7 Best Oral Supplements for Constipation of 2022, According to a GI Dietitian

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Best Oral Supplements for Constipation

Getty / Tanja Ivanova

If you are having trouble going to the bathroom, you are not alone. At least 2.5 million Americans go to the doctor each year for this issue. Often diagnosed as infrequent bowel movements (more specifically, fewer than three per week), constipation also includes stools that are hard and dry, straining to eliminate, or a sensation of incompleteness. If you’ve experienced any of these patterns, you may know that the discomfort can impact quality of life. Common causes of constipation include a low fiber diet, sedentary lifestyle, certain medications, and neglecting the urge to go.  

Some simple changes can treat constipation, such as gradually increasing daily fiber from food sources (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes), maintaining adequate hydration, engaging in physical movement, and ensuring proper toileting position. But, depending on what’s causing your constipation, these changes alone may not do the trick. Luckily, there are a number of over-the-counter products, from bulking fiber agents to gentle laxatives, that can help ease constipation stemming from a health condition or for those who are simply occasionally backed up. 

In order to recommend the top oral constipation supplements, our dietitian, who specializes in gastrointestinal challenges, used her clinical training, the latest research, her experience working with hundreds of patients struggling with constipation, and interviews with colleagues and mentors in the field. When choosing a supplement to meet your needs, consider the cause of your constipation, the type of supplement, the quality of the brand, how frequently you’ll need to use it, and your budget.

Verywell Fit Approved Supplements for Constipation

  • Best overall: Solgar Magnesium Citrate is a low cost, third-party tested product that promotes bowel movement frequency and improved stool consistency when taken at the appropriate dose.  
  • Best fiber supplement: Konsyl Daily Psyllium Fiber is an organic fiber with research-backed benefits for the treatment of constipation as well as additional health benefits.


If you are experiencing constipation that has not improved with diet and lifestyle change, the first step is to investigate with a healthcare provider. Understanding your particular constipation will help you determine whether and what kind of supplement is right for you.

The Different Types of Constipation Supplements

Knowing what the different types of constipation supplements are and how they work are important to know before trying a supplement for constipation. Ultimately, a healthcare professional can guide you to what would work best for you.

Laxative supplements work to increase intestinal motility (an essential part of digestion), alter stool form, and/or increase stool frequency. 

  • Osmotic laxatives - draw water into the colon which can help to hydrate (soften) stool and speed up emptying time. Osmotics typically work in about 8 to 12 hours. It’s also important to know all osmotics in very large doses can cause diarrhea (think colonoscopy prep). 
  • Stimulant laxatives - increase contractions of the inner intestinal lining which speeds up the movement of stool through the colon. Stimulants typically work faster than osmotics, as quickly as a few hours, but tend to be less gentle (re: may cause some cramping).
  • Stool softeners and lubricants - while not laxatives, softeners and lubricants can help with texture of stool that is hard to pass, particularly if recovering from surgery or injury that makes pushing difficult. However, there is limited evidence to support the effectiveness of stool softeners for chronic constipation, and mineral oil is not considered safe for long-term use due to interference with fat-soluble vitamin absorption. 

Fiber supplements, aka bulk forming laxatives, are typically derived from one or both of the two main fiber types that help keep us regular:

  •  Insoluble fiber - retains a coarse texture that stimulates your colon to make water and mucus, helping to make soft, easily passed stool. 
  • Soluble fiber - forms a gel in water which promotes well-hydrated and consolidated bowel movements. 

While most fiber products advertise constipation relief, few fiber supplement sources have clinically proven benefits. Fiber forms with clinical evidence include:

  • Psyllium husk and methylcellulose - soluble fibers that can treat constipation through their soft bulking property.
  • Calcium polycarbophil - a non-fermentable and insoluble fiber that acts similarly soluble fiber, adding a gentle bulk to the stool. 
  • Flaxseed and coarse wheat bran - insoluble fibers which stimulate the colon to make water and mucus, aiding with constipation.

Some soluble fiber types are fermentable in the gut and do not have strong evidence for treatment of chronic constipation (such as IBS-C). These fibers include: 

  • Inulin
  • Fructooligosaccharides
  • Wheat dextrin
  • Fine wheat bran

Are Oral Supplements for Constipation Beneficial?

