NDAssist Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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