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5 Foods that Act as a Mild Laxative

Published on , Last Updated on June 14, 2013

Rye Bread is a mild laxative

No one enjoys being constipated. You feel solid, heavy, and uncomfortable, and even if you are able to go, it never quite feels like you finish. Over-the-counter laxatives can help with this problem, but sometimes their effects are just too strong, or people abuse them and cause other problems, such as renal failure. [1]

However, you don’t have to take a pill if you don’t want to. Lifestyle choices like exercising regularly and a healthy diet can improve your digestion and the functioning of your bowels. Here are just a few of the best natural food options that you can add to your diet to get a mild laxative effect.

1. Prune Juice

Most people know about the laxative effects of prunes and prune juice. In fact, they had become so closely associated with bathroom functions that in 2000 they got a “makeover” as the FDA decided to allow prune producers to change their name to “dried plums” in an effort to distance the fruit from the toilet. But what you may not know about prunes and prune juice is that clinical trials have shown them to be more effective than harsh laxatives, such as psyllium, while still remaining safe. [2]

2. Raw Honey

You probably wouldn’t think of this sticky, slow moving nectar as particularly good at loosening stools, but studies have shown otherwise. Why? Because raw honey has so much more fructose than glucose that it can’t be absorbed correctly by our bodies. In a 1995 study, researchers tested 20 people and found that the more honey they ingested, the more likely they were to experience a mild laxative effect. [3]

3. Bran Cereals

Bran is another one that most of us are familiar with, which may help to explain some of its more interesting effects. Not only do those who increase their consumption of wheat bran see their bowel functions improve, researchers have recorded that they felt better too – more alert and energetic, less stressed, and less fat. It’s hard to say whether this effect is a natural result of consuming more fiber or a psychological improvement brought on by what we’ve been taught about the benefits of wheat bran, but if it works, it works! [4]

4. Rye Bread

Who needs over-the-counter laxatives or white wheat bread? Well, that probably depends upon how you feel about rye bread. In a 2010 study where researchers put it in a head-to-head battle with both of those more well-known constipation treatments, rye bread blew them both out of the water. It improved upon wheat bread’s results by 23% and bested the other laxatives by a whopping 41%! But the highlight is that researchers didn’t find any increase in adverse gastrointestinal effects. [5]

5. Water

One of the first things you should do when coping with constipation is also the simplest: drink more water. Good old H20 not only refreshes and hydrates us, it lubricates the “pipelines” of our body, making it easier for food to move through our system. Along with exercise and a high-fiber diet, researchers highly recommend that people suffering from constipation stay well-hydrated! [6]

-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM


  1. Copeland, PM. Renal failure associated with laxative abuse. Psychother Psychosom. 1994;62(3-4):200-2.
  2. Attaluri, A., et al. Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011 Apr;33(7):822-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2011.04594.x. Epub 2011 Feb 15.
  3. Ladas, S.D., et al. Honey may have a laxative effect on normal subjects because of incomplete fructose absorption. Am J Clin Nutr. 1995 Dec;62(6):1212-5.
  4. Lawton CL, Walton J, Hoyland A, Howarth E, Allan P, Chesters D, Dye L. Short term (14 days) consumption of insoluble wheat bran fibre-containing breakfast cereals improves subjective digestive feelings, general wellbeing and bowel function in a dose dependent manner. Nutrients. 2013 Apr 22;5(4):1436-55. doi: 10.3390/nu5041436.
  5. Holma R, Hongisto SM, Saxelin M, Korpela R. Constipation is relieved more by rye bread than wheat bread or laxatives without increased adverse gastrointestinal effects. J Nutr. 2010 Mar;140(3):534-41. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.118570. Epub 2010 Jan 20.
  6. Hermann, J., et al. Practical approach to constipation in adults. Ginekol Pol. 2012 Nov;83(11):849-53.

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