There are many different types of constipation supplements available on the market, and individual response will vary depending on many factors such as a  diet, lifestyle, health status, dosage, and supplement type. Groups that may benefit from a supplement to manage constipation include:

  • Those with constipation-predominant irritable bowel syndrome (IBS-C)
  • Those with slow-transit constipation* (slow movement in the intestine) due to a diagnosed motility disorder.
  • Those with certain types of pelvic floor dysfunction*, such as dyssynergia or muscle weakness may need extra help with constipation beyond dietary changes and water intake. However, it should be noted fiber based supplements may not be best (see below).     
  • Those who have severe constipation* without impaction or a bowel obstruction.
  • Those unable to meet their fiber requirements due to travel or lack of whole food access, or are on a low-fiber diet due to a medical circumstance such as a recent surgery.
  • Those with active (untreated) diagnosed small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), specifically methane-producing bacteria that may cause constipation.
  • Those that require medications or supplements from a healthcare professional that may cause constipation, such as:
  • High dose calcium supplementation
  • Iron supplementation
  • Opioid pain medications 
  • Those who are pregnant. Speak with a healthcare provider before using any oral laxative supplements as some are unsafe while pregnant or breastfeeding. 

*Note, if you have this type of constipation, you may not respond well to a bulking laxative supplement  (see below). 

Who May Not Benefit from an Oral Constipation Supplement

Diet and lifestyle modifications, including gradually increasing dietary fiber, fluids, movement, are low-cost and relatively simple treatments for common constipation. If you have been unresponsive to these changes or if your constipation is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, consult with a healthcare provider before taking any supplements. Specific types of constipation supplements may not be appropriate for all health conditions. 

Oral Laxative Supplements May Not be Beneficial if You: 

  • Have kidney or cardiac dysfunction - high dose magnesium supplements (used as osmotic laxatives) in particular should be avoided or used only under the guidance of a healthcare provider. 
  • Take certain medications - laxative supplements can interfere with some medications, including diuretics and antibiotics, so speak with a healthcare provider about your regimen. 
  • Have a bowel obstruction ( blockage in the intestine) or fecal impaction  (stool that is hardened and stuck) - these circumstances require immediate medical attention. 
  • Have a history of laxative abuse -speak with a healthcare provider about treatment for your constipation if you’ve used laxatives excessively in the past. 
  • Are on a fluid restricted diet (many products need to be taken with extra fluid). 

Bulking Laxatives (Fiber Supplements) May Not be Beneficial if You: 

  • Have difficulty swallowing
  • Have pelvic floor dysfunction - adding more bulk when you are unable to efficiently evacuate may add to constipation and discomfort. 
  • Have a slow motility disorder -such as gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying), or slow colonic transit 
  • Have esophageal stricturing (narrowing of the esophagus) 
  • Are severely backed up: You may need to consider an osmotic laxative course to clear out excess stool before adding fiber.
  • Have active intestinal inflammation - such as diverticulitis or active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis. 
  • Already eat a high fiber diet - if you get a lot of dietary fiber from the food you eat, too much fiber may worsen constipation. 

A Note of Caution for Those with Constipation

Keep in mind that ongoing or severe constipation should be evaluated by a healthcare provider to clarify the nature of the condition before supplementing with an oral supplement. The majority of supplements are designed for occasional use but may be used for long periods under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

Best Overall: Solgar Magnesium Citrate

Solgar Magnesium Citrate

Amazon

Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • Convenient capsule form

  • Flavorless and odorless

  • Third-party tested

Cons
  • Not advised for those with kidney or cardiac dysfunction

  • May interact with certain medications

When taken as a supplement in doses greater than 350 mg, magnesium works as a laxative by gently drawing water in the bowels. Research has suggested that magnesium may be more effective than other supplements, such as bulking fiber, in increasing stool frequency and stool consistency.

Magnesium supplements come in different forms, including magnesium citrate, oxide, and glycinate, all of which can have a laxative effect with larger doses. Solgar’s Magnesium Citrate tops our list because it has been third-party tested and approved as a top pick by ConsumerLab.com. You can feel confident that each 210mg capsule contains the stated amount, and this product is certified gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO and vegan. 

The dosage on this supplement also makes it easy to customize to your needs. The recommended dose is two pills per day, but taking additional pills as needed may be recommended from a healthcare professional. 

Note it is not recommended that you surpass 1,000 mg with this product. Magnesium supplementation should be avoided by people with kidney disease and may interfere with medications including antibiotics and diuretics. If you are pregnant or nursing you should also consult a healthcare provider before taking magnesium. 

