Experiencing a bit of a blockage? Rather than turning to coffee, studies show olive oil could be the key to reducing constipation.
For anyone who’s ever experienced it, constipation is no doubt one of the most uncomfortable feelings.
Characterised by fewer than three stools passed per week, abdominal pain and hardened stools, constipation is often caused by a lack of fibre, not drinking enough fluids or a sedentary lifestyle.
Research shows that it can be strongly correlated with your diet too, particularly when it changes in a way that unbalances the delicate equilibrium in your gut.
Unsurprisingly then, changing it in other ways is often the cure to these poo predicaments.
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For years, research has shown that a Mediterranean diet is one of the best in the world, and is rich with “healthy fats, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds,” per the Mayo Clinic.
Aside from the fact that a diet à la Med is a well-balanced one that includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, there’s also a lot of healthy oils, particularly extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).
It’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and for improving heart health, cholesterol and blood pressure, but a lesser-known benefit of EVOO is softened stool, which can help ease constipation.
After Starbucks started selling olive oil lattes in the US earlier this year, dubbed Oleato drinks, which led to a high volume of pooping, TikTok caught wind of the secondary properties of EVOO.
Now, it’s taken flight online, with people shilling olive oil as a natural constipation remedy you can take at home. And apparently, there’s actually some fact to back it up.
Does olive oil reduce constipation?
Ingesting enough healthy fat, i.e. olive oil, has a two-part effect on your health, which can lead to decreased constipation.
For one, when you’re eating a healthy diet, you will need to poo a healthy amount, which is once or twice a day.
“Good quality EVOO has unique properties that improve the health of your microbiome,” performance dietitian Peta Carige tells Body+Soul. And “a healthy gut equals healthy poo.
But on the other hand, olive oil itself can also have a “mild laxative effect on the colon,” says gastroenterologist Dr Priyanka Singh, in conversation with Well+Good.
“It lubricates the colon walls and holds water within stools, helping to soften them. This helps stool move more easily through the colon and promotes bowel movements.”
In one study, per Well+Good, “One study found that olive oil relieved symptoms of constipation just as well as mineral oil—a known laxative—in patients on dialysis when it was taken daily for four weeks.”
How much olive oil reduces constipation?
To reap the benefits of softened stool and a regular cadence in trips to the toilet, Carige tells Body+Soul that ingesting 30g of olive oil per day (1.5 tablespoons) is a good way to go.
“This can be achieved by a drizzle on your avocado toast, a touch in your salad dressing and using it in your cooking at dinner easily,” she says.
Not only will this make the most of its laxative properties, and soften the stool so it can actually, you know, pass, but it will “improve your microbiome,” says Carige, which promotes a healthy pooping routine.
According to Medical News Today, „One tablespoon of olive oil, taken on an empty stomach in the morning, may relieve constipation for many healthy adults.“
They also note that babies and children with constipation should not take olive oil, and as per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), should try apple or pear juice, Karo syrup, or pureed prunes for relief instead.
Too much of a good thing
A word of warning – you don’t want to overdo it on the olive oil.
For one, while your diet may be suffering from a lack of olive oil if you’re constipated, you can send things in the other direction if you consume too much. Think far too regular trips to the bathroom and a very upset stomach – as many buyers of the Starbucks latte discovered.
But it will also send your diet out of balance, particularly if you’re still getting your dose of healthy fats from other sources too.
“If you are consuming your healthy fats from EVOO and quality food sources such as nuts and fish, it’s important to not exceed your energy requirements by also consuming other fat sources such as pastries and biscuits,” says Carige.
In short, add a tablespoon of olive oil to your diet if you’re not ingesting any already, but aim to reduce other sources of fat so you don’t overdo it.