7 Foods That Can Cause Constipation
Let’s face it—pooping is good for you and your gut. And when you’re backed up, it can lead to bloating, discomfort, and fatigue, which can make you pretty feel crappy. (See what we did there?)
That’s why it’s a good idea to load up on foods that keep you regular and are high in fiber to get things moving, and to limit those that can make it harder to go. If you’re unsure of which foods might be trouble for your digestive tract, here’s a handy guide.
Try to eat these foods in moderation, and if you do eat them, pair them with fibrous foods and lots of water to counteract the constipation-causing effects.
Okay, so it’s not *technically* a food, and sometimes alcohol can actually trigger looser stools or abnormal bowel movements during a night (or the next morning) of drinking, but if you're consistently drinking alcohol and aren’t having other fluids to keep your body hydrated, it could lead to constipation.
“Since alcohol works as a diuretic, it can increase fluid loss and lead to dehydration. Inadequate hydration is often linked to constipation,” explains Sam Presicci, MCN, RD, LD, CPT, lead registered dietitian at Snap Kitchen.
“There isn’t much documented research on alcohol directly impacting constipation, and its impact probably depends on the individual, including how much they’re drinking,” she says. Yet, to offset any negative impacts it has—and it’s better for pacing yourself regardless—it’s best to stick to one or two drinks and have at least one glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
Gluten is found in several grains, like rye, wheat, and barley, and if you happen to have an intolerance or allergy, it could lead to constipation, says Presicci. “While gluten won’t cause constipation for everyone, it can be problematic for some people. Those with Celiac disease cannot eat any gluten, but even people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will generally be more sensitive to gluten,” she explains.
Here’s why: gluten irritates the gut, which in turn can lead to constipation or diarrhea. It can also increase your risk for other health issues as well, including digestive issues and intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome), she adds.
“Rather than swap all of your gluten-containing products for gluten-free versions, focus on eating real foods like proteins, veggies, and healthy fats to improve your digestive woes,” she says, especially since eating excess grains, especially refined ones, can back you up.
That’s right—eating too much white flour (rather than complex carbs that are high in fiber) will lead to constipation. “Research shows that more processed grains like white bread and white pasta tend to be more constipating than whole grains. Since the bran and germ are removed from these simple carbohydrates, they lack the fiber that helps lower risk of constipation,” Presicci explains.
And always see how you feel. “Having said that, some people do experience constipation when they eat high-fiber foods, particularly if they’re not used to consuming them, so pay attention to how you feel and ramp up fiber consumption accordingly,” she adds.
If you have a sensitive belly, milk could back you up. “Some people are more sensitive to the protein found in milk and experience constipation,” Presicci says, and this is particularly true for children. If you think milk or dairy products might be causing your constipation, eliminate them for 30 days and then reintroduce, seeing how your body reacts, she suggests.
All those fried chicken wings and burgers could be making you constipated. “Since fried foods are low in fiber and high in salt, they can lead to constipation,” she says. Low fiber intake is associated with constipation, and eating large amounts of salt can lower the amount of water in your stool, making it harder to move things along in your digestive tract.
Besides, it’s best to limit fried foods anyway, since they’re often cooked in unhealthy oils and are easy to overeat, she says. Plus, you likely won’t feel so great afterwards!
Unripe Persimmons and Bananas
Random, but “unripe or partially ripe persimmons may cause constipation, since they contain high amounts of tannins, which can slow movement of food through the intestines,” Presicci says.
Ripe persimmons have a sweeter flavor and don’t cause the same issue, though, so feel free to indulge once they’re ready for eating. “Similarly, unripe bananas may also cause constipation because they contain higher levels of tannins and resistant starch, which is more difficult to digest and breaks down naturally into sugars during the ripening process,” she adds.
The Bottom Line
If you're constipated—which, according to the Medical University of South Carolina, means pooping less than twice a week and straining when you do go—it's worth avoiding these foods until you're back on a regular bathroom schedule. Meantime, make sure you're eating enough fiber, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly. And, as always, consult your doctor if you think there may be an underlying health issue to blame.