Price at time of publication $18 for 120 count ($0.15 per serving) 

Active ingredient:  Magnesium citrate | Form: Capsule | Standard Dosage: 2 capsules (210mg each)

Best Fiber Supplement: Konsyl Daily Psyllium Fiber

Konsyl Daily Psyllium Fiber

Source: Konsyl

Pros
  • Research-backed benefits for constipation

  • Proven to help lower LDL cholesterol

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • Thickens quickly in liquid

  • Not third-party tested

It’s easy to get lost in the array of fiber products on the market, but luckily clinical evidence can guide us. Psyllium husk, the main—and only—ingredient in this Konsyl’s psyllium product, holds the strongest and largest amount of evidence out of the commercially available fiber sources. Numerous studies have shown its efficacy in the treatment of chronic constipation, and the American College of Gastrogletolgy’s Chronic Constipation Task Force reported that psyllium was the only fiber supplement with adequate evidence for constipation relief.

Konsyl Daily Psyllium Fiber is readily available, all organic, and a reasonably priced psyllium supplement. This mostly soluble fiber comes from the husks of Plantago ovata plant seeds, which gel with water and adds soft bulk to improve stool form, passage, and transit. Psyllium has been shown to improve chronic constipation as well as symptoms of IBS. As a bonus, psyllium has demonstrated benefits for blood sugar control and lower LDL cholesterol.

Unlike some other psyllium products on the market, Konsyl’s ground psyllium husk is free of sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners which can cause digestive discomfort for some people. Konsyl is available in powder and capsule form, though it may take a larger dose (5 capsules) to equal one powder serving. Psyllium gels in cold liquids, so avoid letting it sit out too long before you drink or eat it. Alternatively, you can also add it to soft prepared foods, such as smoothies, applesauce, or oatmeal. 

Price at time of publication $28

Active ingredient: Psyllium husk  Form: capsule | Standard Dosage:  1 -3 teaspoons (6g each)

Best Food Supplement: Spectrum Essentials Flaxseed

Spectrum Essentials Flaxseed

Source: Spectrum

Pros
  • Whole food source

  • Organic

  • Contains omega-3 fatty acids

Cons
  • Less convenient

  • May not benefit all constipation

While consuming adequate fiber in your diet is a primary constipation prevention strategy, sometimes circumstances arise that make it challenging to meet your fiber needs. If you need some help meeting your fiber needs, Spectrum's milled flax is a simple, organic ground seed that may help alleviate constipation, according to research. One study found ground flaxseed worked better than psyllium to improve pooping frequency amongst constipated patients, while another study found it to be superior to the effect of lactulose (a laxative). However, this supplement may not be the best choice for those with pelvic floor dysfunction, slow motility, or severe constipation.

Compared to whole flaxseed, Spectrum’s milled flax enhances its water absorption, which means it can add soft bulk to stool for easier emptying. If you are looking to supplement your fiber intake while on vacation, for example, adding a serving of Spectrum’s ground flaxseed to oatmeal, yogurt, or drinks may be an easy option. However, it is recommended to store it once opened in the refrigerator which may make taking this supplement on the go not as convenient.

 As a bonus, Spectrum’s Organic Ground Flaxseed contains 2.9 grams of health-promoting omega 3 fatty acids per serving, and can also help to lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control.

Price at time of publication $14

Active ingredient: Ground flaxseed  Form: ground seeds | Standard Dosage:  2 Tablespoons (14mg)

Best Fiber Capsules: FiberCon Fiber Therapy for Regularity

FiberCon Fiber Therapy for Regularity

Source: FiberCon

Pros
  • Non-fermentable (no gas)

  • Safe for pregnancy

  • Convenient pill form

  • Flavorless and odorless

Cons
  • Larger pills to swallow

  • May not benefit all constipation

Although psyllium is backed by the most clinical research, FiberCon is an alternate bulk-forming laxative agent that offers great convenience in pill form. A standard serving includes just two pills (1 gram of fiber). FiberCon is a unique synthetic fiber that is 100% insoluble fiber, but it acts a lot like soluble fiber as it takes on a significant amount of water in your colon. In fact, the label claims to swell to 60 times its weight in water making this choice desirable for people with dry, hard stool that is difficult to pass. Keep in mind this supplement may not be the best choice for those with pelvic floor dysfunction, slow motility, or severe constipation.

