10 Foods to Avoid When Constipated + What to Eat for Digestive Relief
8 minute read
One of the biggest digestive issues many people in the United States face is constipation. Chronic constipation can lead to an accumulation of stool that hardens as time goes by, making it even harder to pass. This stool gets stuck in your intestines and collects there, sometimes requiring surgical removal.
While it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, one of the most frequent causes of constipation is what you eat. There are some foods that are prone to cause or exacerbate constipation. Remember, though, that your body may be different, and you could have your own, individual constipation triggers.
10 Foods That Can Worsen Constipation
Constipation is medically described as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. You can suffer from temporary constipation or you can have chronic constipation, which can seriously hamper your ability to go about life in a normal fashion.
The following ten items are things that are known to cause constipation in some people.
1. Prepackaged frozen meals: These meals win for convenience but very little else. Sapped of nutrients and fiber, packed with artificial sweeteners and preservatives, prepackaged frozen meals are just hard to digest.
2. Fast foods—especially the greasy stuff: While it might seem like the grease will just slide on through, this simply isn’t the case. Anything that’s greasy and full of fat takes longer to digest, which is only going to slow down an already halted system.
3. Processed foods: Potato chips, crackers, cereals, and other processed foods are stripped of their fiber and nutrients. It’s a constant trend with constipation that foods lacking fiber are not helping matters.
4. Red meat: Not only does red meat have very little fiber, it adds bulk to your stool. This means after a red meat-rich meal, you’ll have larger, firmer stool. This can really be a problem if you’re already suffering from constipation.
5. Alcohol: Alcohol is often cited by people as causing them constipation. It’s believed that the dehydrating effect of alcohol is at the core of this trigger.
6. Dairy: Cheese has long been known to cause constipation in some, but it’s all dairy that could be to blame.
7. Chocolate sweets: Sugars, carbohydrates, fat, and chocolate—together they taste amazing, but they also cause digestion issues, intestinal discomfort, and constipation. Chocolate lovers are going to be particularly disappointed as a study on the perceived effect of various foods found between 48-64% of their respondents listed chocolate as a constipation-causer.
8. Eggs: Packed with protein, the egg is sadly deficient in fiber, making it a poor choice when suffering from constipation. Although eating eggs can help fight heart disease.
9. White bread: White bread offers little to the body. Low in fiber and nutrients, this bowel blocker should be skipped or a rare treat, but never a dietary staple.
10. Unripe bananas: While ripe bananas can help add healthy fiber, unripe bananas contain resistant starch that can aggravate constipation issues. That said, green bananas do have their own special health benefits.
Foods and Tips to Help You Beat Constipation
If you want to try to tackle your constipation at home, either for a single episode or for more regularity across the board, the following foods and tips might help.
Whole grains and fiber: Make sure the fiber you’re consuming is of a high quality, such as whole grain cereals and bran. This fiber helps fill you up and expands or dissolves in water, making it just the right consistency to pass through the body with no problems.
Yogurt and/or probiotics: Probiotic supplements can be found over-the-counter or you can find helpful bacteria naturally in cultured foods, like yogurt. By adding this beneficial bacteria to your diet regularly, you balance your gut function and promote healthier bowel movements.
| Related: 7 Signs of an Unhealthy Gut: Why It’s Not Just Indigestion |
In fact, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that probiotics on average increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3 and helped soften stools, making them easier to pass.
Fruits and vegetables: Not only do fruits and vegetables typically come packed with healthy fiber, they’re often high in water content too. It’s a double-barreled weapon against constipation.
Drink fluids: Water is the best choice here, as sugar-added drinks can cause or worsen constipation. But the key is to keep the fluids coming, so you can flush your system naturally.
| Related: Urine Color Meanings: Dehydration, Disease, and More |
Prunes: This is a classic remedy for constipation, mainly because it works. First of all, prunes are packed with good fiber, but with that you also get the laxative effect of sorbitol, which occurs naturally in prunes.
Exercise: When you’re feeling constipated, exercise might be difficult, but you can probably still manage a vigorous walk. When you’re feeling good, make exercise a regular part of your routine.
Getting your body moving and the blood flowing helps your whole system work more effectively.
Create a schedule: This might seem a little silly to some and an absolute necessity to those with shy bowels. But establishing a routine with regularly scheduled bowel movements in an environment where you feel most comfortable will help your body relax and do what it’s supposed to do naturally.
Eventually your body takes over and you won’t even have to think about the schedule.
Other Causes of Constipation
Your constipation might not be caused by the foods you eat or your lifestyle, which is why it’s important that you consult with your healthcare professional to determine the cause and come up with a treatment plan together. Some more serious causes of constipation include:
♦ Bowel obstruction
♦ Colon, abdominal or rectal cancer
♦ Narrowing of the colon
♦ Rectum bulge
♦ Neurological problems
♦ Spinal cord injuries
♦ Multiple Sclerosis
♦ Parkinson’s disease
♦ Pelvic muscle problems
♦ Thyroid issues
♦ Certain medications
The Bottom Line
Constipation is not a matter to take lightly, especially if you feel that you fall into the chronically constipated category. But if you do suffer from constipation, you’re not alone. This is a problem that affects many, some very infrequently and some regularly.
As mentioned above, if you have chronic constipation, it’s important that you discuss this with your doctor. But if you suffer infrequent constipation, you may be able to relieve your symptoms by managing your diet better, choosing foods that promote bowel regularity, and skipping the foods that cause you constipation.