When you're struggling to go number two, these easily accessible foods that help you poop could help your gut get back on track.
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kiwis, pears, apple, prunes and apricot inside circles with toilet and toilet paper background

At one point or another, you've probably spent a ridiculous amount of time perched on the porcelain throne, scrolling through Instagram while waiting for a number two to slip out of your rear. But no matter how hard you tried, the toilet remained empty. What's worse, this failure-to-poo situation may have occurred multiple days in a row. So besides straining to drop a deuce (a big no-no), what's a backed-up person supposed to do?

Thankfully, a few dietary changes could help get your poos back on track. Here, registered dietitians share the dietary substances that may help regulate your bowel movements and ease constipation, as well as the best foods that help you poop.

What Causes Constipation?

ICYDK, constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements per week, and the poos you do have may be hard, dry, lumpy, or difficult to pass, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This backed-up state can be brought on by certain medications and dietary supplements, pelvic floor disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, intestinal blockages, nutrition problems, and even simple changes to your daily routine, according to the NIH. (Related: What the Types of Poop You Pass Can Tell You About Your Digestive Health)

You'll want to chat with your doctor about your constipation if you're also experiencing symptoms such as bleeding from the rectum, constant abdominal pain, vomiting, and fever, among others, per the NIH. But most often, constipation can be remedied at home, and, by and large, the first line of treatment is switching up your diet and focusing on a few key substances, says Emily Haller, M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian nutritionist at the University of Michigan Health's Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

What to Look for In Foods That Help You Poop

If you're experiencing mild symptoms and want to first try at-home remedies to relieve your constipation, your best bet is to eat more plant foods, says Haller. Specifically, you'll want to focus on foods that are rich in the following elements. 

Fiber

Simply put, fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in plant foods, and it passes through your digestive system relatively intact, says Haller. Under the fiber umbrella is two specific types of fiber that have different functions and help to ease constipation in different ways, she adds. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like material, which helps to create a soft, easier-to-pass stool, says Haller. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water and bulks up your stool. "It acts like a rake coming through the GI tract, scraping through and collecting everything and putting it together to form stool in the colon," adds Lauren Cornell, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian who specializes in digestive health in Los Angeles. 

The easiest way to tell if a food is rich in soluble or insoluble fiber is to place it in a glass of water, says Cornell. For example, if you were to put a spoonful of chia seeds in one glass and broccoli florets in the other, then let them sit in the water for a few hours, the chia seeds (which are packed with soluble fiber) would develop a gel-like, viscous consistency, while the broccoli (which is filled with insoluble fiber) would look exactly the same, she explains. 

Though they have different roles within your gut, it's important to score both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber to help keep your number two's regular, says Haller. In general, people following 2,000-calorie diets should aim to consume 28 grams of fiber daily, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Still, you don't need to meticulously track how much of each nutrient you're nabbing in a particular food. Simply eating a balanced diet that's rich in a variety of plant-based foods, including fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains, will ensure you're getting your fill of both soluble and insoluble fiber, says Cornell. 

In some cases, it's best to chat with your doctor or a registered dietitian before increasing your fiber intake in hopes of easing constipation. This goes for people who have pelvic floor dyssynergia, a condition in which the pelvic floor muscles become uncoordinated, making it difficult to have a bowel movement, says Haller. "If they can't get [the stool] out, high-fiber diets almost always make them feel worse," she explains. On the same token, people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome should speak with their healthcare provider before amping up their fiber intake, as certain high fiber foods (think: bran) can increase gas production and bloat, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders

Sorbitol

While fiber is the main element to look for when choosing foods that help you poop, it's not the only beneficial component, says Haller. Sorbitol, a sugar alcohol naturally found in certain fruits, can act as a laxative, she adds. "It's poorly absorbed and can pull water into the gut, and that can speed things up [in your GI tract] and lead to higher stool water content — and that's what helps with constipation," she explains.

What to Keep In Mind When Eating Foods That Help You Poop

Make Gradual Dietary Changes

When you're ready to incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet, it's typically best to go low and slow, says Haller. "If you go from a low-fiber diet to a high-fiber diet in a day or two, generally those people are going to get pretty gassy, bloated, and uncomfortable, which, if you're experiencing constipation, you're already having those symptoms," she explains. If you need visuals to ensure you're gradually increasing your fiber intake, Cornell suggests keeping a food log for a few days before making any dietary changes in order to get a baseline of your fiber intake. Then, you can slowly increase your consumption from there, she says. 

