Constipation has countless causes, but sometimes food is one of them. It can make a normal day feel like a nightmare. Instead of reaching for laxatives, take a look at your eating habits. The reason might be what’s on your plate.
By definition, constipation is passing hard and dry stool. You might have less than three bowel movements a week, topped off with pain and discomfort.1 Constipation can be caused by various everyday things which are listed below.
- Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
- Eating too much fiber too fast
- Not drinking enough water
- Lack of exercise
- Ignoring the urge to go
Low-fiber diets can cause constipation, but diving into a high-fiber diet has the same effect. Everyone’s fiber “threshold” isn’t the same. Plus, everyone reacts to different foods in different ways. To help you narrow it down, here’s a list of common offenders.
1. Unripe Bananas
Bananas are delicious sources of fiber and energy. However, the complex starches in unripe bananas are harder to digest. It’s a gateway to constipation.
Cheese might have a loyal following, but it has little to no fiber. Eating too much will just worsen constipation.4 The lactose also doesn’t help, either. If you’re craving cheese, eat cashew “cheese” or pureed avocado. They offer both creaminess and fiber.
3. Ice Cream
Ice cream is another dairy food that may bring on constipation.5 You’ll get lots of sugar and no fiber. Sadly, the maraschino cherry on top doesn’t count.
Make banana ice cream instead. Blend frozen banana slices, plus other fruits if you’d like. Add cocoa powder or coconut flakes for sweetness.
Coffee might be a drink, but it won’t do much for hydration. It’s actually a diuretic! As you lose fluids, the risk for constipation increases.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine, drink coffee with care. You might be better of with low-caffeine beverages like tea.6 Need energy? Caffeine-free sources include banana, ginger, and nuts.
5. Red Meat
Red meat is linked to heart disease and weight gain, but constipation should be added to the list.7 The low fiber and high fat won’t sit well with your stomach. And while it’s rich in protein, there are other digestive-friendly choices. Reach for lean protein like poultry and fish. Add fiber with a side salad, sweet potatoes, or quinoa.
Beans are an amazing source of fiber, but for some, eating a lot of it causes constipation. This is especially true if your normal diet is low fiber. Increase your intake slowly, and stay hydrated! The fiber will soften your stool by absorbing water.
7. Processed Food
No surprise here. Processed food is packed with salt and sugar, but little to no fiber. Examples include fast food, boxed meals, and frozen dinners.8 Eat whole food whenever possible. Home cooked is the way to go, for the sake of your health and stool.
Can’t figure out what’s causing constipation? Write down meals and bowel movements. In time, you’ll be able to pinpoint the reason.
|↑1||Constipation. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Mohapatra, Debabandya, Sabyasachi Mishra, and Namrata Sutar. “Banana and its by-product utilization: an overview.” (2010).|
|↑3||Iwasawa, Haruyo, and Masatoshi Yamazaki. “Differences in biological response modifier-like activities according to the strain and maturity of bananas.” Food science and technology research 15, no. 3 (2009): 275-282.|
|↑4, ↑5, ↑7, ↑8||Eating, Diet & Nutrition for Constipation. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑6||Caffeine. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|