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15 foods that can cause constipation

Overview

Constipation means pooping less than twice a week and straining when you do (1). It’s usually caused by a poor diet and a stressful, sedentary lifestyle (2, 3). Nevertheless, it could also have some other underlying causes and if constipation persists, you should see a doctor because it can lead to major health issues. Unfortunately, this problem is usually shoved under the carpet because people feel ashamed to talk about their pooping habits, for one reason or another. Anyways,  if you’re sure that what you experience is a temporary constipation, then you can solve it yourself by not eating foods that can cause it.

Foods that cause Constipation

So, here they are! 15 foods that cause constipation and how to avoid them:

1. Underripe bananas

Underripe bananas

Ripe bananas actually make the list of foods that make you poop, but we can’t say the same thing about underripe bananas, which will make you constipated. Why is there such a big difference between ripe and underripe bananas? It seems that unripe bananas contain a high concentration of tannins, an antioxidant which can cause or even aggravate pre-existing constipation (4, 5)

Summary: Underripe bananas could lead to constipation because of their high concentration of tannins, an antioxidant that is known to cause constipation. Consume ripe bananas if you struggle with constipation.

2. Chips

Chips

Chips are always present in our lives. Whether we’re watching a movie, the Wimbledon final or just spending an evening playing board games with friends, chips are always there, on the table, as the most pleasurable snack on the planet. Eating a serving of chips on a night out might not cause constipation. It’s just good to know that all these kinds of snacks, from chips to cookies, or even pretzels, are low in fiber and do not support digestive health. Moreover, chips usually contain unhealthy fats which can slow down the digestive system (5, 6). One good replacement for chips? Well, how about pears. They’re a natural constipation remedy (7) and very delicious as well.

Summary: Chips are low in fiber and high in unhealthy fats, which can slow down the digestive system. Instead of snacking on chips, try a piece of fruit, such as a pear or apple, which are natural constipation remedies.

3. Chocolate

Chocolate

A recent survey among people suffering from constipation revealed that people thought chocolate was to blame for constipation. Also, other reasons were: white bread, black tea, and bananas. The study was conducted on a group of 122 patients suffering from chronic constipation and 766 patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (8).

 

It’s true that, though black chocolate has numerous health benefits, from lowering the risk of heart attack (9) to lowering the cholesterol levels (10) if your digestive system is a bit on the edge, black chocolate can contribute to constipation (11).

Summary: Chocolate may be contributing to constipation. Although it does have numerous health benefits, avoid eating high amounts of chocolate if you suffer from daily constipation issues. Try a piece of fruit or bowl of berries to satisfy your sweet tooth instead.

4.  White bread

White bread

Eating white bread means missing on the opportunity to give your body some whole grains rich in fibers. Why is it that important? Because one slice of white bread has less than one gram of digestion-friendly fibers, while a slice of whole-grain has three grams or even more. That works wonders for your stomach.

Summary: White bread has no fiber, which means your body is missing a key component to good gut health. Whole grain bread, on average, has about 3 grams of fiber per serving, which can help push food along the digestive tract.

5. Milk and cheese

Milk and Cheese

This might sound strange, yes, but read carefully until the end. Milk and cheese are full-fat dairy products that bring a lot to the table when it comes to satiety and weight loss (12, 13). Moreover, a study from 2015 found that people who eat a lot of high-fat dairy products are less likely to experience diabetes (14). Nevertheless, since these products are processed very slowly, they could make you constipated (15), apart from the fact that they can cause a lot of bloating (16).

Summary: Milk and cheese could help with satiety and weight loss, but might also be the culprit for constipation. They digest very slowly in the gut, generally due to their high fat content, which can constipate you and even cause bloating.

6. Energy Drinks and coffee

Coffee

A recent European study showed that coffee was responsible for a gastrocolic response in the body shortly after consumption, which prompts people to go to the bathroom after a cup or two (17) This is why some of you might think coffee is actually preventing constipation, but it’s not. Drink too much coffee or energy drinks which also contain caffeine and you’ll experience constipation (18, 19). What is more, coffee is also dehydrating you (20) and without H2O to push waste through your digestive tract, your body is dry and your stool is hard. This is why, at some restaurants, they serve coffee with a glass of water. It’s essential to drink the two together.

Summary: Drinking some coffee could make you go to the bathroom after a cup or two. However, if you drink too much coffee, you may experience constipation. Coffee is a diuretic that can dehydrate you, and without water your body can’t push waste through the digestive tract and stools become hardened. Drink less coffee if you experience constipation.

7. Fast Food

Fast Food

Even though fast food is our choice when we’re in a hurry or just when we don’t feel like cooking anything, we should know that the nutrient-void burgers or greasy pizzas are filled with dehydrating-salt and fat which slow digestion. The crust of any pizza and cheese is just free of any nutrients your body might need but full of saturated fats (21).

Still, if you love pizza so much and we don’t blame you for that, why not make your own pizza? You can buy a whole-wheat crust, add some low-fat cheese and veggies and give up anything that sounds like or resembles with pepperoni and sausage.

Summary: Fast food is full of salt and fat, which together slows digestion, cause dehydration, and harden stools. If fast food is your favorite, try making your own pizza, burgers, or even fries. Fresh ingredients have more fiber and nutrients which help prevent constipation.

8. Ice Cream

Ice Cream

This is one you might not have seen coming. Ice cream is a food that can cause constipation, yes. This is because it contains considerable doses of lactose and fats (22, 23). Moreover, it doesn’t have any kind of fiber, so that means it won’t contribute to your bathroom situation in any way.

