If You're Struggling With Constipation, These 5 Foods And Drinks May Be To Blame

Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal complaint, affecting millions of Americans of all ages. Prevalent as it may be, it’s an unpleasant issue that you’d probably prefer to avoid. And what you eat can either help or hinder things in the poop department.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, you’re typically considered constipated when you’re passing “small amounts of hard, dry stool, usually fewer than three times a week.” But when it comes to poop frequency, the normal range is pretty wide: anywhere from three times a day to three times a week. So consider what’s a deviation from your usual pattern.

Constipation is about more than just frequency of bowel movements, though. Other symptoms include pain or difficulty pooping, feeling like you haven’t fully emptied your bowels, bloating, sluggishness and stomach discomfort. Most people deal with short-term constipation at one point or another. Chronic constipation, however, is an ongoing issue that can negatively affect your quality of life and lead to complications, like hemorrhoids or fecal impaction, if left untreated.

When you're constipated, you might also experience bloating, sluggishness and stomach discomfort. 

When you're constipated, you might also experience bloating, sluggishness and stomach discomfort.

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You may become constipated due to dehydration, lack of exercise, changes to your routine (such as travel), stress, certain medications and health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.

But below, we’ll focus on some of the ways your diet could be contributing to your constipation woes. The main takeaway: Foods that are high in fat but low in fiber tend to be the worst offenders. No one specific food or drink is likely to cause constipation on its own for most individuals — however, your daily eating habits can worsen an existing issue, according to Medical News Today.

We asked experts — including gastro doctors and dietitians — to explain which foods and drinks you might want to consider cutting back on when you’re backed up and why.

Refined grains 

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“Refined grains like white bread, white pasta and white rice are known to be binding and can contribute to constipation,” registered dietitian Stefani Sassos, nutrition and fitness director for the Good Housekeeping Institute, told HuffPost. “This is due to the fact that they are lower in fiber than whole grains.”

Baked goods such as pastries, cookies and cakes, as well as crackers and flour tortillas fall under this umbrella, as well.

With refined grains, the fiber our bodies need to facilitate digestion is stripped away during the milling process.

“Fiber promotes regularity by helping food move through your digestive system,” gastroenterologist Dr. Supriya Rao previously told HuffPost. “This is because fiber absorbs water and bulks up stools, making them easier to pass.”

Cheese and dairy products 

Cheese is low in fiber and high in fat, which can worsen constipation. 

Cheese is low in fiber and high in fat, which can worsen constipation.

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Dairy products like cheese tend to be high in fat, yet low in fiber, which can make constipation worse, gastroenterologist Dr. Rabia A. De Latour told HuffPost.

For those with a lactose intolerance, consuming dairy products typically leads to diarrhea and gas. But according to a 2022 literature review, about 30% of lactose-intolerant individuals experience constipation after eating dairy.

Red meat

Raw steaks on a wooden board with salt, pepper, and rosemary
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Red meat, such as beef and pork, these kinds

It is also rich in protein, the most satiating macronutrient. This means you might feel full after eating that steak or burger, making you less likely to reach for high-fiber foods like fruits and veggies.  

Fried foods 

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French fries, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks and other fried fare can make you more backed up.

“Fried, greasy foods are very high in fat and can be hard for the body to digest, contributing to constipation,” Sassos explained. “Plus, they often are void of fiber.”

For other folks, these kinds of foods may lead to more urgent and looser stools — it really depends on the individual and the other components of their diet.


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Booze is another one that causes different GI symptoms for different people. For many individuals, a night of drinking leads to soft stool or diarrhea. In other cases, it can have a constipating effect.

If you’re backed up, Dr. Kenneth Josovitz — a Virginia gastroenterologist with Gastro Health — recommends avoiding alcohol, “which can cause dehydration and worsen constipation.”

So why does alcohol have this effect? Alcohol suppresses the release of vasopressin, a hormone which helps your body hold onto fluids by telling the kidneys to reabsorb water, rather than excrete it.

“That [suppression] is why people will pee more when they drink,” gastroenterologist Dr. Sunana Sohi previously told HuffPost. “The alcohol is making them pee out all the water in their body, and so they get dehydrated and then constipated because of it.”

How To Alleviate Constipation

Person clutching their stomach, possibly indicating discomfort or fullness, relevant to a food-related context
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In addition to cutting back on the aforementioned foods and drinks, try to incorporate more high-fiber foods into your diet to help you stay regular. Women should aim to consume at least 25 grams of fiber a day, De LaTour said. For men, that number is about 38 grams per day.

Sassos recommends foods like raspberries, apples and pears with the skin on, lentils, beans, broccoli, leafy greens and nuts. Prunes, known for their laxative properties, can also be a good at-home remedy to try, she said.

“If you’re not used to eating prunes and fiber-rich foods, start with one to two prunes per day,” Sassos said. “You can work your way up to five or six as tolerated. Prune juice can be effective too, especially warm prune juice since warm liquids in general can speed up digestive motility.”

When increasing your fiber intake, go about it slowly and be sure to drink enough water, she advised.

“We need adequate hydration to help fiber digest properly in the body,” Sassos said. “If you don’t drink enough water, high-fiber foods may actually constipate you even more.”

Incorporating more high-fiber foods like leafy greens can help relieve constipation. 

Incorporating more high-fiber foods like leafy greens can help relieve constipation.

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To ease constipation, you can also try drinking a cup of tea as “the hot temperature speeds up the motility and the caffeine stimulates the bowels,” Josovitz suggested.

Reducing stress and exercising can help get things moving as well, he added.

Sassos also emphasized the importance of physical activity in keeping you regular. “Even a short 10-to 15-minute walk after a meal can help,” she said.

The occasional bout of constipation typically resolves on its own with minor lifestyle adjustments. But in other cases, constipation may warrant a visit to your doctor — especially if it’s coupled with significant abdominal pain.

“You should seek medical attention if the constipation is new, severe, lasts more than a few weeks, or comes with bleeding, weight loss or weakness,” Josovitz advised.

This post originally appeared on HuffPost.