FiberCon is a dynamic product and has been shown to improve pooping regularity and discomfort in people with constipation predominant IBS (IBS-C) and mixed type (IBS-M). The main ingredient of FiberCon, calcium polycarbophil, is also unlike most purely insoluble fiber supplements in that it resists gut fermentation so it is non-gassy. It has also been shown to be safe to use during pregnancy.  FiberCon’s pill form is easy to remember and good for transport, but the larger pills are not appropriate if you have swallowing difficulties. They also need to be taken with at least eight fluid ounces per serving.

Price at time of publication $22 for 140 count ($0.16 per serving)

Active ingredient: Calcium Polycarbophil  Form: Pill | Standard Dosage:  2 pills (1250 mg)

Best Stimulant Laxative: Senokot Regular Strength Natural Laxative

Senokot Regular Strength Natural Laxative

Amazon

Pros
  • Convenient capsule form

  • FDA approved

  • Flavorless and odorless

  • Natural, plant-derived

Cons
  • Less gentle (may cause cramping)

  • Not advised during pregnancy or breastfeeding

Senna is a natural laxative derived from a flowering plant that is actually a member of the legume family. As a stimulant laxative, it promotes contractions of the colon wall and increases colon secretions which helps to both moisten and move things along. Senna is commonly sold in a variety of laxative supplements such as teas and capsules due to its clinically proven benefits for constipation. 

Senokot is our preferred senna product as it contains a standardized dose of sennosides (the active poop-promoting compounds) and is even FDA regulated for safety. Each capsule of Senna contains 8.6 mg of sennosides, which is a lower dose (and thus likely to be more gentle) than some of the other Senna products on the market.

Senna may be a great choice for those with constipation that has not responded to an osmotic laxative, such as magnesium or MiraLAX, and need a bit more strength. However, as with other stimulant laxatives, this product may be best suited for occasional versus long-term use. There is mixed evidence on whether stimulant laxatives like senna can be dependency-forming, so experts tend to recommend them more sparingly.

Price at time of publication $8 for 20 count ($0.40 per serving)

Active ingredient: Sennosides  Form: Pill | Standard Dosage:  2 pills (8.6 mg) preferably at bedtime

Best Osmotic Laxative: MiraLAX Mix-In Laxative Powder

MiraLAX Mix-In Laxative Powder

Walmart

Pros
  • Gentle and safe

  • FDA approved

  • Flavorless and odorless

  • Readily available

Cons
  • Must be mixed with liquid

MiraLAX, also known as its active ingredient polyethylene glycol 3350 or PEG, is one of the most famous over-the-counter osmotic laxatives used to treat constipation in both children and adults. Since PEG is a non-absorbable compound that gently draws water into the bowel, this FDA-approved product is considered a particularly safe and gentle constipation treatment option. 

You may know the widely recognizable “purple cap” of the miraLAX bottle, which easily measures out a standard dose of this tasteless, flavorless product that dissolves in liquid. However our top PEG product pick are these convenient, pre-measured MiraLAX packets that are slim and lightweight for easy transport or storage.  While PEG is considered effective and toxicity is unlikely, it can cause dehydration and electrolyte balance if overused. Therefore, it is important to follow product directions closely or those from a healthcare provider.

Price at time of publication $44 for 40 count ($1.10 per serving)

Active ingredient: Polyethylene glycol 3350  Form: Powder | Standard Dosage:  1 packet (17 g)

Best Soluble Fiber: Citrucel Methylcellulose Fiber Therapy Caplets for Irregularity

Citrucel Methylcellulose Fiber Therapy Caplets for Irregularity

Citrucel

Pros
  • Convenient capsule form

  • Non-fermentable (no gas)

  • Tasteless/odorless

  • Budget-friendly

Cons
  • More capsules needed per dose

  • May not benefit those with a motility disorder or who are very backed up

A full dose of Citrucel contains 2 grams of methylcellulose fiber, a 100% soluble fiber type. Soluble fiber is famous for its ability to gel in the digestive tract and add soft bulk to stool. This sponge-like feature means it is hydrating in the colon and can treat or prevent dry, hard stool. While methylcellulose has not been used in many studies, the stool regulating benefits of soluble fiber are well documented for those with constipation.

Citrucel comes in a convenient pill form that makes it easy to consume and take on the go.  These capsules are tasteless and odorless which may be more desirable than the orange-flavored Cirtrucel powder form. Another bonus is Citrucel’s low fermentation rate in the gut also makes it unlikely to cause gas in those that are prone to bloating. 

