10 Foods That Help You Poop
A dreaded problem that plagues Americans each day is a seemingly personal one: irregular bowel movements. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 16 out of 100 adults deal with the symptoms of constipation regularly. This number doubles as you get older — for ages 60 and over, constipation is common in 33 out of 100 adults.
Caused when too much water is reabsorbed by the colon, constipation results in dry, hard stools that are difficult to pass. Constipation occurs for several reasons, from sedentary lifestyles to taking certain medications. However, switching to a high-fiber diet and upping your daily water intake can turn things around for the better.
The Importance of Fiber
Assessing your current diet is the first step to increasing your daily fiber intake. "Most whole foods that naturally contain fiber are great choices," explains Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-forward registered dietitian nutritionist in the New York City area. That's because, in addition to providing you with your daily fiber needs, whole foods — as opposed to fiber supplements — also contain vitamins, minerals, and numerous other nutrients that are beneficial to the body.
According to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average daily intake of dietary fiber for adults should be 22 grams to 34 grams. Men, on average, require more dietary fiber than women, or between 28 and 34 grams. Most Americans, however, do not get the necessary amount, averaging just 10 to 15 grams of fiber a day.
"You need both soluble and insoluble fiber for healthy digestion," she explains. "Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as whole grains and veggies, whereas soluble fiber is found in oat bran, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and some fruits and veggies." But, if your diet was previously not high in fiber, Gorin recommends slowly incorporating fiber-rich foods so your digestive tract can get better acclimated to the dietary change.
These 10 foods are worth adding to your daily meals to help stimulate digestion and keep your bowel movements regular.
One of the critical fluids required by the body — after all, water accounts for more than two-thirds of your body's weight — water plays an essential role in regular body functions. From keeping you hydrated and lubricating joints to regulating body temperature and ridding the body of waste, water is necessary for the human body to survive.
It's especially important in helping relieve constipation and keeping you regular. While your daily water intake depends on a number of factors including age, activity level, and gender, Gorin explains that a standard can be followed to help prevent constipation. "A good baseline amount is 15.5 cups daily for men and 11.5 cups daily for women, but this amount could change if you're exercising or sweating a lot," she states. "After all, poop is made up mostly of water!"
2. Flax Seeds
A rich source of polyunsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acid, and soluble fibers, flax seeds are tiny but mighty seeds that provide numerous health benefits, including relief from constipation. A tablespoon of ground flax seeds contains eight percent of the Daily Value (DV) of dietary fiber. It's also a source of iron, potassium, and magnesium, as well as B-vitamins and carotenoids like lutein.
However, for flaxseeds to be beneficial to your body and bowel movements, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that ground flax seeds are much better at providing nutrients than whole ones, which often pass undigested through the digestive tract.
Recipe to Try: Banana Date Flaxseed Bread
When it comes to your bowels, there's no better way to start the day than with a cup of oatmeal, which contains four grams or 16 percent of the Daily Value of dietary fiber. "Oatmeal is a food that contains both soluble and insoluble fiber," explains Gorin. "It will help bulk up the weight and size of your stool, making it easier to pass."
Studies have shown that soluble fibers may lower levels of the "bad" LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and also help reduce the risk of heart disease. And that's not all. Oats are a surprisingly great source of protein, offering 5.9 grams or 12 percent of the Daily Value of protein, and contain high amounts of iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Recipe to Try: No-Cook Overnight Oatmeal
Rich in minerals, specifically potassium and magnesium, that are necessary for muscle contraction and cellular signalling, fresh pears are also a great source of dietary fiber; a single, medium-sized pear offers as much as six grams of fiber. According to the University of Washington, pears are best consumed with their skins, as they contain several flavonoids that reduce blood glucose levels and the incidence of cardiovascular disease.
They are also high in pectin, a soluble fiber that offers prebiotic properties to the human gut. So no matter the variety, whether it's Anjou, Bartlett, or Bosc, adding pears to your diet can help get things rolling again.
