7 Foods That Can Cause Constipation

Medically Reviewed By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Was this helpful?

While constipation can have many causes, dietary patterns and some specific foods may play a big role. Foods that cause constipation can include processed foods, alcohol, and meat. This article looks at the foods and dietary patterns that may cause constipation, or hard stools. It also discusses how certain dietary habits and fiber intake may help alleviate constipation.

Learn more about constipation, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

1. Alcohol

A person's fist squashes a ring donut.
French Anderson Ltd/Stocksy United

Research suggests that the overuse of alcohol that may contribute to constipation and worsen symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions.

Alcohol may reduce levels of vasopressin in the blood, which regulates the water balance in your body, 2018 research suggests.

As a result, consuming too much alcohol may lead to increased urination and loss of water from your body. This can cause constipation because the movement of food through the digestive tract requires water.

2. Processed grains and refined sugars

Simple carbohydrates are foods that contain only one to two types of sugars. They can be low in fiber and include foods such as:

  • refined or processed grains, including:
    • white rice
    • white bread
    • white pasta
  • added or refined sugars, including:
    • sugar and syrups
    • candy
    • desserts
    • sugary drinks
    • cereals

Processed grains, such as rice, undergo processing to remove parts of the grain that contain fiber. Fiber is essential for keeping stools soft and passable.

Additionally, a 2022 survey suggests that sugary products were among the foods that significantly increased constipation rates.

Read more about the difference between whole and refined grains in rice.

3. Dairy products

A 2021 clinical trial suggests that removing milk and other dairy items from the diet may help alleviate constipation in children with chronic constipation. Additionally, people with lactose intolerance may experience constipation when eating dairy.

However, research is mixed on whether dairy may contribute to constipation for everyone.

In a 2021 study, consuming moderate amounts of dairy was associated with lower odds of experiencing constipation in people assigned female at birth. This was compared with people consuming less than 1 serving daily. People assigned male at birth did not report any connection between dairy and constipation.

Some other research from 2021 suggests that probiotic yogurt may help relieve symptoms of constipation.

As a result, further research is necessary to understand the effects of dairy on constipation.

4. Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in grains and products such as:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye
  • processed foods
  • medications
  • vitamin supplements

After consuming gluten, some people’s bodies may produce an immune response that causes inflammation in the intestines. It can trigger digestive symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation.

This may indicate that you have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Gluten may not cause constipation in people who are not sensitive to gluten.

Read more about gluten sensitivity, including its symptoms and diagnosis.

5. Meat

Most meat has no fiber, which may contribute to constipation if consumed in high quantities.

The National Institute on Aging also suggests that high fat meats may cause constipation.

Meats high in fat can include:

  • fatty cuts of beef, lamb, and pork, such as pork belly
  • duck
  • ground beef that is 75% lean or less
  • sausages, hot dogs, and bacon
  • luncheon or deli meats, such as salami

While some fats may contribute to negative health effects, other fats can be beneficial for health.

Learn more about fats, protein, and carbohydrates such as fiber.

6. Fried, fast, or other processed foods

The following foods may be high in fat and low in fiber:

  • fried foods
  • fast foods
  • overly processed foods, such as hot dogs
  • meat products
  • milk and cheese
  • cooking fats, such as margarine and lard
  • processed grains
  • some beverages
  • some preprepared foods, such as:
    • snacks, such as chips or baked goods
    • sauces
    • meals, such as frozen or microwaveable meals

These foods may also be high in salt and other additives. Salt can cause the body to absorb more water from the intestines, making the stool dry and harder to move through the intestines.

7. Persimmons

Persimmons can be beneficial for health. They contain antioxidants such as vitamin C and are a source of fiber. Still, they can also lead to constipation if you eat too many at once.

Persimmons contain tannic acid, which can cause constipation by reducing the action of the small intestine, which forms part of the digestive system, according to 2014 research.

Additional dietary causes 

Below are some additional factors that may contribute to constipation.

Low fiber diets

Fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate that’s present in plant foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It can help attract water into the digestive system to maintain gut movement and helps keep stools soft and easy to pass.

In fact, a 2015 analysis suggests that consuming fiber reduced rates of constipation by 1.8% with each 1 gram (g) of fiber added to the diet per day.

High and low FODMAP diets

The phrase “FODMAP” refers to foods high in certain types of carbohydrates, which can include:

FODMAP foods may not be problematic for people with healthy digestive systems.

