Are you feeling a little clogged up? You may be tempted to search for solutions in your medicine cabinet, but there are better, more natural ways to relieve your constipation.
All of these common foods act as natural laxatives:
1. Water. Plain old water is one of the best ways to soften your stool and get things moving again. Aim to drink at least eight cups of water a day, make it a regular habit and see just how "regular" your life can become.
2. Coconut water. If plain water is too bland, try sipping coconut water. It will help keep you hydrated like water, but in larger doses, it will have a laxative effect. In fact, there's a fine line with this option that may push you back to regular water: One of coconut water's biggest benefits is that it's rich in electrolytes including potassium, says WebMD. In large doses, it can push potassium levels in the blood too high.
3. Coffee. That morning cup of java can do more than just perk you up. It can help perk up your digestive system, too. Drink a cup in the morning but don't go overboard or you might get things moving a little too quickly. Interestingly, it's not the caffeine that's getting things rolling, researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found. Coffee stimulates the muscles that make you want to go, but it also affects the gut microbiome in ways we don't completely understand yet, according to a study released at a May conference. Initial tests in rats show that coffee suppresses bacteria.
4. Chia and flaxseeds. Seeds from both chia and flax contain fiber that can help with digestion. Drink plenty of water when consuming them to help move things along.
5. Apples or apple cider vinegar. The pectin in apples can help to stimulate your bowels. Try adding one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water to reap the benefits, but there's not much scientific research to back that up. Your better bet is to eat a whole apple, which adds constipation-relieving fiber to your diet and will keep your system happy.
6. Aloe vera. You know that aloe vera is good for your skin, but did you also know that it contains compounds called anthraquinones that act as a natural laxative? Add a few drops of aloe vera gel to your water or look for aloe vera juice at your local health food store.
7. Leafy greens. Leafy greens, such as kale, collards and spinach contain magnesium, a mineral that can help naturally soften the stool.
8. Lemon. The citric acid in real lemon juice helps to stimulate the gut and cleanse the intestines. Add a few teaspoons to a glass of water to get some relief.
9. Baking soda. You know how baking soda can clean a counter or unclog a drain? It can work in the same way on the gunk in your gut. Add a teaspoon to a cup of warm water and drink quickly to get the best results.
10. Prunes. Prune juice has its reputation for good reason. Drink one glass a day to help relieve and prevent constipation.
Just as some foods act as natural laxatives, others can work to make your constipation worse and you may want to avoid them until you get some relief. Cut back on dairy, red meat, processed foods, refined sugars and fried foods until your system is back on track.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published in January 2016.