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  • Writer's pictureJean-Philippe Ricau- Registered Dietitian

12 foods to avoid when you are constipated

Navigating constipation requires a thoughtful approach to both what you include and exclude from your diet.

In my previous article, "12 Foods to Ease Constipation," I delved into the positive side, suggesting wholesome options to promote regular bowel movements.


Now, let's pivot and explore the flip side – 12 foods to steer clear of when you find yourself contending with constipation.

Balancing your choices is key, and understanding what to avoid can be just as important as knowing what to embrace on your journey to digestive well-being.


This article was reviewed and approved by Jean-Philippe Ricau, a Dietitian with 25+ years of experience, and co-founder of myfrenchdietitian.

Constipated woman sitting on the toilet

 

When dealing with constipation, it's advisable to be mindful of certain foods that may exacerbate the condition. Here's a list of 12 foods to avoid when you are constipated:


Sources:


 

12 foods to avoid when constipated:


These are some of the foods that may cause or worsen constipation.



1. Processed Foods:


Many processed foods are low in fiber and high in unhealthy fats, which can contribute to constipation.

Fast food, frozen meals, and packaged snacks fall into this category, so opting for whole, minimally processed alternatives is advisable.


2. Red Meat and cold cuts:


Fatty cuts of red meat (it includes charcuterie aka cold cuts), may slow down digestion, impacting bowel movements. Choosing lean protein sources and incorporating plant-based proteins can be a more digestion-friendly option.



3. Dairy Products:


For some individuals, dairy products can be challenging to digest, potentially contributing to constipation. Limiting dairy intake or opting for lactose-free alternatives might alleviate symptoms.


4. White Rice, Pasta and White Bread:


A plate of pasta

Highly refined grains like white rice, industrial pasta and white bread lack the fiber present in whole grains. Choose whole grain alternatives to support regular bowel movements.


5. Unripe Bananas:


While bananas are a healthy fruit, they can be binding for some individuals, especially if consumed excessively. Diversifying fruit choices can help maintain a balanced diet and support regular bowel movements.

Unripe bananas contain more starch than ripe ones and may contribute to constipation. Opt for ripe bananas for easier digestion.


6. Fried and Greasy Foods:


Fried and greasy foods can slow down digestion and contribute to constipation. Opting for healthier cooking methods like baking, grilling, or steaming is advisable.


7. Chocolate:


While a small amount of dark chocolate may have health benefits, excessive chocolate consumption, especially milk chocolate, may contribute to constipation due to its sugar and fat content.



8. Iron Supplements:


Iron supplements, particularly in high doses, may lead to constipation for some individuals. Consulting with a healthcare professional for balanced iron supplementation is recommended.


9. Processed Snacks like chips, pretzels:


nachos

Snack items like chips, pretzels, and certain crackers are often low in fiber and high in processed ingredients, which can contribute to constipation. Opting for whole, minimally processed snacks supports digestive health.


10. Alcohol:


Avoiding alcohol when experiencing constipation is advisable for several reasons. Firstly, alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body, and dehydration can contribute to harder stools and difficulty passing them. Optimal hydration is essential for maintaining regular bowel movements, and alcohol can disrupt this balance.

Furthermore, alcohol can slow down the digestive system. It interferes with the natural muscle contractions in the intestines that help move stool through the digestive tract. This delay in bowel movements can lead to constipation or worsen existing symptoms.


11. Sugar-free Foods ("Diet" Products):


Avoiding sugar-free foods when dealing with constipation is recommended for several reasons. Many sugar-free products contain artificial sweeteners, which can have a laxative effect in some individuals. While this might seem counterintuitive, these sweeteners can draw water into the intestines, leading to loose stools or diarrhea.

Additionally, some sugar-free foods may lack fiber, an essential component for promoting regular bowel movements. Fiber adds bulk to the stool, softening it and making it easier to pass. If sugar-free options are low in fiber, they may contribute to constipation by not providing the necessary material for efficient digestion.


12. Sugary Drinks:


While staying hydrated is important for overall digestive health, sugary drinks, especially those high in fructose and artificial sweeteners, can have some drawbacks when it comes to constipation.

Some sugary drinks, like sodas, may contribute to dehydration due to their caffeine content. Dehydration can make stool harder and more challenging to pass.

Sugary drinks often lack fiber, which is essential for maintaining healthy bowel movements. A diet low in fiber can contribute to constipation.

Excessive consumption of sugary drinks may alter the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, potentially affecting digestive processes.

For better digestive health and to help alleviate constipation, it's generally advisable to focus on staying hydrated with water. Incorporating natural fruit juices, herbal teas, or water with a splash of lemon can be better alternatives. As always, individual responses to foods and drinks can vary, so it's essential to pay attention to your body's signals.


 

Should I avoid coffee if I'm constipated?


Caffeine can irritate the digestive system and can contribute to constipation.



Should I eat Foods that are high in fiber if I'm constipated?


As discussed in our previous article called "12 Foods To Ease Constipation", while fiber is generally good for digestion, too much fiber can actually worsen constipation. It is important to increase your fiber intake gradually to give your body time to adjust.



Conclusion:


There are foods that may cause or worsen constipation. Understanding the impact of certain foods on digestive health is crucial when addressing constipation. While avoiding these foods, it's equally important to stay hydrated, incorporate fiber-rich options, and maintain a well-balanced diet. Listening to your body and making mindful dietary choices can contribute to long-term digestive well-being. If constipation persists, seeking guidance from a healthcare professional is recommended.



12 Foods to Ease Constipation

Read our article here.


If you're looking for recipes ideas to reduce constipation, we really like this book from Joe Correa.

Click on the image for more information.


Recipes book to reduce constipation

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