9 Foods That Can Make Constipation Worse
Eating a healthy diet can go a long way in terms of maintaining healthy bowel movements—and the wrong foods can make your constipation worse.
Avoid these foods that may make constipation worse
Constipation is something almost everyone deals with at one point or another. Although 27 percent of adults experience it, there are ways to avoid constipation. You won't even need these home remedies for constipation relief if you avoid the following foods that make constipation worse.
Processed frozen foods, though high in convenience, are often stripped of nutrients, including the fibre your body needs to maintain regular bowel movements. (Adults need about 25 to 38 grams of fibre each day.) Additionally, processed frozen foods often contain artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and bad-for-you fats, making them more difficult to digest. "Foods that are high in fat are usually low in fibre," explains Linzy Ziegelbaum, RD, of LNZ Nutrition in Syosset, New York. "When a food is high in fat your body digests it slower." (Looking to add more fibre to your diet? Try energizing your morning with this green smoothie recipe.)
Choosing foods with high fibre and low fat content is the best way to stay regular. No type of meat from chicken to turkey to pork contains fibre, but red meat is the fattiest, making it the most difficult to digest. "Since red meat is higher in fat than other meats, it may cause more constipation," says Ziegelbaum. "Even though chicken, turkey, and fish don’t contain fibre, they are lower in fat, which helps them digest faster."
"Dehydration can back you up, because you need to have fluids to digest your meals," Ziegelbaum says. Alcohol can cause dehydration. If you enjoy a drink or two at night, you need to balance it out with an adequate amount of water to keep your body hydrated. Many dietitians recommend drinking eight cups of H20 each day, though this can vary depending on your weight, height, and physical activity level.
High-fat dairy products including whole milk, cream, and cheese contain no fibre and can often make constipation worse. Limiting dairy consumption and adding more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits into your diet may help relieve constipation. According to Ziegelbaum, bloating and gas can often accompany constipation and can be symptoms of lactose intolerance.
Potato chips, crackers, and other processed foods
Processed foods including potato chips, saltines, and some breakfast cereals are stripped of their nutrients and can prolong constipation. Ziegelbaum recommends choosing whole grains instead of refined and buying whole grain bread that has at least three grams of fibre per serving. If you’re feeling constipated, try replacing breadcrumbs with oats when cooking dishes like turkey burgers, casseroles, or breaded chicken. Oats are an excellent source of fibre and can prevent constipation from getting worse.
Chocolate, cakes, and cookies
Desserts and sweets can compromise your body’s ability to digest foods properly as they are high in carbohydrates, low in fibre, and often high in fat. People with digestive issues often believe chocolate links to intestinal discomfort, although there's no scientific research showing that it causes constipation. Still, Ziegelbaum recommends reaching for the raspberries instead of the cookies when you’re craving something sweet. "One cup of raspberries has eight grams of fibre," Ziegelbaum says. "It’s very easy to get your fibre through fruits and berries."
Fried, greasy food
An impulsive pit stop at McDonald's may satisfy your junk food craving, but will likely make your constipation worse. "Anything that’s greasy like fried chicken or French fries is going to take a longer time to digest," explains Ziegelbaum. More grease means more fat, which equals more constipation. If you have not had a bowel movement in over two days, fuel your body with a healthy diet of lean protein and a generous amount of fruits and vegetables. And if you've indulged in a few too many foods that cause constipation, check out these wonderful foods that cleanse your colon.
White bread is a processed grain that contains less fibre than whole grains. Some studies link the fibre found in whole grains to a lower risk of constipation. So you're not doing yourself any favors by reaching for white bread if you suffer from constipation. Still, the entire diet must be considered.
With about three grams of fibre per serving, bananas are among the fruits and vegetables that can help you poop. That said, they can also be one of the foods that cause constipation. Before bananas mature, they contain resistant starch that can aggravate pre-existing constipation, according to a study published in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. So make sure your banana is nice and yellow before eating it.
Medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD.
Next, learn how to prevent constipation while you're on vacation.