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9 Foods That Can Make Constipation Worse

As many as 42 million Americans make less than three visits to a toilet each week, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating a healthy diet can go a long way in terms of maintaining healthy bowel movements—and the wrong foods can make your constipation worse.

Avoid these foods that may make constipation worse

Constipation is something almost everyone deals with at one point or another. Although 27 percent of adults experience it, there are ways to avoid constipation. You won’t even need these home remedies for constipation relief if you avoid the following foods that make constipation worse.

frozen meal with ham, peas, and mashed potatoesJoe Belanger/Shutterstock

Frozen meals

Processed frozen foods, though high in convenience, are often stripped of nutrients, including the fiber your body needs to maintain regular bowel movements. (Adults need about 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day.) Additionally, processed frozen foods often contain artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and bad-for-you fats, making them more difficult to digest. “Foods that are high in fat are usually low in fiber,” explains Linzy Ziegelbaum, RD, of LNZ Nutrition in Syosset, New York. “When a food is high in fat your body digests it slower.” Looking to add more fiber to your diet? Check out these foods that are natural laxatives.

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Red meat

Choosing foods with high fiber and low fat content is the best way to stay regular. No type of meat from chicken to turkey to pork contains fiber, but red meat is the fattiest, making it the most difficult to digest. “Since red meat is higher in fat than other meats, it may cause more constipation,” says Ziegelbaum. “Even though chicken, turkey, and fish don’t contain fiber, they are lower in fat, which helps them digest faster.” Don’t miss these other surprising reasons you’re constipated.

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Alcohol

“Dehydration can back you up, because you need to have fluids to digest your meals,” Ziegelbaum says. Alcohol can cause dehydration. If you enjoy a drink or two at night, you need to balance it out with an adequate amount of water to keep your body hydrated. Many dietitians recommend drinking eight cups of H20 each day, though this can vary depending on your weight, height, and physical activity level. Find out 7 ways to avoid constipation when you travel.

close-up of shredded mozzarellaAngelina Babii/Shutterstock

Dairy

High-fat dairy products including whole milk, cream, and cheese contain no fiber and can often make constipation worse. Limiting dairy consumption and adding more whole grains, vegetables, and fruits into your diet may help relieve constipation. According to Ziegelbaum, bloating and gas can often accompany constipation and can be symptoms of lactose intolerance. Try these natural remedies for constipation.

potato chipsseverija/Shutterstock

Potato chips, crackers, and other processed foods

Processed foods including potato chips, saltines, and some breakfast cereals are stripped of their nutrients and can prolong constipation. Ziegelbaum recommends choosing whole grains instead of refined and buying whole grain bread that has at least three grams of fiber per serving. If you’re feeling constipated, try replacing breadcrumbs with oats when cooking dishes like turkey burgers, casseroles, or breaded chicken. Oats are an excellent source of fiber and can prevent constipation from getting worse. You can avoid foods that cause constipation and eat these 7 ancient grains instead.

chocolate truffles with different designs on topErmak Oksana/Shutterstock

Chocolate, cakes, and cookies

Desserts and sweets can compromise your body’s ability to digest foods properly as they are high in carbohydrates, low in fiber, and often high in fat. People with digestive issues often believe chocolate links to intestinal discomfort, although there’s no scientific research showing that it causes constipation. Still, Ziegelbaum recommends reaching for the raspberries instead of the cookies when you’re craving something sweet. “One cup of raspberries has eight grams of fiber,” Ziegelbaum says. “It’s very easy to get your fiber through fruits and berries.”

french friesNishihama/Shutterstock

Fried, greasy food

An impulsive pit stop at McDonald’s may satisfy your junk food craving, but will likely make your constipation worse. “Unless it’s McDonalds salads, anything that’s greasy like fried chicken or French fries is going to take a longer time to digest,” explains Ziegelbaum. More grease means more fat, which equals more constipation. If you have not had a bowel movement in over two days, fuel your body with a healthy diet of lean protein and a generous amount of fruits and vegetables. And if you’ve indulged in a few too many foods that cause constipation, don’t miss these 7 ways to poop better tomorrow.

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White bread

White bread is a processed grain that contains less fiber than whole grains. Some studies link the fiber found in whole grains to a lower risk of constipation. So you’re not doing yourself any favors by reaching for white bread if you suffer from constipation. Still, the entire diet must be considered. Make sure you aren’t going overboard on the 8 foods GI doctors try to never eat.

unripe green bananasphortun/Shutterstock

Unripe bananas

With about three grams of fiber per serving, bananas are among the fruits and vegetables that can help you poop. That said, they can also be one of the foods that cause constipation. Before bananas mature, they contain resistant starch that can aggravate pre-existing constipation, according to a study published in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. So make sure your banana is nice and yellow before eating it. Next, find out what your bowel movements reveal about your health.

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Medically reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, on October 10, 2019