12 foods that cause constipation

We’re delving into a topic that might make you feel a little uncomfortable, literally. Constipation occurs when you have infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool. Typically, a person with constipation may experience fewer than three bowel movements a week, have difficulty passing stools, or feel a sense of incomplete bowel movements. Constipation can be accompanied by symptoms such as bloating, stomach pain or discomfort, and a general feeling of “support.” It can be a chronic condition that requires medical attention or a temporary problem caused by certain factors, such as eating foods that cause constipation.

Barring any medical conditions, here are three common reasons you may be dealing with constipation:

  • Dehydration: Drinking enough fluids is important to help fiber work more efficiently in our digestive tracts, and not drinking enough fluids can cause constipation, she says Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT.
  • Lack of exercise: Lack of physical activity or prolonged periods of sitting can slow down the digestive system and contribute to constipation. On the other hand, regular exercise helps stimulate bowel movements.
  • Increased fiber intake: Increasing your fiber intake by eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is great, but be sure to increase slowly and drink plenty of fluids to avoid constipation, notes Jennifer Wilfong, MA, RD, CSP, LD, FAND.
  • Consume foods that cause constipation: Many foods can cause constipation because they are high in fat, low in fiber or have a dehydrating effect.

A high-fiber, low-fluid diet isn’t the only reason you may be backed up. It turns out that specific foods may be the culprit behind your sluggish digestion. We teamed up with nutrition experts to talk about 12 foods that cause constipation. Read on to find out exactly which foods may be slowing your ability to go, and what’s more, don’t miss 16 foods to help you poop instantly.

cooking grilled burger patties

Red meat is often high in total fat, contains no fiber, and may need to be seasoned with salt. “A diet high in red meat is associated with constipation. Animal foods like red meat lack fiber. Red meat is also high in fat, which helps you feel full while leaving less room for rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” of fiber,” says registered dietitian Lindsay Ducharme RD, CSR, LDN.

persimmons and kiwis

Persimmons may be delicious and nutritious fruits, but they are also constipation-causing foods. Persimmons, especially the astringent variety, can slow digestion and promote constipation due to their tannin content. Limit your intake of astringent persimmons if you suffer from constipation, explains the registered dietitian nutritionist Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND.

slice of chocolate cake

The combination of high-fat, low-fiber ingredients in most cakes creates a perfect storm to slow digestion and contribute to constipation. Fat is a macronutrient that takes a long time to digest, and cake contains a lot of fat as well as high-sugar, low-fiber ingredients that can be dehydrating. The one-two punch of slowed digestion with dehydration is a recipe for constipation if you’re already prone to it.

RELATED: 7 Easy Ways to Drink More Water and Stay Hydrated

ruffled fries

The salty crunch might be delicious, but it probably won’t aid digestion if you struggle with constipation. Salt is quite dehydrating, drawing water away from the gastrointestinal tract and further slowing down the movement of the digestive process. If you choose salty foods, be sure to drink plenty of water and balance them with low-sodium foods throughout the day.

RELATED: The unhealthiest potato chips, according to dietitians

two glasses of milk

“Dairy products can contribute to constipation, especially for people with dairy intolerance. While data in adults is limited, growing evidence suggests a link between lactose intolerance and constipation in children. In fact, constipation affects about 30 percent of people suffering from lactose intolerance and functional constipation, notes Dani Lebovitz, MS, RDN, food and nutrition education expert based in Franklin, TN, and founder of Kid Food Explorers.

Exploring dietary alternatives, such as opting for dairy-free options like flax, oat, almond or coconut milk, can prove helpful in managing constipation symptoms and promoting regular bowel movements while maintaining digestive comfort, Lebovitz adds.

chocolate bar in foil

This will be mind boggling, but chocolate can be a constipation culprit. In fact, in a study done in Germany, chocolate was cited the most as a potential cause of constipation. This is due to the high fat content in chocolate which can slow down digestion, slowing the movement of foods through our gastrointestinal tract, shares Brittany DeLaurentis, MPH, RD, CSO, LD.

eat fresh french fries

Consuming large amounts of fried and fast foods can contribute to constipation due to their tendency to be low in fiber while containing high amounts of fat and salt. Replacing nutrient-dense meals and snacks with these less nutrient-dense options can result in a decrease in overall fiber intake, Julie Balsamo, MS, RDN recommend.

woman eating protein bar

Increasing fiber for constipation has a caveat: Adding too much fiber too quickly could actually contribute to constipation as your body works to break down all these new foods. Though counterintuitive, foods with high amounts of added fiber can lead to tummy problems including constipation, Sarah Anzlovar, MS, RDN, LDNof Intuitive Eating Dietitian for Moms tells us.

While fiber is important in keeping you regular, too much at once can actually do the opposite, especially if you’re not drinking enough water to sustain bowel movement through your intestines. If something that doesn’t naturally contain a lot of fiber such as cookies, brownies, granola or energy bars, cereals, crackers, protein powders, etc. it has a lot of fibers, it is a signal that has been added and could be problematic. You can also look for ingredients like inulin, chicory root or psyllium. Most people can tolerate them in small amounts, but in excess it can be problematic, notes Anzlovar.

Chrissy Barth, MS, RDN, RYT comments on this double-edged sword with fiber intake: “Foods high in fiber such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and foods that have been fortified with fiber are good for health, however, adding too much too quickly can increase your risk of intestinal gas, bloating, cramping, and constipation.Slowly increase the fiber in your diet over a period of a few weeks to allow your digestive system to adjust.

drink alcohol and coffee

Alcohol is one drink that can make you constipated. Alcohol is dehydrating and your intestines need water to relax. You can also eat foods that are high in fat and sodium when you drink, which may increase the constipation effect, actions Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD.


Sweets and processed foods are among the foods that can cause constipation. These foods are low in fiber and fluid and high in processed fat and sugar, which can slow digestion and delay intestinal motility. Examples of these foods include pastries, cookies, frozen meals, chips, pretzels and other processed snacks, Chun explains.

Instead, we recommend eating more high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and avoiding or limiting your intake of sweets and processed foods to prevent constipation, she adds.

White bread

Without much fiber, white bread and similar products made with refined flour can contribute to constipation. These products could also be dehydrating due to the added sodium and sugar content. White bread dough products ranging from cookies, pastries, breads and donuts can all be guilty here.

When you indulge, choose to drink lots of water and balance your choices throughout the day with higher fiber options.

RELATED: 5 Breads Made With Lower Quality Ingredients

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