According to Melodie Anne Coffman for SFGate, many foods function as natural stool softeners due to their high soluble or insoluble fiber content, such as corn, green beans, spinach, plums, cherries and apples. Ground flaxseed is exceptionally high in fiber and helps a great deal in keeping stools malleable, as do wholegrain foods such as wheat bran, quinoa, popcorn and wild rice.
In addition to dietary fiber sources, MedicineNet explains that many over-the-counter laxatives are derived from natural bulk-forming ingredients, such as psyllium husk, agar, plant gum and kelp. These are especially beneficial because they do not leave the intestinal tract to be absorbed into the body, which makes them ideal for people who must frequently rely on laxatives to maintain proper bowel functioning, such as elderly patients.
Due to the expansion that occurs in the digestive system when a person takes bulk-forming laxatives, MedicineNet warns patients with narrow passageways to avoid this type of stool softener. Likewise, it is crucial to ingest a bulk-forming laxative with at least 8 ounces of water to ensure the treatment does not become lodged in the body or leach moisture from the intestines. There is a belief that drinking adequate amounts of water alone keeps the body hydrated so that bowel movements do not become difficult to pass, but MedicineNet says there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.