When you’re constipated, you want to do whatever you can to help pass the stool.
According to a study published in Gastroenterology, one in four Canadians experience occasional constipation
This means you’re not alone in trying to find a solution. Many foods that can help relieve the constipation. These foods are high in dietary fibers and help bulk up the stool to keep it moving along through your gut. But when dietary strategies aren’t working, you might want to consult with a doctor or registered dietitian.
What is constipation?
Constipation is the most frequent gastrointestinal complaint. It happens when stool isn’t moving through your gut because it is too hard or dry. This leads to a lot more straining, and time spent on the toilet. Once you finally pass the stools, you might still feel like the rectum hasn’t completely emptied.
Other signs and symptoms of constipation include:
- No bowel movements for three days
- Nausea or stomach pain
- Blood in the stool
Registered dietitians are qualified to provide dietary recommendations that prevent or treat constipation. Note that this is different from nutritionists, which in some jurisdiction like Ontario, is unregulated. If these strategies aren’t working, they may recommend over-the-counter laxatives including:
- Stimulant laxatives (ex. Lax-A Senna® *): Did you know that there are so many neurons in your gut that it is sometimes called a second brain? Just like caffeine gives the brain an energy boost, these laxatives help stimulate the gut muscles to move waste through the gut. For painful bouts of constipation, these pills work in as little as six hours. The key ingredients in these products are sennosides and bisacodyl.
- Osmotics (ex. Lax-A Day® *): These laxatives hydrate the colon. This makes it easier for the stool to move through when it has pushed forward by the gut muscles. The medicinal ingredient, polyethylene glycol, lubricates your gut but may take 2 to 4 days to produce a bowel movement.
- Bulk-forming laxatives (ex. Lax-A Fibre® *): Often sold as powders that are stirred into a glass of water, these products add more mass to the stool, making it softer and easier to pass. These can take up to three days to work and key ingredients include psyllium and inulin.
- Stool softeners: These laxatives help the stool absorb more water, making it softer. Rather than being hard and pellet-like, the stool becomes softer and squishier making it easier to expel. These may take one to two days to begin working. Check the label for docusate sodium and docusate calcium.
These products may not be right for you always read and follow the label.
High-fiber food are a great way to relieve constipation. Fibers are carbohydrates that can’t be digested by the body, so they help add bulk to the stool. In addition, foods that are high in water content help hydrate the gut and soften the stool to keep it moving along. If you are still having trouble with constipation after a few days, it might be best to contact your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Lax-A Day®, Lax-A Fibre® and Lax-A Senna® are registered trademarks owned by Norwell Consumer Healthcare Inc.
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- Rollet, M.; Bohn, T.; Vahid, F.; on behalf of the ORISCAV Working Group. “Association between Dietary Factors and Constipation in Adults Living in Luxembourg and Taking Part in the ORISCAV-LUX 2 Survey.” Nutrients (2022): 14, 122.
- Veloce D, Fisher M, O'connor C, Hartman B, Horne JR. The Ontario Public Does Not Understand the Difference Between Registered Dietitians and Unregulated "Nutritionists": Results from a Cross-Sectional Mixed Methods Study. Healthc Policy. 2020 Nov;16(2):111-127. doi: 10.12927/hcpol.2020.26349. PMID: 33337318; PMCID: PMC7710961
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, March 3). Over-the-counter laxatives for constipation: Use with caution. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 2, 2022, from