High Fiber Foods for Constipation

As a Registered Dietitian who specializes in digestive health, many of my clients complain about constipation despite adding high fiber foods for constipation into their diet. Common advice shared by doctors, advertisements, and just about anyone you talk to goes like this: “Eat more vegetables and drink more water.” 

What most people don’t know is that there are different forms of high fiber foods for constipation that work better than others. This means the advice about eating more vegetables likely won’t improve your constipation. In fact, it could make it worse. 

Constipation 101

A gut health issue people of all ages experience is constipation. Constipation is characterized in the following ways:

  • Lack of a daily bowel movement
  • Bowel movements feel incomplete or difficult to pass
  • Stool is dry, hard, or looks like little rabbit pellets. 

Irregular bowel movements can cause stomach discomfort, bloating, and gas. Various factors contribute to constipation, including lifestyle choices, hydration levels, medications, underlying health conditions, and a diet that lacks high fiber foods.

The Role of High Fiber Foods for Constipation

Fiber Defined

Generally speaking, fiber is the indigestible part of a plant. Fiber is sometimes referred to as roughage because it’s the part of the plant food that isn’t completely digested as it passes through the digestive tract. 

Fiber maintains digestive health and keeps things moving through your gut. It helps prevent and alleviate constipation as well. 

Dietary fiber found in plant-based foods is classified into two types: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble Fiber

This type of fiber dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It helps soften stool, making it easier to pass through your intestines.

Imagine adding oats to a bowl and covering them with water. If you leave the oats to soak, they absorb the water and the texture softens. This is exactly how soluble fiber foods work in your digestive tract to improve constipation.

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber adds bulk to stool, speeding up its movement through the digestive system. Now imagine adding a piece of broccoli to a bowl of water to soak. When you return an hour later, the look and texture of the broccoli will be about the same as before you placed it in the water. 

While insoluble fiber provides energy to the protective bacteria in your gut, it doesn’t absorb fluid like soluble fiber foods. Insoluble fiber is not as effective at decreasing constipation as soluble fiber.

Finally, including a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber can help reduce constipation and feed your beneficial gut bacteria. 

Top High Fiber Foods for Constipation

High fiber foods for constipation

Save this high fiber foods for constipation list to include a variety of fiber in your diet on a daily basis. This is not an exhaustive list and other sources of legumes, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds should be included in your diet as well. 

Legumes

Beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, and soy beans chickpeas, are high in soluble fiber. They are versatile and can be incorporated into various dishes, such as soups, salads, and stews.

Whole Grains

Brown rice, quinoa, farro, oats, and whole-grain bread are also high in soluble fiber. Choose whole grain options whenever possible to promote more regular bowel movements. 

Fruits

Additionally, berries, apples, pears, oranges, and prunes are known for their high fiber content. Fruit contains natural sugars and sorbitol (a type of fermentable carbohydrate), which can have a mild laxative effect.

Vegetables

Dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and carrots are excellent sources of fiber. They add bulk to the stool and facilitate smoother bowel movements. These foods are fuel for the protective bacteria in your microbiome as well. 

Nuts

Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews contain a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber. Use these foods to top salads, trailmix, or grab a handful for a snack when you need one.

Seeds

Finally, chia seeds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and psyllium husk are packed with soluble fiber. Add these foods to yogurt bowls, oatmeal, and smoothies to increase total fiber intake.

Bonus tip: Chia, ground flax, and psyllium can be used as a fiber supplement. Include up to two tablespoons per day if you struggle with constipation. Gradually increase the serving size to avoid stomach discomfort. 

Tips for Incorporating High Fiber Foods for Constipation

Gradually Increase High Fiber Foods for constipation

Introduce high fiber foods for constipation gradually into your diet to allow your digestive system to adjust. A sudden increase in fiber intake may cause bloating, gas, and stomach discomfort.

Furthermore, fiber needs and fiber tolerance differ from person to person. A general fiber recommendation is 25 grams minimum per day for women and 40 grams per day minimum for men. 

Remember to Hydrate

Ensure adequate fluid intake when adding more high fiber foods for constipation. Fiber absorbs water, so drinking plenty of water helps soften stool and aids in its movement through the intestines.

Physical Activity

Engage in regular exercise to stimulate bowel function and improve overall digestive health. Even movement like gentle walking can get things moving and reduce constipation. 

Eat Regular Meals Throughout the Day

Eat every 3-4 hours and include high fiber foods at each meal and snack to reach your fiber goals and promote regular bowel movements.One trick is to use the “5 grams per meal” rule. Aim to include at least 5 grams of fiber at every meal and snack to stay on track and reach your goal by the end of the day.

Additionally, when you serve yourself a meal, start with the fiber. Fill half your plate with cooked or raw vegetables and choose whole grains for a fiber boost. 

Choose whole fruit over fruit juice as fruit juice contains zero fiber content.

Final Thoughts on High Fiber Foods for Constipation

Incorporate a variety of fiber-rich foods into your daily diet, along with proper hydration and regular movement to avoid or reduce constipation. Not only will these foods help you have a daily bowel movement, but they contribute to optimal digestive function as well. 

Next, always consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice, especially if constipation persists or is accompanied by other concerning symptoms.

In conclusion, nutrition is personal. If you need more support to reach your daily fiber needs, get help from a Registered Dietitian who specializes in gut health. 

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