Constipation can result from a medical problem but, most often, it’s caused by lifestyle - especially diet. Foods that cause constipation are often the culprit.
Almost everyone knows, from personal experience, what it feels like to be constipated. Although certain health conditions can result in constipation, this common problem is usually not caused by a serious medical problem. Instead, behaviors and habits, ranging from not getting enough exercise to ignoring the call of nature to “go” when you need to have a bowel movement, can lead to constipation. Another common cause is what you eat and drink.
For example, popular low carb diets can effectively cause weight loss but often result in constipation as a side effect. And the National Institute on Aging (NIA) points out many older people frequently don’t drink enough water and other beverages, resulting in constipation from dehydration. Another important reason people of any age suffer from irregularity is because they are frequently eating foods that cause constipation.
Low-fiber foods that cause constipation are common
Adult diets should contain 25 to 31 grams of fiber a day, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Adequate fiber has numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk for several cancers and heart disease and helping regulate blood sugar. What’s more, fiber-rich foods are well known as to promote regular bowel movements.
On the other hand, foods that cause constipation are typically low in fiber. Two of the most commonly eaten low-fiber foods are white bread and white rice.
While whole grain bread and brown rice can relieve constipation due to their fiber content, white breads and white rice have been processed so the husk, bran, and germ have been removed - along with nutrients and constipation — preventing fiber.
In fact, if you are eating any highly processed snacks and foods, whether made from wheat, rice, or potatoes, you are consuming foods that cause constipation in many people. So, look for healthier, whole grain alternatives instead of potato chips, pretzels, and non-whole grain bagels, pasta, and crackers.
Bottom line? Some foods that cause constipation may surprise you
If you come home from a long day at work and pop a frozen dinner in the microwave several nights a week, you may think your choice is a healthy alternative to fast food. But frozen foods, although quick and convenient, can have a downside. They are often stripped of nutrients, including adequate fiber needed for regular bowel movements. Check the label before you choose a frozen dinner, and look for healthy choices made with whole grains.
Other beverages and foods that cause constipation:
- Coffee can help speed bowel movements in some people, but coffee can also have the opposite effect. Coffee in excess is dehydrating — and that causes constipation. If you tend to drink coffee frequently, make sure you are also drinking water in between cups of java.
- High-fat dairy products, including whole milk, cream, and cheese, contain no fiber and can be constipating. Foods high in fat also cause digestion to slow, another factor in constipation.
- High-fat, low-fiber sweets and desserts can contribute to both intestinal discomfort and constipation. A healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth, while promoting regularity, is to opt for fiber-rich fruit, like raspberries and strawberries.
- Alcoholic beverages can lead to constipation because they are dehydrating. If you drink alcohol, don’t indulge to excess, and make sure to drink a glass of water or a sports drink after each alcoholic drink.
- Bananas, even the green type, are generally a healthy choice — but if you have a problem with constipation, avoid not-yet-ripe bananas. The reason? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, unripe bananas contain resistant starch, a type of carbohydrate that is absorbed slowly, “resisting” digestion in the small intestine.
- Meat, whether a steak or a hotdog, can cause constipation if your diet is heavy on those sources of protein and lacking in fruits, veggies, and whole grains that provide fiber.
June 20, 2019
Janet O’Dell, RN