An important note is this product could take up to 12 to 72 hours to work, and similar to other pill or capsule forms, needs to be taken with adequate fluids. Because of the delayed effect, it may work best to take this supplement when you first notice signs of constipation instead of when you are already quite backed up. It is recommended to start with two caplets daily, but dosage could be up to 12 capsules (6 doses) per day if guided by a healthcare professional.

Price at time of publication $20 for 100 count ($0.20 per serving)

Active ingredient: Methylcellulose  Form: Caplets | Standard Dosage:  2 caplets

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. 

It's important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend. 

Note that most specific fiber supplements containing the fiber types with the strongest clinical research evidence are not third-party tested and may contain additives. However, they are included here if there is good evidence to support their benefit for regularity. 

What to Look For in an Oral Constipation Supplement

Third-Party Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note

  1. Third party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  2. Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  3. The third party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  4. Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  5. Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

Those with food allergies or intolerances should examine all product ingredients and labels, as there may be sources of cross-contamination. 

Form

Oral constipation supplements are sold as various types of chemical, herbal, and bulk (fiber) laxatives. Oral constipation supplements typically come in one of the following physical forms:

  • Capsules
  • Tablets/pills
  • Powder
  • Chewable/gummy

Powdered products, including some fiber powders and osmotic laxatives, can be added to liquid with no taste or texture change, while others may be artificially flavored or gel with water (you can add these to moist foods to avoid a gooey substance).  

There is no research suggesting significant efficacy of one physical form over another, so you may decide based on your taste preferences and convenience. However, keep  in mind that some chewable, gummy, or flavored products may contain additional ingredients such as sugar alcohols (e.g. sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol) which can cause extra gastrointestinal symptoms.  

Ingredients & Potential Interactions

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to your healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Over-the-counter laxatives are not the same as prescription laxative medications, as prescription medications are FDA regulated and prescribed by a clinician. Check with your healthcare provider before using any over-the-counter laxative product, as they can interact with a variety of medications and supplements. Interactions vary between products and are best verified by your healthcare provider to ensure safety. 

Fiber supplements can interact with other medications and reduce or delay their effectiveness. Some medications that interact with these supplements include antidepressants, diabetes medications, and carbamazepine.

Some  products may also contain added ingredients such as prebiotics, which can worsen gas and bloating in digestively sensitive people, or sugar alcohols, which can worsen diarrhea. Chewable supplements are more likely to contain one of these ingredients as a sweetener. 

Prebiotics (avoid for gas and bloating) include:

  • Fructo-oligsosaccharides (FOS) 
  • Inulin (chicory root fiber)

Sugar alcohols (avoid for diarrhea) include: 

  • Sorbitol
  • Mannitol
  • Xylitol  
  • Erythritol

Oral Constipation Supplement Dosage

The dosage of laxative products ranges widely. Talk to a healthcare provider about the appropriate product and dosage for your needs before supplementing. Because of the potential side effects and risk of overdosing laxative supplements, follow package directions carefully. 

Some products, such as magnesium, may require a larger amount than what is contained in standard doses to attain a laxative benefit. Alternatively, some standard doses may have too strong of an  effect for sensitive individuals, and will be worth trying a smaller dose if that’s the case. In general, there is typically no harm in starting with a smaller (e.g. half size) dose and increasing as needed.  For fiber supplements, it is typically best to start with a lower serving and increase gradually, along with extra fluids. 

Keep in mind that the majority of supplements are designed for occasional use, but may be safe to take for longer periods when directed by a healthcare provider. 

How Much is Too Much?

All laxative supplements can cause serious side effects if used in excess. Common symptoms of laxative overdose include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.  Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance are also potential consequences. Risks  vary by specific product as well as individual health status, so it is best to work with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dose for you. Some of product considerations include:

Osmotic laxatives: osmotic laxatives such as MiraLAX and magnesium are generally considered safe and well-tolerated, though they can cause bloating and/or diarrhea with too large of a dose. Since these types of laxatives draw water into the colon, overusing these products can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

Fiber supplements: while there is no Tolerable Upper Intake Level for fiber (the maximum daily amount that can be safely consumed), concentrated doses can cause constipation, gas, or bloating if you add it too quickly or without enough fluids. Most fiber supplements recommend 8 ounces of water with a standard dose, though individual product directions may vary. Inadequate fluid intake can cause the supplement to swell and lead to choking, blockages, or stool impaction, as well as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation.

