11 Foods That Cause Constipation, Even Though They're Good For You
When you gotta go, sometimes you just can't go. If you've ever been constipated, you know the discomfort that not being able to poop can cause. And while you might be racking your brain for the cause since you've been eating so nutritiously, know that there are healthy foods that cause constipation and they may oh-so-sneakily be the cause of your intestinal backup.
Essentially, constipation is just a slowing down of how fast food can pass through your digestive tract, and there are a variety of reasons this could be the case. What you eat is definitely one of them.
As registered dietitian nutritionist Erin Lisemby Judge, RDN, of Judge Nutrition & Wellness tells Bustle, to improve constipation, make sure you are eating plenty of fiber, but not too much.
"Choose these foods as your fiber sources: fruits, vegetables, cooked oats, and whole grains. If you're looking to add more fiber to your diet, adding ground flax seed is a great option," Judge says.
Other ways to improve constipation, Judge says, are to stay hydrated and move your body. If you're dehydrated, stool can become hard, which prevents it from moving through the gastrointestinal tract with ease.
Exercise also helps supply the GI tract with blood flow to increase the movement of stool, Judge says. So some gentle exercise like a walk, a light jog, or yoga might help ease constipation without causing more discomfort. Below, take a look at some foods you might want to steer clear of if the goal is to clear out your bowels.
Yes, back away from the great white cruciferous veggie when things in the gut are not on the move. That means no more cauliflower crust pizza. At least for now.
"Although this versatile veggie has found its way into the health world spotlight, it can cause issues for a constipated digestive system," Judge says. "Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable and is made up of complex sugars that are very difficult to digest. When you're already constipated, poor digestion will only make matters worse."
Other cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, Judge says.
2. Onions And Garlic
This one is a little counterintuitive, Judge says, since these two flavor staples can be incredible for gut health, because they contain phytonutrients and prebiotics.
"But, they also contain FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which are small components of carbohydrates that are hard to digest," Judge says.
Thusly, these two delicious add-ins are usually a concern for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well those who have constipation. "Large servings of these may make things worse," Judge says.
Nutritionally speaking, most people only have good things to say about kale, right? Maybe even too many good things — like, we get it already. But if you're constipated, you might want to steer clear of kale until things are on the move again.
"Kale is loaded with amazing nutrients, including fiber," Judge says. "While fiber is necessary for bowel regularity, it can cause discomfort when you're already constipated."
Kale is also cruciferous, Judge says, which makes it even more difficult to break down. Cooking your kale may make it easier to digest, so you might want to get out your steamer.
"Or you can mix up your greens for more variety," Judge says.
4. Nuts And Seeds
Step away from the trail mix — it isn't helping your constipation.
"Nuts and seeds are good sources of healthy fats, and easy to incorporate into your diet," Judge says. "But, large amounts of these can add excess fiber to the diet, which may be worsening your constipation."
These will be tricky for those with IBS or chronic digestive issues, Judge says. So go ahead and mix up your healthy fat sources by incorporating small servings of avocado, olives, or olive oil, and fish into your routine.
5. Grains With Gluten
Sure, gluten has a bad reputation these days, even though there are still plenty of glutenous grains out there that have a lot to offer. That being said, you might be among those who really struggle to digest gluten with ease.
"Some people can have constipation when they eat foods that contain gluten, like wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut and triticale," nutritionist Ashley Wood, RN, BSN from Demystifying Your Health, LLC, tells Bustle. "But processed grains, such as white bread, white rice, or white pasta, don’t have the fiber that whole grains have, so they are even more likely to result in constipation."
Ultimately, with things like grains and high fiber foods, you kind of have to observe what they do to your own digestion.
6. Red Meat
Red meat also has little fiber, but large amounts of protein, Wood says. So a steak or a burger might not get top billing for a meal if you're constipated.
"When you eat red meat, it’s more likely to make you feel full, so you might not eat things that are more fibrous," Wood says. In addition, red meat is high in fat which takes your body longer to digest.
Try having a little salad alongside the meat, but if you're really blocked up, opt out on this iron-fueled choice.
7. Dark Chocolate
"The flavonoids in dark chocolate may play a role in possibly reducing blood pressure or risk of blood clots but this sweet doesn't necessarily do you any favors when it comes to constipation," Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, author of Meals That Heal: 100+Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less, tells Bustle.
It isn't a source of fiber so isn't going to get things moving, and for some people, the milk in it may even add to your GI issues, Williams says.
"If you've got to have a little chocolate, then choose one that includes nuts or dried fruit to boost fiber," Williams says. That doesn't sound so bad, does it?
This might not be a shocker, but foods like cheese and milk sometimes just stay put, intestinally speaking.
"Dairy foods like cheese are great sources of calcium, but don't necessarily keep things moving in the GI tract," Williams says. "And if you've got an intolerance to milk, the effects may be even worse in terms of constipation."
The flip-side to the case though is that dairy with live bacteria cultures like yogurt or kefir may actually have a beneficial effect when it comes to alleviating constipation and keeping things running regularly, Williams says. So just be mindful of which kind of dairy you're putting in your grocery basket.
"When you look at fiber content in terms of energy [...] bananas come in at the bottom of the list," Williams says. "This means that there are a lot of other fruits and produce choices that can provide much more benefit in terms of regularity than a banana." Unripe bananas are particularly hard to digest.
In fact, their low fiber is one of reason they're recommended when you're getting over an upset stomach, Williams says. But they are not great for constipation. Maybe choose some blueberries or an apple instead!
Not the most common thing to find on your plate, necessarily, but one to watch out for if you're blocked. While they are rich in fiber and Vitamin C, some of the other elements of a persimmons' makeup can cause digestive struggle.
Chef and nutritionist Ariane Resnick, CNC, of Ariane Cooks, tells Bustle that persimmons are a healthy fruit that contain tannins which slow motility.
"Tannins slow movement by reducing the secretions of important digestive juices," Resnick says.
11. Tea And Coffee
"A cup of coffee or caffeinated tea all contain antioxidants and have health benefits, but they are also dehydrating," Hillary Cecere MS, RDN, registered dietitian, tells Bustle. "Dehydration can result in constipation because the large intestine will then absorb water which can result in harder stools that can be hard to pass."
Instead of that second (or let's be honest, third) cup of java, you might want to stick to water until your bowel movements are regular again.
So if you are feeling super clogged, paying attention to what you are ingesting will be greatly helpful. And remember, my friends, where constipation is concerned, this too shall pass.