Recipe to Try: Fresh Pear Cake
Known for being a good source of antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, a cup of caffeine-rich coffee not only helps fight inflammation and reduces the risk of cardiovascular and liver diseases, but it may also help you with your bowel movements. According to Gorin, about 30 percent of people find relief when drinking coffee. "It gets things moving, and some people even notice this effect from decaf coffee," she explains.
So, if you're suffering from irregular poops, brewing yourself a fresh cup of joe just might be the solution for you. However, moderation is key. A recent study found that while modest caffeine consumption resulted in a decrease in constipation and incidence of colorectal cancer, frequent use had the opposite effect. This is likely related to the dehydrating effects of a high-caffeine diet.
Recipe to Try: Iced Mochas
Almonds, pecans, and peanuts are all excellent sources of soluble fiber, which the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends eating for children that are dealing with constipation. Adults can benefit from this recommendation, too, as a 200-calorie serving of pecans offers 11 percent of the Daily Value of dietary fiber, as well as five percent of the Daily Value of protein and a slew of minerals and vitamins.
In addition to keeping you regular, adding nuts to your diet may help lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes, prevent weight gain, and increase your overall lifespan. Plus, they're also a great source of antioxidants like tocopherols, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Recipe to Try: Old-Fashioned Roasted Pecans
From a vegetarian pantry staple to a budget-friendly meal option, the versatility of legumes knows no bounds. Comprised of beans, peanuts, lentils, and peas, legumes are not only beneficial for their fiber and protein content but are also low in fat and have a low glycemic index, making them a suitable dietary addition for patients with diabetes.
And, when it comes to helping you poop regularly, beans are what's best. "Beans are another food that contains that winning combination of soluble and insoluble fiber," states Gorin. These fibers, she explains, are great for feeding gut bacteria, stimulating digestion, and soaking up water as it moves through the body, helping to bulk up your stool and prevent constipation.
Recipe to Try: Legume My Shepherd's Pie
Prunes, which are made by drying out plums, provide approximately seven grams of dietary fiber per 100-gram serving. They're also rich in minerals like magnesium, as well as vitamins A, E, and K, which help in everything from muscle contraction and blood clotting to boosting immunity and vision. Researchers of a February 2019 study published in Clinical Nutrition, found that prunes help maintain healthy bowel functions, especially for people with low-fiber diets and infrequent stool habits.
"Prune juice makes an especially good choice for pregnant women suffering from constipation — who may not have much of an appetite," explains Gorin. Sorbitol, which is a sugar alcohol typically found in diabetes-friendly sweeteners, naturally occurs in prunes, which she says, is what's responsible for stimulating your bowels. "They help to stimulate digestion by helping to move water into the large intestine."
Recipe to Try: Prune Filling
9. Whole Grains
Switching from refined grains like white rice to whole ones, such as brown rice, is one of the best ways to help you poop more frequently. The United States Department of Agriculture explains that adding whole grains to your diet can help prevent the occurrence of certain chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. However, it's much better to substitute whole grains for refined ones in your diet — the official recommendation is to use whole grains for half of your daily grain requirement — rather than adding them on.
Whole grains like whole-wheat pasta, barley, and whole-grain breads are not only high in dietary fiber but are also a good source of B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate, as well as minerals like selenium and iron that help develop the body's immune system and muscles.
Recipe to Try: Lemon-Basil Quinoa Salad
10. Fermented Beverages
Foods naturally rich in probiotics, such as kombucha and kefir, host helpful bacteria that help improve gut health and the process of digestion, making it easier to pass stool. Kefir, a fermented milk beverage, contains both bacterial and fungal species and may help restore the balance of bacterial cultures in the digestive tract.
"There are many causes of constipation," explains Gorin. "Not eating enough fiber and not drinking enough water are some of the most common causes. However, taking certain medications (such as Prozac or opioids)," and even antibiotics can lead to problems in digestion. Recent studies have shown that probiotics such as kefir can help soften stools, making them easier to pass.
Recipe to Try: Breakfast Fruit Smoothie with Kefir