Stimulant laxatives: these products are generally recommended as shorter term treatments for constipation due to their more aggressive nature in the colon (promote contractions) which may cause cramping or diarrhea in sensitive individuals or when taken in too large of a dose. Historically, clinicians have been concerned about these products being habit-forming (i.e. becoming dependent on them to poop), though recent research suggests many of the products available on the market, including Senna, are likely safe for longer term use. 

Tips for Using Oral Constipation Supplements Effectively

 A product is most likely to be effective with the following considerations:  

  • Identify the issue: If you have ongoing constipation that has not responded to diet and lifestyle modification, work with a healthcare provider to further assess the problem. 

  • Match the problem: Some products that advertise constipation relief can actually make symptoms worse if not matched to your issue appropriately. For example, if your constipation stems from muscle weakness or slow movement in the colon, adding a bulking laxative could further back you up. 

  • Be patient: Since laxative products ultimately affect the colon, it will typically take hours (not minutes!) to see a result. Allow time for it to make its way down the digestive tract, especially before taking more. This is why most products advertise overnight relief. 

  • Start slow: As with any supplement, it’s best to test out your tolerance and response by starting with a lower dosage and slowly increasing. Consider taking half or less of a standard dose and increasing as needed.

  • Minimize cost: You don’t need a designer product or special packaging to obtain the benefits of a research-backed laxative. Look for a product that meets your budget and needs. For products that are sold in powder and capsule form, you may need to take more capsules to equal the same dose of a powdered form (i.e. 5 capsules versus 1 scoop of powder), which can make these products more costly.

Experiment with dosage to identify the lowest amount that helps keep you regular, to avoid moving through a product unnecessarily quickly. If something is working, it may be worth trying a period without it or with a decreased amount to ensure it is still necessary for you. 

  • Customize your regimen: Individual responses to laxatives and fiber will vary. It may take experimentation with dosage to optimize results. When it comes to constipation supplements, there is no “one size fits all.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can stress cause constipation?

    In terms of the physiological changes that happen with stress, research suggests that we tend to have changes in hormone production and changes to the autonomic nervous system, and we may even experience changes to our gut bacteria. Stress-induced constipation also appears particularly common amongst those with IBS, a disorder of the gut-brain axis.


    “Stress can cause just about anything,” says gastroenterologist Yevgenia Pashinsky, MD. “It’s certainly known for contributing to constipation whether directly or by the corresponding changes to fluid intake, fiber intake and sleep.” This could even include missing the urge to go due to distraction or busyness during the day.

  • Can constipation cause back pain?

    Some people with severe constipation or those with sensitivity may feel pain sensations with a mass of stool. “Severe back up, particularly in the lowest part of the colon can feel like deep pelvic or low back pain for some patients,” says Dr. Pashinsky. If you have pain that is severe or impacts your daily life, speak with a healthcare provider.

  • Is constipation a sign of pregnancy?

    Constipation is common during pregnancy and is often due to the physiologic changes that take place. These include increased levels of the hormone progesterone and a slow down of gastrointestinal motility. Constipation may also arise from prenatal vitamins containing iron, which can trigger or worsen constipation. 

    If first-line constipation remedies including increasing dietary fiber, hydration, gentle movement, and toileting position do not help, speak with a healthcare provider before trying an oral supplement as not all are safe during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

  • Can constipation cause nausea?

    Constipation may provoke nausea due to physical fullness, bloating, and appetite dysregulation. Individuals with IBS may experience more discomfort when they are are backed up, though severe constipation can produce a variety of uncomfortable symptoms in any one. Hydration, light movement and diet modification may be helpful to management this while working on clearing the back up.

  • What should I eat when I'm constipated?

    The American College of Gastroenterology advises diet change as part of the first-line treatment for most people with constipation, particularly via a balance of different fiber types (think fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes). If you already consume adequate dietary fiber (e.g. more than 25-30g per day per USDA guidelines), you’ll want to be careful to not “overdo it” on the fiber, which can lead to further back up. 


    In fact if you eat a high fiber diet, sometimes temporarily reducing fiber helps to avoid a big jam. Seeking out foods with evidence-based laxative potential may also help get things moving. These include coffee, flaxseed, kiwis, prunes or prune juice.

Why Trust Verywell Health

Suzie Finkel, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian specializing in the nutritional management of digestive symptoms and diseases. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition from Columbia University and has trained in numerous clinical gastroenterology settings. As a GI dietitian, she provides evidence-based nutrition services for a wide array of digestive conditions including chronic constipation and bowel movement irregularities. Her goal is to demystify nutrition (mis)information  and facilitate digestive comfort.

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Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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