How to Avoid

6 Practical Steps

While occasional constipation is quite common — about 80% of people experience it at some point in their lives — wouldn’t it be nice to skip the bloating and discomfort? Here are six ways to avoid constipation. 

The information provided on this site is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.

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Get More Fiber

A crucial part of healthy eating is maintaining a diet with plenty of fiber. Certain types of fiber work in our gut to keep stool soft enough to pass efficiently, without pain or strain:

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Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber can help prevent constipation by increasing the bulk or weight of the stool and passing it more quickly. While wheat bran is the food most studied for preventing constipation, other sources of insoluble fiber include vegetables, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa and whole grain breads and cereals.

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Soluble Fiber

Another common type of fiber is soluble fiber, which can be found in beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds, fruits with skin, psyllium (ispaghula husk), dried fruits and some vegetables. Soluble fiber attracts water in the intestine, turning it into a gel and slowing the passage of stool through the gut.

It is best to include both insoluble and soluble fiber as part of a healthy diet to help maintain stool consistency, regularity and overall gut function.

Can a Fiber Supplement Help Me Avoid Constipation?

What are the Benefits of Fiber?

Taking a fiber supplement like psyllium or inulin can help increase your daily fiber intake. These supplements resist digestion to remain intact in the gut and increase water content of the stool to soften or bulk up stools.

When making changes to fiber intake via food or supplements, do it gradually to let your body adjust at a comfortable pace. Increase water intake as well to ensure proper hydration.

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Stay Hydrated

There’s more to hydration than chugging a gallon of water every day! These practical tips can help you get enough fluids — and keep constipation at bay:

  • Sip water or other beverages made mostly of water throughout the day.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol, as it dehydrates the body.
  • Eat water-rich foods like melons, berries and fresh vegetables.
  • When you exercise, be conscious of replacing the water you lose through sweat.
  • Watch out for classic signs of dehydration, like dry mouth, dark urine, headaches and cramping.
  • Know how much fluid you should be getting every day: Men should aim for 15 eight-ounce cups of fluid throughout the day, and women should try to get 11 cups.
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Check Your Menu

There’s a time and a place for all foods, but fresh, whole foods are the foundation of a healthy diet. Focus on eating enough plants (including whole grains, fruits and vegetables), and cut down on high-fat, greasy or processed foods. These small changes can go a long way toward getting enough fiber and fluids from your foods.

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Learn Proper Toileting Posture

Believe it or not, how you sit on the toilet can help you go more easily! Try using a footstool to elevate your knees above your hips. Then lean forward with your hands resting on your thighs. If your position is similar to the famous statue “The Thinker,” you’re doing it right.

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Assess Your Medicine Cabinet

Some medications, particularly prescription drugs, can trigger constipation. Though you may have to stay on the medication, it’s helpful to know the source of your constipation so you can eliminate other factors and focus on relieving the symptoms.

Talk to your doctor if you think a medication you’re currently taking is contributing to your constipation symptoms.

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Balance Activity and Rest

Support healthy digestion by balancing physical activity and rest:

  • Physical activity can help reduce stress and help manage constipation.
  • Healthy sleep habits can reduce stress, regulate your appetite and make it easier to be active during the day.
  • Simply responding to the urge to have a bowel movement may make it easier to go over time. Listen to your body and make sure it gets the attention it needs on a regular schedule.

When Should I Talk to My Doctor about Constipation?

Normal frequency is different for everyone. Some people go as often as 3 times per day or as little as 3 times per week—all completely normal as long as the frequency is part of your regular routine.

However, if you are having any concerns about the frequency of your bowel movements or about a sudden change in your bowel movements, speak with your doctor.

Doctor taking notes during appointment
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    3. Bliss DZ et al. In vitro degradation and fermentation of three dietary fiber sources by human colonic bacteria. J Agric Food Chem. 2013;61:4614-21. doi: 10.1021/jf3054017. Accessed March 5, 2023.

    4. 4. McRorie J. Evidence-based approach to fiber supplements and clinically meaningful health benefits, part 2. Nutr Today. 2015;50:90-97. doi: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000089. Accessed March 5, 2023.

    5. McRorie JW et al. Understanding the physics of functional fibers in the gastrointestinal tract: an evidence-based approach to resolving enduring misconceptions about insoluble and soluble fiber. Dig Dis Sci. 2016;61:3140-3146. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.09.021. Accessed March 5, 2023.

    6. Tomlin J, Read N. The relation between bacterial degradation of viscous polysaccharides and stool output in human beings. Br J Nutr. 1988;60:467-475. doi: 10.1079/bjn19880119. Accessed March 5, 2023.

    7. Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water et al. Chapter 4: Water. In: Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press; 2005. Available from:

    8. Watson AW et al. Changes in stool frequency following chicory inulin consumption, and effects on stool consistency, quality of life and composition of gut microbiota. Food Hydrocoll. 2019;96: 688-698. doi: 10.1016/j.foodhyd.2019.06.006. Accessed March 7, 2023.