Stay Hydrated

When increasing your consumption of fiber-rich foods, you'll want to ensure you're staying on top of your hydration levels. Remember: Soluble fiber absorbs water, and that fluid is what makes your stool softer and easier to pass, says Haller. Without maintaining optimal fluid intake levels while noshing on plenty of fiber-packed foods, your constipation may worsen or you may experience uncomfy side effects such as bloating, adds Cornell. That said, "an excessive amount of water or fluids isn't necessary — really the recommendation and evidence shows you need to avoid dehydration when consuming more fiber," says Haller. (Related: How Much Water Do You Actually Need to Drink Per Day?)

Fluid recommendations all depend on your activity levels, your location's climate, and your metabolism, but in general, women are recommended to consume 91 ounces of fluid daily, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You can also take a peek at your pee to determine if you should be sipping on more H2O: Urine that's darker than a pale yellow color or has a strong odor could be a sign of mild dehydration, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The Best Foods That Help You Poop

Thankfully, attempting to regulate your number two's via dietary changes doesn't come with much, if any, risk, says Haller. "Gradually increasing your fiber intake from foods and making sure you're drinking adequate water is a very safe place to start," she adds. "There aren't any major risks if you're just trying to eat more plant foods and see if it helps you poop better." Not to mention, these foods will provide you with the macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals you need to stay healthy and feel your best, says Haller. If you mix these foods that help you poop into your diet and don't see an improvement in your symptoms, however, reach out to your doctor for an individualized treatment program.

Prunes

Thanks to the fruit's high sorbitol content and 11 grams of fiber per cup, prunes can be effective at relieving constipation, says Haller. And research backs this up: A systematic review found that people with constipation who consumed 100 grams of prunes daily for three weeks had more complete, spontaneous bowel movements per week and improved stool consistency. Similarly, eating 100 grams of pitted prunes daily for four weeks has been shown to relieve symptoms in 67 percent of people with chronic constipation, according to a small University of Michigan study. Try incorporating them into baked goods, blending them into smoothies, or using them to create homemade granola bars.

Apples

In addition to sorbitol, apples are loaded with fiber, packing nearly 5 grams per medium fruit, according to the USDA. Consequently, it may help prevent and relieve constipation, says Haller. If you're not in the mood to eat the fruit as-is, consider slicing it up and dipping it into almond butter, dicing it and mixing it into your oatmeal, or using chunks as a crunchy salad topping.

Stone Fruits

Just like prunes, the stone fruits apricots, peaches, cherries, and mangoes are rich in laxative-like sorbitol, says Haller. Plus, they each provide notable amounts of fiber per cup, amounting to roughly 3 grams for apricots, cherries, and mangoes, as well as 2 grams for peaches, according to the USDA. It's not just hypothetical, either: A 2018 study conducted by Texas A&M University found that consuming 300 grams of mango (nearly two cups) daily for four weeks significantly improved stool frequency, consistency, and shape in folks with chronic constipation. To get your fill of these foods that help you poop, add fruit chunks to your breakfast parfait, mix cubes into a fruit salad, use slices as a cheeseboard fixing, or nosh on them straight-up.

Kiwifruit

"There are several studies now showing that consuming two green kiwifruits daily can be an effective method for improving laxation," says Haller. Specifically, green kiwifruit has been found to significantly increase defecation frequency, stool volume, and ease of defecation in adult clinical studies, according to research published in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition (PGHN). These BM-improving effects may be due to the 2 grams of fiber found in each fruit, as well as the presence of actinidine, an enzyme that may stimulate movement in the upper GI tract, according to the PGHN research. Consider adding the fruit to smoothies, salsas, salads, or warm cereals.

Pears

Once again, you can thank a mixture of sorbitol and fiber (specifically, 4 grams per cup) for giving pears their ability to potentially help you poop. To get your fill, pair slices with cheese and nuts, dip them into yogurt or cottage cheese or sautée them with warm spices and a bit of brown sugar for a sweet tooth-satisfying dessert.

Whole Grains

Whole grains such as oats, quinoa, and barley are all rich sources of fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic, containing 4 grams, 6 grams, and 16 grams of the nutrient per uncooked half-cup, respectively. To keep your bowel movements on schedule, nosh on a bowl of overnight oats for breakfast, a grain bowl featuring quinoa for lunch, and peppers or sweet potatoes stuffed with barley for dinner.

Beans and Legumes

Along with muscle-building protein, beans and legumes offer plenty of fiber, amounting to nearly 8 grams for black beans, 7 grams for chickpeas, and 6 grams for soybeans per half-cup. To score the nutrient's digestive perks while satisfying your tastebuds, roast the beans in powerful spices to create a flavorful taco filling, add them to pasta dishes, or use them as salad toppings.

Chia Seeds

Chia seeds may be tiny, but they pack a mighty 10 grams of fiber per ounce, making them a concentrated source of the gut-friendly nutrient, says Haller. Sprinkle them on top of oatmeal or yogurt, use them to top off your peanut butter and banana toast, or mix them into your go-to smoothie, suggests Haller.