Constipation is a common problem. It is often certain foods that cause constipation. Check if you particularly enjoy eating any of the following foods. It could be responsible for your constipation.
Foods that cause constipation
Mental health issues can be a trigger for constipation, as can medication. In most cases, however, it is simply the diet that causes the intestines to become sluggish, often in combination with far too little exercise.
Many foods can help to relieve constipation, while others make it worse or cause it in the first place. Below we present those foods that most often contribute to constipation.
However, not all of these foods immediately cause constipation in everyone. It depends a lot on the overall diet and overall lifestyle. For example, a person who exercises heavily and stays hydrated is more likely to eat constipating foods without suffering from constipation than a person who sits all day and drinks little.
Other foods can have a constipating effect on one person and even cause diarrhea in another. As is so often the case, it also depends very much on the individual. So if you’re constipated, try avoiding one or the other of the foods listed below for a few weeks and see how your digestion changes.
1. Alcohol can cause constipation
Alcohol is a common reason for constipation. Alcohol has a diuretic and dehydrating effect. It blocks a hormone (vasopressin) that would protect the body from dehydration. Thanks to alcohol, this protection no longer works well. The body dries out and with it the intestines. As a result, the bowel movement no longer works as hoped. ( 4, 5 )
Alcohol also impairs the intestinal flora, damages the intestinal mucosa and promotes the development of leaky gut syndrome. This condition, in turn, can manifest itself in a wide variety of complaints – constipation, diarrhea or diseases that at first glance have nothing to do with the digestive system (allergies, autoimmune diseases, etc.).
The effect of alcohol on digestion varies from person to person. However, if you are constipated and drink alcohol regularly, cut back significantly and get in the habit of drinking the same amount of water with each drink.
2. Foods containing gluten can cause constipation
Gluten is a protein complex found in many grains (wheat, barley, rye, spelled, kamut, etc.). Some people react to gluten with diarrhea, while others can become constipated if they regularly eat gluten-containing foods (bread, rolls, pastries, pastries, pasta, couscous, etc.) ( 6 ).
A possible cause could be celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Gluten intolerance can also lead to digestive problems. Perhaps it is not a gluten intolerance that you have, but “only” a wheat intolerance, so that you could eat other cereals containing gluten, but not baked goods and pasta made from wheat, simply because you cannot tolerate other components in the wheat grain, e.g. the contained lectins.
Therefore, if you suffer from inexplicable constipation but like to eat baked goods and pasta, first replace them with wheat-free baked goods and pasta (e.g. made from spelt, oats or rye). If there is no change after a few weeks, test a gluten-free diet and choose gluten-free baked goods and pasta. Also, observe how your constipation is changing.
If you have severe symptoms after eating baked goods and pasta, then you could consult a doctor to ask for gluten intolerance or celiac test.
3. White bread constipates the intestines
Extract flours are colloquially referred to as white flour. This refers to all flours from which the germ and the outer layers of the grain have been removed through industrial processes, which leads to a high level of fibre deficiency. There is white flour from almost all grains, regardless of whether it is wheat, spelt or rye.
Of course, the products made from this white flour – white bread, white flour pasta, biscuits and crackers – are also low in fiber. Basically, they consist only of starch and gluten and very easily clog the digestive system.
In whole-grain cereals, on the other hand, the germ provides valuable vital substances and the bran ensures regular intestinal cleansing, increases the volume of the stool, stimulates intestinal peristalsis and thus accelerates stool excretion very well. Blockages are therefore rare if wholemeal flour is used instead of white flour. That’s because every extra gram of fibre reduces your risk of constipation by 1.8 percent ( 7, 8 ).
However, if you have eaten white flour products up until now, change your diet to whole grain slowly, as your digestive system first has to get used to the increasing amount of fibre.
For some people, fibre makes constipation worse. However, this is usually only the case if you suddenly eat a lot of roughage, often in the form of highly concentrated food supplements (e.g. bran products) and drink too little at the same time. Because roughage absorbs large amounts of water. Therefore, always drink enough water if you eat high-fibre food!
4. Milk and dairy products cause constipation
Dairy products can cause diarrhea in some people – especially if they are lactose intolerant. For many more people, however, dairy contributes to constipation.
In another study, participants aged 1 to 12 suffered from chronic constipation. However, when they were given soy milk instead of cow’s milk, most of these children improved their constipation ( 11 ).
There are also numerous reports of experience from adults in this regard so it is definitely worth avoiding dairy products in the event of chronic constipation. Dairy products do not necessarily have to be replaced with soy products. There are now many milk substitutes based on grains or nuts.
Also note that soy milk and other plant-based milks are not baby food, so they should not be given instead of breast milk. Plant-based milk is always just an additional food that is consumed in small amounts.
5. Meat is fibre-free
Meat is as good as fibre-free, so it doesn’t contain any substances that promote digestion. Anyone who then only eats meat with chips, pasta or white rice and strictly avoids salads and vegetables will sooner or later suffer from constipation.
Since red meat often contains more fat than poultry or fish and fat slows down the digestion process, red meat is considered more constipating than other meats or fish, although these too are naturally nearly fibre-free ( 12 ).
