11 Best Natural Laxatives That Actually Work – If you have trouble taking care of business in the bathroom—and by that, we mean being constipated and having problems pooping—then you might be looking for a natural laxative. Humans have been relying on laxatives for longer than you might have assumed. In fact, research published in The Lancet noted that a 5,300-year-old mummy, which was found in 1991, proved that people living thousands of years ago took advantage of natural laxatives.

11 Best Natural Laxatives That Actually Work

Although they might have known about one or two colon-calming and bowel-boosting options back then, there are plenty of food and drink choices available these days that you can use.

“Some people are looking for more ‘natural’ solutions to their constipation because they perceive them to be better for them and are afraid that over-the-counter laxatives might be habit-forming,” says Antonella Dewell, MS, RD. “For many, OTC laxatives don’t work consistently, or, conversely, can lead to diarrhea or may even cause cramping. They can also be expensive if one needs to rely on them long-term.”

Beyond that, Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD says that natural laxatives can be preferable to some “because they can be gentler on the digestive system and have fewer potential side effects than over-the-counter laxatives.”

With that in mind, there are plenty of natural laxatives out there to try. “These foods and drinks work by increasing stool frequency, improving stool consistency, and softening stool to make it easier to pass,” says Chun. “The amount of each food or drink needed to act as a laxative may vary depending on the individual and their specific needs. It’s also important to stay well hydrated, follow a healthy diet, and make time for regular physical activity to promote healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.”

prunes on plate

Prunes are perhaps the most famous natural laxative,” says Dewell. When it comes to their effectiveness, she tells us they work “because they are high in fiber and sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that has an ‘osmotic effect’ when consumed in high amounts.” Dewell adds that “sorbitol can pull more water into the gut, helping to soften stools and promoting bowel movements.”

While a study found in The American Journal of Gastroenterology confirms that prunes effectively helped with constipation symptoms, “you would need to consume about 8-10 dried prunes to get a laxative effect, which might be hard to do for some people,” Dewell points out. “Some studies have shown that 8 ounces of prune juice can help relieve constipation, which is more feasible but contributes an additional 182 calories. In addition, some people reported experiencing bloating and gas.”

bowl of kiwis

The same study found in The American Journal of Gastroenterology noted that kiwi was an option for those who are looking for relief from constipation. On top of that, Dewell says, “Kiwifruit has been shown in several clinical trials to be effective in relieving constipation, without any side effects.”

“Kiwis are not just high in fiber, but their fiber is viscous and able to retain water, increasing the softness of the stools,” Dewell explains. “Kiwis also contain an enzyme called actinidin that is thought to improve laxation by stimulating receptors in the colon. Incidentally, this enzyme is found primarily in green kiwis, with lower levels in the golden variety. Studies have shown that all you need is to eat two medium peeled green kiwifruits a day to see a significant improvement.”

Rhubarb leaves

“Rhubarb has been shown in some research to have a laxative effect,” says Dewell while offering you another option. “In addition to its fiber content, rhubarb contains compounds (sennosides and others) that have laxative effects by promoting intestinal contraction and movement.”

As for how to enjoy it, Dewell notes that “rhubarb is not just for pie or crumbles but can be stewed, roasted, and pureed and added to oatmeal or salads or used to make a chutney.”

acacia powder

“Acacia powder is another example of a soluble fiber supplement that can help with constipation,” says Dewell. “It is made by grinding up acacia gum, a product of the acacia tree. Similar to psyllium, it is gentle on the gut because it is slowly fermented and is not likely to cause bloating or gas.”

While you can enjoy acacia as a drink, Dewell is sure to add that “the effective dose can vary greatly in research studies.” That’s why she says, “As with any fiber supplement, start with a small dose, as recommended on the package, and increase as needed, making sure to add enough water.”

Steel Cut Oats

“Oats are high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, which has a water-absorbing and gel-forming capacity—it absorbs water to form a gel—making stools softer and easier to pass,” says Dewell. “Oatmeal or overnight oats are a great and easy way to start your day with a boost of fiber, but oats can also be added to smoothies or used to make energy bites.”

Dewell adds that “oat bran—the outer layer of the oat grain—is also high in fiber and can be made into a hot morning cereal or sprinkled on oatmeal or yogurt.”


“Chia seeds are very high in fiber, especially soluble fiber, and help make stools softer and easier to pass,” says Dewell. Chun also explains that “chia seeds are high in fiber and can absorb up to 10 times their weight in water, which helps bulk up your stool and promote bowel movements.”

“A great way to use chia seeds is to soak them in a liquid,” Dewell recommends. “For example, you can add one tablespoon to overnight oats or make a chia pudding. The chia seeds absorb water and plump up forming a gel.”

flax seeds

“Flax Seeds also have natural laxative properties, as they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber,” says Dewell. While explaining that “the insoluble fiber can increase bulk and speed up transit time,” she tells us that “the ground flax seeds seem to be more effective than when used whole.”

Beyond that, “they are versatile and can be added to smoothies, muffins, or as a topping for oatmeal or yogurt.” Be sure to note that “up to two tablespoons may be needed for an effect to be observed.”

jerusalem artichokes

“Jerusalem artichokes are high in inulin, a type of soluble fiber that can help promote bowel movements,” says Chun. Indeed, a study published by Cellular and Molecular Biology noted that Jerusalem artichokes can prevent constipation while also being ideal for preventing acne, lowering cholesterol, reducing body mass, and aiding weight loss, as well as being beneficial for the immune system, the gut, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.


“Although less studied, kefir was shown to improve constipation in one study,” says Dewell. Indeed, a pilot study that was published by the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that kefir helped the participants with constipation symptoms. Dewell addresses the study’s findings, saying, “Drinking 500 milliliters per day for 4 weeks increased the frequency of bowel movements and improved their consistency. This could be due to the probiotics in kefir, a fermented milk product.”

At the same time, she points out that “many kefir products on the market, however, contain added sugar, which could increase one’s sugar intake if consuming 500 milliliters daily.”

black coffee, creamer, ground coffee, and coffee beans

Coffee is a stimulant that can increase motility in the gut,” says Dewell. In turn, as many people know well, “drinking it in the morning can definitely help with the ‘urge to go.'”

“The caffeine certainly contributes to this effect, however, another component of coffee, an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, also contributes to the laxative effect,” explains Dewell. She notes that “this means even decaffeinated coffee can help,” while also pointing out that “drinking it hot can be more effective than drinking it cold.”

close-up hand pouring water

There are plenty of reasons to drink enough water, and that includes helping with constipation. Chun explains that “drinking enough water can help soften stool and make it easier to pass.” While a study published in Nutrients confirmed that magnesium sulfate-rich natural mineral waters worked as laxatives, you can stick with regular ol’ water if you want and still enjoy the kind of relief that you’re hoping to achieve.

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