Constipation is a common problem–so common, in fact, that a definition is needed. Otherwise, people may mean completely different things when they use the word “constipation.” The usual definition is “infrequent bowel movements.” Even that is open to interpretation; for some people, passing stool every two or three days is infrequent, while for others it may be normal. When the bowel movement is difficult, that too qualifies as constipation. The usual recommendation is to increase fiber and fluid. One reader apparently found both in a garden-variety food, cucumbers.

Can Cucumbers Help Constipation?

Q. In the last few years, I’ve had more or less continual constipation, meaning big, hard BMs that are tough to pass. Recently, a gardener friend gave me a slew of cucumbers. Voila! As long as I eat a few cucumbers each day, the BMs, while still large, pass comfortably and promptly.

I found no mention on your site of this property of cucumbers, and I thought you would be interested. It’s much better than Power Pudding.

A. We don’t know whether this will work for other people with constipation, but cucumbers are certainly safe. Normally, we think of fiber-rich foods as a good way to combat constipation. While cucumbers aren’t particularly high in fiber, they do contain some and they are full of water, which might also be helpful. In addition, an extract of muskmelon, a fruit in the same family as cucumbers, increases intestinal activity (Journal of Ethnopharmacology, June 26, 2012).

Other Foods to Fight Constipation:

Other foods that are full of fiber might be discarded if you didn’t realize their value. How often, for example, have you cut off the crown of the broccoli and tossed the stem? It too is rich in fiber and contains some fluid. You may be interested in learning more about this natural approach to constipation in our radio show #1115. It is hour-long interview with Dr. Robynne Chutkan on how you can conquer constipation. You may also be interested in our free Guide to Constipation.

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  1. Coleen B B

    In over 80 years I’ve never found a remedy for chronic constipation that is better than flax seed. It’s powerful stuff. A teaspoon every day is very effective along with a reduced dose of Miralax.

  2. Robert A.
    Manalapan,NJ 07726

    I READ YOUR ARTICLE entitled (Is Price gouging by pharmaceutical company moral?) I thought it was very well done.

    There other stories about old drugs that have been bought up by entrepreneurs who have raised prices to unjustifiable levels. What about old topical preparations which used to sell in the low double digits and now cost anywhere from $300 to $600 per tube. Econazole cream cost $20 a few years ago and now costs about $300. Ophthalmic products which cost $10 to $20 30 years ago now cost $200 or more. Insulin is now so expensive that many diabetics cannot afford to use the amount prescribed and are forced to cut back the dose or use it less often. By the way, the original brand name for nitrofurantoin was Furadantin. It was available in 50 & 100mg tablets manufactured by Eaton Labs. It was also available in a liquid. Sincerely, Robert A.,RPh retired.

  3. Farnarkle

    Try two or more kiwi fruit.

  4. Virginia

    Raw Sauerkraut has saved me!

  5. Ben
    Los Angeles, CA

    Do you think taking a Magnesium tablet (250mg) every night will help alleviate constipation?
    Any negative side effects to that ?

    • Terry Graedon

      Many people find it helpful. If you develop diarrhea, the dose is too high. Also, magnesium supplements are not for people with kidney damage.

  6. maggi
    cheney wa

    I am now 80 years old with no “meds” ever. Many years ago my grandmother had a constipation remedy: first thing every morning she ate 3 to 4 prunes sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon, some toasted walnuts and a big dollop of home made, whole milk, plain yogurt. It works like a charm. She also took a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before every meal. Never sick a day in her life and passed happily in her sleep at 97. Think she was on to something?

  7. mary 3

    My Mom always talked about cantaloupe [muskmelon], also pears. Both have helped when in need over the years. Interestingly she also ate a lot of cucumbers .
    Pickles often, were they for the potassium?
    Water is so essential as well. Clean water.
    Thank you

  8. Jerry
    La Habra, CA

    5 prunes (dried plums, Costco have big bags) every day make my digestion easy. 10 prunes remove all my deposits radically. Gases are produced too, so planning/timing is needed.
    I put dots on my calendar marking the days the stool passed, so as not to get into the serious trouble of accumulating too much for too many days.

  9. berge
    Banner Elk, NC

    I have tried many things for constipation at age 91
    but I am having good result from Miralax powder (generic available) which was recommended by 2 gastro-enterologist

  10. Helen

    Like many others, I have the opposite issue. Would love People’s Pharmacy to do an article (if you haven’t already–I may have missed it) on chronic loose stools and too rapid digestion time.
    I previously took Elavil for the drying side effect and took it for years, which helped somewhat. Despite that, I still have to follow a very low residue diet with only canned or very well cooked vegetables or canned fruit or apple sauce, not many spices, etc..
    I am now gluten-free which helps some, but it’s frustrating to hear all about the benefits of salads, fruits, and vegetables, grains, etc. when so many are taboo to some of us. I hope you can do an article or two about healthier eating while on a low-residue diet. I will likely have to follow such a diet the rest of my life.
    My gastro doctor tells me my digestive system simply doesn’t function correctly, so there’s little I can do. Thank you in advance for any help.

  11. ariel

    I will try the cucumbers. I have found the Fodmap diet can help to some degree. learning what foods to eliminate . Mine is onions, garlic, chicory root (which means eliminating coffee that contains this) and others. Exercise helps.
    Also I went to a pelvic pain specialist and it seems tight muscles can also cause constipation. With physical therapy(by a PT specially trained in this), the foods to eliminate, has helped. I was given the recipe for constipation but could not eat it because I am diabetic and gluten intolerant.

  12. O.G.

    I eat pistaschio nuts (in the shell, roasted, unsalted) daily. Whoosh.

  13. francine

    Raw Brazil nuts, limit for me 3 a day manage constipation. Also pumpkin seeds.

  14. Mary Jane

    I have found that grinding flax seed to add to my cereal produces excess “activity,” so presume this would help with constipation.

  15. Ruth
    Buffalo, NY

    Carrots act like rototillers for me.

  16. Mat Ratra

    I use Yogrut from Danon & work great.

  17. Mary

    All I know is that when I eat a Cucumber I then start to burp.

    • Nancy

      There are burp-less cucumbers on the market these days.

    • Jan

      Seedless cukes or just removing the seeds will eliminate this problem.

  18. Rosemary
    Burlington, Ontario.

    I had severe constipation after taking a course of Prednisone for polymyalgia rheumatica. Black liquorice twisters saved me. I had a craving for liquorice so I started eating about four sticks a day. The second day I had no trouble having a bowel movement. Now, at the slightest hint of trouble I eat liquorice. The craving has gone but I still like the taste so I have no trouble eating it.

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