If you're feeling a little backed up, know that constipation is actually quite common. A January 2020 study in Gastroenterology reports constipation affects 15 percent of the world population.
While knowing you're not alone won't provide you with the relief you're looking for, there is one simple thing you can do to help prevent and treat constipation: Drink adequate amounts of liquids.
Just staying hydrated with water and other fluids can help get things going and prevent you from getting backed up in the first place. In fact, an April 2013 analysis in the American Journal of Gastroenterology assessed the diets and stool consistency of more than 9,000 adults and found not getting enough liquids was a primary factor associated with constipation — more so than fiber intake.
So, what's considered "adequate fluids" to stay hydrated? There's no hard and fast rule but, in general, women need about 12 cups of water each day and men, about 16 cups. Food provides us with about 20 percent of our fluid needs for the day, which means we need to be drinking the rest.
Here are six drinks to help constipation issues — they all work better than others when it comes to getting things moving again.
Caffeinated coffee may increase the amount of acid your stomach produces as well as boost colon movements, which can lead to a laxative effect, per a June 2017 review in the World Journal of Gastroenterology.
But decaffeinated coffee might have a similar effect, as explained in this older, small study published in April 1990 in the journal Gut.
2. Water With Chia Seeds
OK, water is an obvious choice and it should be your first solution if you're feeling backed up but water with chia seeds is a double-whammy that works.
"Many of us are dehydrated when we wake up, so we should all start our mornings with a glass of water," Sauceda shares. "You can double-up the pooping effect by adding a teaspoon of chia seeds and then letting the seeds soak for a few minutes. Most of us don't eat enough fiber and chia seeds are packed full of fiber."
It's the type of fiber found in chia seeds that make them so effective. About 87 percent of the fiber found in the tiny seeds is insoluble, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics — and we know insoluble fiber helps to relieve constipation.
3. Prune Juice
Prunes have been a long-time go-to for staying regular and it's because they're so effective. This goes for prune juice, too.
"Prunes are notorious for helping us poop," shares Sauceda. "Prunes or prune juice contain sorbitol, which our body doesn't digest well. This sugar pulls water into our gut, making us poop more easily."
How much prune juice do you need to drink? A serving of juice is half a cup. Start there for a few days and adjust as needed.
When done right, smoothies can be the (almost) do-it-all drink. Unlike juice, they retain the fiber from added fruits and veggies (juices are stripped of all fiber). Dietary fiber is so good for our health, especially our digestive health.
Plus, there are specific components found in common smoothie ingredients that can help keep you regular, or "clean you out," such as fiber and digestive enzymes.
Try The Clean Sweep Smoothie, curated by IBS expert and dietitian Kate Scarlata, RDN.
This one can go either way because kefir is a dairy product and dairy can back some people up. But, kefir is also a rich source of probiotics and early research suggests they can help get your gut moving.
After receiving a daily kefir beverage for four weeks, stool frequency and consistency were increased and laxative use decreased compared to baseline in a small group of people who live with chronic constipation, per a July 2019 clinical study in the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology.
Magnesium isn't a drink you can buy off the shelves at your local supermarket but you can add it to your beverages. "Magnesium can cause looser bowel movements and/or help with constipation," explains Sauceda.
"Adding magnesium powder to your water could be helpful. Keep in mind, if you have to rely on magnesium (or anything for that matter) to poop that's a problem you'd want to see a doctor about."
Magnesium is found in many laxatives and it's possible to take in too much of this mineral, as explained by the National Institutes of Health. If you're considering magnesium powder, consult with your doctor or dietitian first.
- Gastroenterology: "Mechanisms, Evaluation, and Management of Chronic Constipation"
- American Journal of Gastroenterology: "Association of Low Dietary Intake of Fiber and Liquids with Constipation: Evidence from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)"
- Gut: "Effect of Coffee on Distal Colon Function."
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Health Benefits of Chia — Learn About Its History, Nutrient Composition, and Current Research Regarding Its Health Benefits"
- Kate Scarlata: "The Clean Sweep Smoothie Recipe"
- Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology: "Effects of a Kefir Supplement on Symptoms, Colonic Transit, and Bowel Satisfaction Score in Patients With Chronic Constipation: A Pilot Study"
- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Diet in irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!"