Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Constipation

How can your diet help prevent and relieve constipation?

You can drink water and other fluids, such as fruit and vegetable juices and clear soups, to help the fiber in your diet work better. This change should make your stools more normal and regular. Ask your doctor about how much you should drink each day based on your health and activity level and where you live.

Depending on their age and sex, adults should get 22 to 34 grams of fiber a day.3 Older adults sometimes don’t get enough fiber in their diets, because they may lose interest in food. If you are older and have lost interest in food, talk with your doctor if

  • food doesn’t taste the same as it once did
  • you don’t feel hungry as often
  • you don’t want to cook
  • you have problems chewing or swallowing

Talk with your doctor to plan a diet with the right amount of fiber for you. Be sure to add fiber to your diet a little at a time so that your body gets used to the change.

Use this table as a tool to help replace less healthy foods with foods that have fiber.

Portions of food for constipation
Examples of Foods That Have Fiber 3
Beans, cereals, and breads
Fiber
½ cup of beans (navy, pinto, kidney, etc.), cooked 6.2–9.6 grams
½ cup of shredded wheat, ready-to-eat cereal 2.7-3.8 grams
⅓ cup of 100% bran, ready-to-eat cereal 9.1 grams
1 small oat bran muffin 3.0 grams
1 whole-wheat English muffin  4.4 grams
Fruits
1 small apple, with skin 3.6 grams
1 medium pear, with skin 5.5 grams
½ cup of raspberries 4.0 grams
½ cup of stewed prunes 3.8 grams
Vegetables
½ cup of winter squash, cooked 2.9 grams
1 medium sweet potato, baked in skin 3.8 grams
½ cup of green peas, cooked 3.5-4.4 grams
1 small potato, baked, with skin 3.0 grams
½ cup of mixed vegetables, cooked 4.0 grams
½ cup of broccoli, cooked  2.6-2.8 grams
½ cup of greens (spinach, collards, turnip greens), cooked 2.5-3.5 grams

What should you avoid eating if you’re constipated?

If you’re constipated, try not to eat too many foods with little or no fiber, such as

  • cheese
  • chips
  • fast food
  • ice cream
  • meat
  • prepared foods, such as some frozen meals and snack foods
  • processed foods, such as hot dogs or some microwavable dinners

References

November 2014
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