However, they are not always easily digested or absorbed by the body, particularly for those with gastrointestinal conditions, per a 2020 research review.

Conversely, research also suggests that low FODMAP diets that are also low in fiber may increase the chance of constipation.

Allergies and intolerances

Allergens are substances that cause an allergic reaction. They can be present in foods and may cause the body to release histamines that increase inflammation and swelling. This can affect bowel movements.

Additionally, intolerances to certain food substances, such as gluten, make them difficult to digest.

However, not everyone has the same allergies and intolerances.

Learn more about food intolerances and allergies.

Recommended fiber intake

The recommended acceptable dietary fiber intake is 14 g per 1,000 calories of food per day, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Make sure you are drinking enough water while increasing your fiber intake.

However, recommendations for the intake of dietary fiber may vary from person to person, especially if you have a gastrointestinal condition.

Read more about the foods highest in fiber and recommended fiber intake.

Contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your diet or digestive health.

It is also advisable to contact a doctor or a licensed dietitian, if you have access to one, before making any significant changes to your diet, especially if you have a gastrointestinal condition.

Learn more about when to contact a doctor regarding constipation.


Constipation can be caused or worsened by dietary habits, such as diets low in fiber. Examples of low fiber foods and other foods that cause constipation include processed foods, dairy, and meat. Foods high in salt, sugars, and fats may also contribute to constipation.

Increasing your fiber and water intake may help improve constipation. However, recommended dietary habits can vary for everyone.

Contact your doctor or a licensed dietician if you have questions about your diet or persistent symptoms of constipation.

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
Last Review Date: 2022 Dec 22
View All Digestive Health Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Abdullah, M. M. H., et al. (2015). Dietary fibre intakes and reduction in functional constipation rates among Canadian adults: A cost-of-illness analysis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4677277/
  2. Aslam, H., et al. (2022). Associations between dairy consumption and constipation in adults: A cross-sectional study [Abstract]. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33827333/
  3. Bae, S. H., et al. (2014). Diets for constipation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291444/
  4. Bellini, M., et al. (2020). Low FODMAP diet: Evidence, doubts, and hopes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7019579/
  5. Bourkheili, A. M., et al. (2021). Effect of cow's-milk–free diet on chronic constipation in children; A randomized clinical trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7919185/
  6. Concerned about constipation? (2022). https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/concerned-about-constipation
  7. Constipation. (n.d.). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation
  8. Diaz, S., et al. (2022). Constipation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513291/
  9. Domínguez Díaz, L., et al. (2020). Potential nutrition and health claims in deastringed persimmon fruits (Diospyros kaki L.), variety ‘Rojo Brillante’, PDO ’Ribera del Xúquer’. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7284415/
  10. Eggs, grade A, large, egg whole. (2019). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/748967/nutrients
  11. Fabisiak, A., et al. (2017). Targeting histamine receptors in irritable bowel syndrome: A critical appraisal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5503283/
  12. Fiber: The carb that helps you manage diabetes. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/role-of-fiber.html
  13. Food intolerance. (2022). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-intolerance/
  14. Gluten intolerance defined. (n.d.). https://www.aaaai.org/tools-for-the-public/allergy,-asthma-immunology-glossary/gluten-intolerance-defined
  15. Harper, K. M., et al. (2018). Vasopressin and alcohol: A multifaceted relationship. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6286152/
  16. Holesh, J. E., et al. (2022). Physiology, carbohydrates. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459280/
  17. How much (dietary) fiber should I eat? (2022). https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/How-much-dietary-fiber-should-I-eat
  18. Khuropakhonphong, R., et al. (2021). Bulgarian yogurt relieved symptoms and distress and increased fecal short-chain fatty acids in healthy constipated women: A randomized, blinded crossover controlled trial. https://pubag.nal.usda.gov/catalog/7211684
  19. Leszkowicz, J., et al. (2022). Can lactose intolerance be a cause of constipation? A narrative review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9105309/
  20. Peng, A. W., et al. (2019). Effects of the DASH diet and sodium intake on bloating: Results from the DASH–sodium trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7122060/
  21. Rollet, M., et al. (2021). Association between dietary factors and constipation in adults living in Luxembourg and taking part in the ORISCAV-LUX 2 survey. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8746799/
  22. Waite, M. (2019). Fiber. https://www.kdhe.ks.gov/DocumentCenter/View/10635/Fiber---Prevent-Constipation-PDF