If you're having fewer than three bowel movements per week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines that as constipation. This uncomfortable pause in your pooping schedule can be caused by gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome, dehydration, or a lack of physical movement (yes, quarantine constipation is real).
Whatever the reason, constipation is definitely a struggle. Thankfully, there are a number of foods that can help you poop when you start feeling backed up.
Pineapple contains a digestive enzyme called bromelain. "This can help break down proteins and aids in digestion," Amaral tells mindbodygreen. Consider making this pineapple tepache tonic, which is rich in natural probiotics to support a healthy gut.
"Similar to pineapple, papaya also contains a digestive enzyme to help break down proteins," Amaral says. The enzyme, called papain, was proved in a 2013 study to help manage digestive disorders like IBS, constipation, and bloating.
Celery has a high water content (about 90 to 99% according to the USDA National Nutrient Database) and is high in insoluble fiber. Along with staying hydrated, adding fruits and veggies with a lot of water can be helpful for digestion.
There are two types of fibers found in our foods, soluble and insoluble. "Soluble fibers add bulk to stool and are good for people with diarrhea," Amaral explains, "and insoluble fiber influences the GI tract and promotes motility." Avocado is rich in insoluble fiber, Amaral says, and contains 13.5 grams of total dietary fiber.
Since kefir is fermented, it's generally more tolerable than other dairy products, but it's also available in nondairy varieties. "Packed with live bacteria, it helps to colonize the gut and promote regularity," Amaral says. "Good bacteria aids in the fermentation of carbohydrates and other foods to promote health, especially gut health."
Dietary flaxseed is most commonly consumed in three ways: whole flaxseed, ground flaxseed, and flaxseed oil. Flax contains a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve blood pressure. Among the many health benefits of flax, it is a great source of fiber and has also been shown to reduce constipation.
While chia seeds might not add any flavor to your food, they do influence texture. When wet, they tend to become jelly-like in consistency, which is why they work well in chia puddings. Incorporating them can also increase the nutritional value of whatever you're eating. Just 2 tablespoons of chia seeds contains more than 9 grams of fiber, which helps promote digestion.
"Ginger can be taken as a supplement but also included in the diet," Singh says. "It can help with motility, bloating, constipation, and overall digestion." In Ayurveda, ginger is commonly used to help stimulate the “digestive fire,” which helps the body break down food for optimal absorption.
Whether it's caused by the acidic components, the temperature, the caffeine, or all factors combined, it's no secret that coffee can make you poop. Singh says that both waking up and eating stimulate the GI tract, so drinking a cup of coffee first thing in the morning might help you poop.
Kimchi is a popular Korean dish made of fermented cabbage and other vegetables. Fermented foods introduce healthy probiotic bacteria to the gut, and one study shows kimchi, specifically, promotes anti-constipation and colorectal health promotion.
Surely this isn't the first time you've heard about prunes or prune juice making you regular, but a reminder can't hurt. Functional medicine doctor Elizabeth Boham, M.D., M.S., R.D., always travels with organic prunes to prevent constipation. "They’re very high in fiber," she tells mindbodygreen. "Many people need only three to four prunes to have regular bowel movements."
Registered dietitian Lea Basch, M.S., R.D., says popcorn is a "satisfying and filling snack because it's a whole grain and contains fiber." Three cups of air-popped popcorn contains about 3.5 grams of fiber. Not only does it speed up your digestion, though; corn also provides "B vitamins, zinc, copper, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, manganese, and polyphenol antioxidants," Basch says.
OK, so water's not a food, but dehydration often leads to constipation. "Without enough water, you won't be able to expel the poop out," Amaral explains, so drinking plenty of fluids will help manage constipation.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.