Still, if you make your own frozen banana or frozen strawberry ice cream, things will change for the better. Try doing that more often.

Summary: Ice cream contains fat and lactose, and no fiber, which slows down digestion. Make your own fiber-dense ice cream treat with frozen bananas or strawberries. Blend together with a little yogurt in a food processor and you have a delicious treat.

9.  White rice

White Rice

Compared to brown rice, white rice can lead to constipation because there is no more husk, bran or germ in it and that’s where all the fiber and nutrients were (24, 25).

Summary: Consume brown, wild, or black rice that is full of fiber and B vitamins. White rice contains no fiber, which can cause constipation.

10. Red meat

Red Meat

Red meat means steak and steak means a lot of people’s dinner, barbeques, family gatherings and so on and so forth. Still, it all depends on the quantity of steak. A good dose of steak at a time might have the opposite effect of constipation, but if you’re a regular consumer of red meat, then you’re a regular consumer of less fiber than needed (26). Less fiber means a slower digestive system and that leads to constipation (27). If you’re eating a lot of red meat for proteins, but don’t catch up on fiber, then you’re on going down on the slippery slope of constipation.

Summary: Eating high quantities of red meat generally means you aren’t filling up with fiber as well. Having too much protein and little fiber may cause constipation. Eat red meat in moderation accompanied with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and beans to ensure you’re meeting fiber requirements.

11. Persimmon

Persimmon

Persimmon is a fruit very popular in Asia, but not commonly known in the U.S. Sweet persimmons are not likely to cause constipation, but it’s the astringent ones that contain high doses of tannins (28). Tannins are a class of astringents that bind to and precipitate proteins and various other organic compounds (29).  This will slow down the movement of food through the intestines and thus aggravate constipation (29). So, if you like to eat a lot of persimmons, just stick to the sweet, sweet ones.

Summary: Persimmon is a fruit popular in Asia. Sweet persimmons aren’t likely to cause constipation. However, astringent ones contain high amounts of tannins. Tannins bind to and precipitate proteins which slows down the movement of food through the intestine. Slow movement causes constipation. Eat sweet persimmons if you enjoy eating these fruits.

12. Alcohol

Alcohol

This is not a food, but there are times when alcohol can trigger constipation (30) or just abnormal bowel movements during the night (31), which, if added to not drinking water can turn into a very severe kind of constipation. What is important to know is that alcohol is a notorious diuretic that increases fluid loss and in your body and leads to dehydration (32). Fluid loss is actually one major cause of constipation (33). Nevertheless, there is no documented research to prove that alcohol can directly impact constipation. Its impact is usually dependent on the individual.

Summary: Alcohol is a diuretic that causes fluid loss and dehydration. Fluid loss is a major cause of constipation because water helps push food through the intestine. Make sure to drink enough water throughout the day, and drink alcohol in moderation.

13. Gluten

Gluten

Ok, we’ve talked about foods containing gluten and yes, they’re prone to cause constipation. The idea is that gluten in itself is a compound that leads to constipation (34). Several grains like rye, wheat, barley contain gluten. Gluten might not cause constipation for everybody, but for some people, it can be quite problematic. For example, people suffering from Celiac disease ( a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the small intestine) cannot and should not eat gluten (35), but also people not suffering from these type of disease can have an intolerance or certain sensitivity to gluten which can lead to constipation or other complications.

So, why is gluten so problematic? Usually, gluten irritates the gut, and this means either constipation or diarrhea or even other types of health issues, such as intestinal permeability. (36)

Summary: Gluten may be a culprit for constipation. For those with Celiac disease, a long-term autoimmune disorder, gluten should be completely avoided. Some people may not have Celiac disease, but a gluten sensitivity. Gluten often irritates the gut for some people, so if you notice uncontrolled constipation, gluten may be an issue for you.

14. Chewing Gum – if you swallow it

Swallowing a Chewing Gum

You know when you were a kid and parents would tell you that swallowing a piece of gum could mean bad troubles for you? Well, they’re not actually that bad, but if you swallow enough chewing gum piece, it can turn into a mass in your digestive tract which can cause constipation (37). Anyways, this is not such bad news because it’s easy not to swallow your gum, right?

Summary: Swallowing chewing gum may cause constipation. If you swallow enough or too much, it can turn into a mass in your digestive tract, causing slow gut motility. Avoid swallowing gum!

15. Frozen food

Frozen Food

Eating a frozen dinner thawed in the microwave or oven might not always be a good idea. Usually, heat-and-eat dinners have no fiber whatsoever, but instead, are rich in fat and salt which can lead to water retention (38). No water means slower digestion and if there’s not enough in the digestive tract to push the waste, then it means constipation.

If you’re busy and don’t have time cooking, then at least be more cautious about what kind of frozen meals you consume. Choose the ones with the least fat and salt doses.

Summary: Frozen dinner options often include high amounts of salt and fat, which can slow digestion and cause fluid retention. They also tend to be lower in fiber and nutrients. Without fiber, you can’t push food through your intestinal tract. If you need convenient foods, read the labels and make sure it has plenty of fiber from vegetables and whole grains, and less salt.

Conclusion

Constipation can be avoided through a regular diet, through knowledge of what works for you. Different kinds of food can have different effects on different individuals, so knowing your body and the way your digestive system works is always a good idea. Moreover, knowing what types of food to avoid is also a really good idea in fighting against constipation. What is more, you should never be ashamed to talk about it or see a doctor in case it gets too much.

HealthNormal

Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, and written, fact-checked & medically reviewed by health experts.

Throughout this article, you'll find scientific references (clickable links to highly trusted peer-reviewed scientific papers, links denoted by the numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3)).