7 Foods That Can Cause Constipation
Learn more about constipation, including its symptoms, causes, and treatment.
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.
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
- sugary drinks
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.
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.
Gluten is a protein found in grains and products such as:
- processed foods
- 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.
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
- 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.
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
- 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.
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.
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:
- corn syrup and honey
- wheat and rye
- artificial sweeteners
- stone fruits
- cruciferous vegetables
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.
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.