read label
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Count Your Fiber

You probably know fiber helps relieve constipation. And if you’re like most Americans, you probably don’t get enough. Adults should eat 20-35 grams a day, and tracking your fiber is the best way to hit your target. Look for grams of fiber on food labels. Set yourself up for success and reach for whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread.

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restroom sign
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Don’t Hold It

It’s more comfortable to poop in the privacy of your home. That can be a problem if you make a habit of holding it in when you’re out. When you ignore the need to move your bowels, those signals weaken over time. The last thing you need when you’re constipated is to poop even less often. So hit the bathroom whenever and wherever the urge hits.

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eating apple
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Pick High-Fiber Fruits

Fresh fruits pack lots of healthy nutrients. But fiber isn’t always one of them. A cup of cantaloupe, for example, has very little of the rough stuff. Instead, go with these five fiber powerhouses:

  • Dried figs (1 cup): 14.6 grams
  • Prunes (1 cup): 12.4 grams
  • Asian pear (large): 9.9 grams
  • Raspberries (1 cup): 8 grams
  • Apple (large): 5.4 grams
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water glass
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Drink Up

When your body lacks enough water to push your digested food forward, it leaves your stools hard and dry. No wonder dehydration can cause constipation or make it worse. Drinking lots of fluids won’t always cure your constipation, but it does help many people. If you’re not a big fan of water, ask your doctor what other liquids you can try.

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red meat
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Troublesome Foods

Some foods can make you more likely to get stopped up. The most common culprits are dairy products, sugary treats, and high-fat meats. So go easy on marbled steaks and sausages, cheese, ice cream, cakes, cookies, and frozen or packaged meals, which tend to lack much fiber.

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vegetables for constipation
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Rethink Your Veggies

Some vegetables are high in vitamins but low in fiber. Spinach has less than 1 gram per cup of raw leaves. These picks pack much more:

  • Broccoli (1 cup, cooked): 5.2 grams
  • Carrots (1 cup, cooked from frozen): 4.8 grams
  • Baked potato with skin: 4.6 grams
  • Peas (1/2 cup, cooked from frozen): 4.4 grams
  • Sun-dried tomatoes (1/2 cup): 3.3 grams
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poop foot stool
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Put Your Feet Up

If you haven’t tried pooping with your feet on a stepstool -- or a special toilet stool -- give it a shot. It shifts your posture to make it easier to eliminate. Some expertsrecommend it for older adults who have long-term constipation. A small study of young, healthy adults found that a toilet stool eased straining and emptied the bowels more completely.

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almonds
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Make Smart Swaps

Loading up on fiber doesn’t have to be unappetizing. A few switches to your habits can make a big difference. Snack on a handful of almonds (3.3 grams of fiber) instead of crackers (0.6 grams). Sprinkle a cup of beans (around 13 grams of fiber) instead of a cup of diced cheese (0 grams) to pasta salads.

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meditation
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Curb Your Stress

This is a lesser known cause of constipation. Stress can slow down how quickly food moves through your bowel. Try meditation, deep breathing, or relaxation with mental imagery for proven ways to chill out.

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laxatives
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Laxatives: Good or Bad?

They can get backed-up bowels moving again quickly. So you may reach for laxatives for your chronic constipation. But using them too often could train your body to depend on them for bowel movements. Plus, some laxatives interfere with some medications. Ask your doctor if laxatives are a good option for you.

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workout
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Move It

Lack of physical activity can lead to constipation, especially if you’re a senior. Several studies suggest exercise may help you get more regular if you’re already constipated, while being a couch potato makes you more likely to get it. Given all the other benefits of working out, this is one of the best habits you can adopt.

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awake at night concecpt
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Bowel Training

Did you know that you may be able to train yourself to poop at the same time every day? Aim to do it about 20-30 minutes after mealtime. That’s when wave-like motions start in your intestines to push food and waste through. For many, just this regular routine may lead to relief. Still stuck? Add something to stimulate your bowels, like sipping warm liquids in the morning.

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doctor consult
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When to Call a Doctor

Even if you can manage your constant constipation, sometimes it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Among other things, they can rule out other health issues. So call your doctor if your constipation:

  • Lasts more than 3 weeks
  • Seems severe
  • Comes with weight loss, a fever, weakness, or other health concerns
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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/11/2019 Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 11, 2019

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SOURCES:

Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Constipation.”

UpToDate: “Constipation in Adults (Beyond the Basics).”

U.S. Department of Agriculture: “What We Eat in America, NHANES 2001-2002.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Stress: 10 Ways to Ease Stress,” “Constipation.” 

American Family Physician: "Management of Constipation in Older Adults.”

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: "Implementation of a Defecation Posture Modification Device.”

Medicine: “Chronic Constipation.”

Mayo Clinic: “Over-the-counter laxatives for constipation: Use with caution.”

International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: “Bowel Retraining.”

American Psychological Association: “Stress effects on the body.”

Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 11, 2019

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.