Constipation is complex. Many factors like diet, lifestyle, stress, and certain health conditions — can contribute to it. In most healthy individuals, a single serving of a particular food is unlikely to cause constipation.
However, people with digestive issues or other health conditions may find that eating some kinds of foods can trigger or worsen constipation.
8 Foods to eat when you have constipation
Dehydration is one of the common causes of constipation, and drinking plenty of water can often help to ease the symptoms.
When a person becomes dehydrated, their intestines are unable to add enough water to stools which results in hard, dry, and lumpy stools and can cause constipation.
Most beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are very high in fibre, which is a nutrient that enhances good digestion and reduces constipation.
A 100g serving of pulses also contains a substantial amount of other nutrients that help to relieve constipation, such as potassium, zinc, folate and vitamin B6.
Apples and pears
Apples and pears contain several compounds that enhance digestion, including fibre, sorbitol, and fructose.
Both of them also contain a good amount of water, which can help to ease digestion and prevent constipation.
Grapes are rich in fibre, and also contain a lot of water.
To relieve constipation, try eating a few raw, washed grapes.
Blackberries and raspberries
Blackberries and raspberries are rich in fibre and have high water content, which both can ease constipation.
Kiwis contain actinidin, an enzyme that boosts movement in the upper gastrointestinal tract, and several phytochemicals that may play a role in enhancing digestion.
Olive and flax seeds
Olive and flaxseed oils have a mild laxative effect, which can ease the flow through the intestines and relieve constipation.
These oils also consist of compounds that enhance digestion and have antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Wheat bran is another popular remedy for constipation. Rich in insoluble fibre, it can speed up the flow of materials through the intestines.
8 Foods to Avoid when you have constipation
Processed grains and their products are lower in fiber and even more constipating than whole grains.
That’s because the bran and germ parts of the grain are removed during processing which usually contains fibre.
Red meat may worsen constipation as it contains little fibre, and may also indirectly reduce a person’s total daily fibre intake by taking the place of higher-fibre options in the diet.
Fried or fast foods
Regular consumption of fried or fast foods may also raise the risk of constipation as they are high in fat and low in fibre, a combination of both can slow down the digestion in the similar way that red meat does.
Milk and dairy products
Dairy appears to be another common reason for constipation, at least in some people.
In a study, children aged 1–12 yrs with chronic constipation drank cow’s milk for a certain period of time. The cow’s milk was then replaced by soy milk for a subsequent amount of time.
9 out of 13 children in the study experienced constipation relief when cow’s milk was replaced by soy milk.
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, spelt etc. Some people may experience constipation when they eat foods that consist of gluten.
When someone with gluten intolerance or celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system attacks their gut, harming it severely. So individuals with this disease need to follow a gluten-free diet.
Alcohol is usually mentioned as a likely cause of constipation, as if you drink alcohol in large quantities, it can increase the amount of fluids lost through your urine, causing dehydration.
Poor hydration, either due to not consuming enough water or losing too much of it via urine, is often associated with an increased risk of constipation.
Low fibre foods
Eating a diet that does not contain much fibre may lead to constipation. A person may not get enough fibre if they eat a lot of meat, refined carbs and dairy products but do not eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, or whole grains.
High FODMAP foods
People with irritable bowel syndrome and some other digestive conditions may find that foods high in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) can worsen their symptoms.
This group of carbohydrates can ferment in the digestive system, causing various symptoms such as gas, constipation, or diarrhea. Some of the examples of high FODMAP foods:
- garlic, onions, and shallots
- legumes, like beans, chickpeas, and soybeans
- grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye
- sweeteners, like xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol
- specific fruits, like apples, blackberries, and watermelon
People whose bodies have difficulty digesting any of these foods might feel better by eating a low FODMAP diet, which involves avoiding high FODMAP foods for a certain period of time.
Constipation is an unpleasant condition that’s very common.
If you have constipation issues, you can achieve smoother digestion by making a few simple changes to your diet.
Start by either avoiding or reducing your intake of constipation causing foods, including the ones listed above.
If you’re still experiencing difficulties after minimising your intake of constipating foods, talk to your healthcare provider to know more about additional lifestyle and dietary strategies.