Constipation: it’s pretty awful, right? The bloating, the blockage, the pain… It’s not a fun experience for anyone. According to research, around 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 3 children in the UK experience constipation at any one time – but there’s one thing we all know: whatever goes in, must come out.
With this in mind, while medication and supplements are available to treat more extreme cases, one of the best ways to prevent painful or uncomfortable pooing in the first place is to make conscious decisions about what exactly we’re eating. Although it points out that a number of other factors can contribute to the condition (including medication side effects and anxiety and depression), the NHS says that “diet and lifestyle changes are usually recommended as the first treatment for constipation.”
“This includes gradually increasing your daily intake of fibre, making sure you drink plenty of fluids, and trying to get more exercise,” its website reads.
While this information is useful, which specific foods should we be eating to make going to the toilet a better experience? With the help of TikTok’s Dr. Karan Raj, we’ve got you (and your poo) covered.
Pears aren’t just delicious – they also contain a high content of sorbitol. “Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that acts as a natural laxative by drawing water into the colon, softening the stool, and making it easier to pass,” Dr. Karan explains. For more sorbitol-high fruits, try plums and prunes.
“Kiwis contain an enzyme called actinidin which increases gut motility,” Dr Karan says. “It also helps to break down proteins for improved digestion, and if you eat kiwis with the skin on you get 50% more fibre.”
Fibre is a key player when it comes to poo talk. “Dietary fibre increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it,” the Mayo Clinic website says. “A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation.”
“Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are all excellent sources of both soluble and insoluble fibre,” Dr Karan continues. To break it down, soluble fibre forms a gel-like substance when it absorbs water, thus softening the stool, while insoluble fibre adds the bulk that stimulates regular bowl motions.
Eating an apple a day might actually keep the doctor away as they’re rich in a probiotic fibre called pectin. “Your colon ferments pectin into substances that are beneficial for gut health,” Dr Karan explains. “Just one medium apple (including the skin) can give you around 5 grams of fibre – that’s almost 20% of your daily fibre value.”
As Dr. Karan explains, just half a cup of dried figs can provide around 8 grams of fibre – which is almost a third of your daily fibre requirement. “There’s also evidence suggesting that ficin, an enzyme found in figs, can increase gut motility.”
The likes of kombucha, kefir, specific yoghurts and fermented foods like sauerkraut contain bacteria that can improve gut health and soften our stools. “A 2017 study suggested that probiotics improved constipation by 10-40% compared with a placebo,” Medical News Today points out.
Pulses and legumes are known to be very high in fibre (plus, they’re cheap!)
This is one that everyone seems to forget: we need liquids to add moisture and soften our poo. “Dehydration is a common cause of constipation,” Medical News Today’s website says. “When a person becomes dehydrated, their intestines cannot add enough water to stools.”