Therefore, if you are constipated, reduce your meat portions and always eat meat together with vegetables or salads. Instead of meat, you could increasingly test high-fibre protein sources such as lentils, peas or bean dishes.
6. Fried and fast foods cause constipation
Those who like to eat fried or fast food – fast food is often fried – increase their risk of becoming a victim of chronic constipation. Fried and fast food are usually high in fat, salt, and sugar, but at the same time low in fibre and nutrients.
Popular fast-food foods are e.g. Chips, French fries, hamburgers, pizza, etc. Those who mainly live on such foods should not be surprised by constipation. The high salt content and at the same time the lack of water in fast food dries out the stool because the body has to dilute the salt, which of course also gets into the blood so that it cannot cause any damage. To do this, water is drawn out of the intestines. The stool now becomes hard and elimination becomes more and more strenuous ( 13 ).
So if you are used to eating fast food every day because of stress and lack of time, try to take a slightly slower pace in the future so that you have time for a healthy meal. Or find some healthy eating alternatives for people who are always in a hurry.
7. Persimmons will clog if eaten unripe
Persimmons are apple-sized red or orange fruits that come from East Asia. There is the so-called persimmon or Sharon (usually orange), which tastes sweet and crunchy – even if it is still hard. And there are other varieties (mostly the red ones) that are not edible when hard because they contain far too many tannins in this state.
You have to leave them sitting until they are soft, almost mushy. However, if eaten before they are fully ripe, the remaining tannins can stop the secretion of protective mucus from the gut lining and also slow peristalsis, leading to sluggish gut and constipation (7).
8. Eggs can cause constipation
Hard-boiled eggs, in particular, can cause constipation in some people. If you want to eat eggs, then not with cheese sandwiches, but with a salad or vegetable dish, which could compensate for the dryness and lack of fiber in the eggs.
9. Clogging candy, chocolate and cakes
Interestingly, many sufferers believe their constipation comes from their chocolate consumption ( 14 ). While that may well be the case, one should not forget about all the other foods that can also cause constipation. So it is usually not enough to just leave out the chocolate and continue to live on pizza, cheese baguettes, hot dogs and milkshakes.
Also, all the other sweets tend to be no less constipating, such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy, etc. They are all high in sugar and low in fiber. Biscuits, pastries and cakes, in particular, are usually very low in liquid and have a high-fat content.
It is, therefore, better to reach for wholesome sweets or fruit and dried fruit or a vegan quark or yoghurt with fruit or tiger nut flour. You will find countless healthy and high-fibre desserts and healthy cakes and pastries in our recipe section.
10. Caffeine can be laxative, but it can also be constipating
Coffee has a laxative effect on many people. Without coffee, many of these people would realize that they are actually constipated.
For other people, coffee or caffeine and thus other caffeinated drinks (energy drinks, cola, etc.) can lead to constipation, especially if you drink a lot of it. So if you consume such drinks or are constipated despite the daily cup of coffee, try it without coffee.
11. Black tea and green tea can cause constipation
Black tea is another drink that contains caffeine. If you let it steep for too long, it has a constipating effect and can cause the intestines to become sluggish. If you are constipated and love black tea, be careful not to steep for more than 3 minutes. Then the tannins, which are responsible for its constipating effect, are increasingly released from the tea.
If you want to drink black tea when you have diarrhea, you let it steep for 8 to 10 minutes, because then all the tannins have passed into the water.
It’s the same with green tea. However, since green tea is not steeped for very long anyway (1.5 to 2 minutes), there is less risk of a possible constipating effect.
12. Bananas can be constipating or draining
With bananas, it depends on how green or how ripe they are. Green bananas, are one of the home remedies for diarrhea. Ripe bananas are more likely to help relieve constipation.
Green bananas contain an indigestible starch (resistant starch) that is difficult for some digestive systems to handle. Ripe bananas can also cause constipation in babies. You should therefore only get a small amount of it.
If you are constipated, it is, therefore, better to use other fruits, such as plums, citrus fruits, melons, cherries or berries.
13. White rice can cause constipation
White rice can also promote constipation because the germ is rich in vital substances and the outer layers rich in fibre were removed during production. It is therefore low in fiber and, compared to brown rice, significantly poorer in vital substances. Brown rice, on the other hand, can help with constipation due to the higher fibre content, but of course, it should not be consumed in large quantities or at the expense of the vegetable portion.
14. Potato chips can promote constipation
Potato chips have a certain potential for addiction. You rarely eat them in small portions, usually, you eat them until the bag is empty. Potato chips are extremely salty, fatty and at the same time low in fibre. All of these properties promote constipation.
It is, therefore, better to snack healthily, e.g. Vegetable sticks with a delicious dip (e.g. hummus ) or grab vegetable chips, which you can easily make yourself by slicing vegetables finely and then dehydrating them or drying them in the oven until crispy.
15. Some supplements promote constipation
If you suffer from constipation and at the same time regularly take certain nutritional supplements, check if it is not your nutritional supplements that are contributing to your constipation. Iron supplements, for example, can quickly lead to constipation. Calcium supplements also cause constipation in some people.
Avoid foods that cause constipation
So test step by step which foods are causing you constipation, avoid them and replace them with healthy foods, preferably those that can relieve constipation.