As seen in Prevention :

PENELOPE ROSE MORRISON

 

Remember chatting with your friends about how you hadn’t pooped all week? Of course you don’t, because that conversation never happened. Constipation isn’t the most comfortable of topics. But for most women, occasional constipation is a part of life.

Fortunately, what you eat goes a long way to relieving or preventing the unpleasant condition. According to William Chey, MD, a University of Michigan professor and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Gastroenterology, constipation is often the result of a fiber shortage. The average American eats 8 to 12 grams of fiber a day—not nearly enough, Chey says.

If you’re not getting enough fiber, be sure to increase your intake gradually to avoid gut troubles like bloating and gas, Chey says. Beyder recommends upping your fiber intake by 5 grams every 3 days until you reach the recommended amount. (Discover how restoring your good gut bacteria could help solve constipation and other hidden health issues.)

While fiber is paramount, there are lots of foods that aid (or ail) your constipation issues. Here are 10 foods to include in your diet—and 3 foods to avoid if you’re having issues.

1. Rhubarb : “Most people are not aware that if you eat a bunch of rhubarb, it makes you go to the bathroom,” Chey says. The senna and cascara compounds found in rhubarb can act as a natural laxative, he explains. Check out these 6 quick ideas for rhubarb.

2. Aloe : Like rhubarb, aloe contains gut-flushing senna and cascara. Pro tip: add aloe to your smoothie or salad to get your GI train rolling again.

3. Artichokes : The enzymes in your digestive system can’t break down fiber, which is why fiber helps you stay regular, Beyder explains. A cooked artichoke packs a whopping 10 grams of fiber. Research from the World Journal of Gastroenterology shows insoluble fiber—the kind in ‘chokes—has a bulking action that produces more consistent elimination. (Check out the easiest way to prepare an artichoke.)

4. Legumes : Lentils and black beans pack a hefty amount of fiber into small packages. A cooked cup of each yields 15 grams or more, according to resources from Mayo Clinic.

5. Peaches : You may still be able to pick up peaches at your local outdoor market. Chey says these and other “market fruits”—stuff you’d typically find at farmers’ markets, as opposed to bananas, kiwis, and tropical fruits—often contain sugars that are not well absorbed, and so help move waste through your system.

6. Nuts : Chey says nuts are a great source of—you guessed it—fiber. Nuts are also healthy sources of magnesium. That’s big, because a diet low in magnesium may contribute to constipation for those who also have a relatively low intake of dietary fiber, according to research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

7. Grapes : Just 10 grapes provide 2.6 grams of fiber, Beyder says. Popping these as an afternoon snack is an easy way to smooth out your regularity issues.

8. Apples : For those in climates where apple-picking season is in full-force, rejoice! Beyder says apples are a solid fiber source. A medium-sized apple contains 4.4 grams, according to the USDA.

9. Whole Grains : Oats, bran, barley, brown rice, and rye are all fiber champs. (Check out this easy guide to cooking whole grains.) Among whole grain breads, rye in particular relieves mild constipation, per a 2010 study from Finland. To spot foods with lots of whole grains, look for the Whole Grain Council’s stamp of approval.

10. Coffee : Caffeine is a stimulant that causes the smooth muscle cells that populate your GI tract to contract, Beyder explains. That’s why your first sip of coffee may send you scurrying to the restroom. But be careful: Caffeine can be mildly dehydrating. If you’re already constipated, drinking coffee could make your problem worse.

 

Foods To Avoid
For those already struggling with constipation, Beyder and Chey both recommend avoiding red meat. It’s high in iron, which can contribute to constipation. Calcium-containing foods—such as milk and cheese—can cause constipation for some, Chey says. And Beyder also recommends avoiding fried foods. “Proteins and fats stimulate release of gut hormones that slow down the gastrointestinal transit,” he says.