Constipation Foods
These May Be Responsible
For Hardened Stool

By: Stephanie Margolis, RD, LD

Yes, there are constipation foods that slow down our digestive system. We will look at those in a minute.

First, here is a list of the six things most likely to cause constipation.

  1. Insufficient water intake – dehydration can cause stool to become dry and hard

  2. Too little fiber in the diet, making stools:
         • Dry – fiber holds water
         • Too small to produce a good urge to 
            go – fiber adds bulk to the stool

  3. Lack of exercise – movement helps the bowels to function better

  4. Stress – this has been proven to slow down the progression of stool through the colon

  5. Medications – constipation is a side effect noted on certain medications

  6. A Medical condition - like irritable bowel syndrome, depression, or Parkinson’s disease


Most bowel problems are from what we eat

When my kids are constipated, I feed them certain foods to help relieve it (usually with good success!). Sometimes it is necessary to take away foods they are eating to correct constipation problems.

Here is a list of foods known to cause constipation.


Constipation Foods
The Following May Cause Constipation

Chocolate

Wikimedia image, eating chocolate

This tasty treat is one of the most widely identified culprits of constipation.

While the reason is not entirely known, it is thought that consuming a large amount of chocolate may slow down intestinal peristalsis (the muscle contractions responsible for moving food through the colon).

When this happens, constipation occurs. 


Unripe bananas

Bananas contain pectin. As bananas ripen, the pectin converts starch into easier to digest sugars.

  • Green bananas can be as high as 40% starch
  • Yellow bananas have around 9% starch

The starch in green bananas is difficult to digest. Slower digestion means food is kept in the intestines longer. One of the colon’s jobs is to turn wet mush into formed stool.

When stool stays in the colon too long, the colon tends to pull out too much moisture from the stool. Stool then becomes dry, hard and difficult to pass. Therefore, green bananas are on our list of constipation foods.


Nuts

I enjoy eating nuts, so it  made me a little sad when I observed that every time I overindulge a bit it made me constipated. Since they do contain some fiber, why are they constipating?

  • Nuts are hard to digest
  • They are full of oil
  • They turn into a paste when you chew them


Have you ever tried to swallow a mouthful of peanut butter? Its hard to do, and easy to get choked on. Peanut butter (picture chewed up nuts) doesn't move well through the throat, or through the colon. 

For me, of all things I can eat, nuts will bind my bowels up the most. If you are a nut lover and often find yourself constipated, it may be the nuts that are causing it.


Black tea and coffee

We usually think of tea or coffee as bringing constipation relief. Taken in moderation, a cup of hot tea or coffee can help with regularity. However, too much caffeinated coffee or tea can cause constipation.

Caffeine acts as a diuretic, which causes the body to excrete more urine. Too much caffeine can lead to dehydration, which can then lead to constipation.

Second, most teas contain theophylline. An excessive amount of this compound can cause stool to become dehydrated. Dehydrated stool is dry, hard, not well lubricated, and has a hard time moving through the colon.


Iron

While not a food as such, taking an iron supplement tends to increase constipation. Iron is not readily absorbed in the digestive tract and may end up slowing down the whole process of digestion.

If a person’s iron levels are low, their doctor may want them to take an iron supplement.

To help prevent iron constipation, drink a large glass of water when taking an iron pill, and increase daily consumption of vitamin C. Consider taking magnesium to help keep stools soft, moist and slick.


Dairy

Cow’s milk can cause tummy trouble for many, and may lead to constipation.

  • Milk contains a hard to digest protein called lactose.
  • Milk also contains the perfect blend of enzymes to digest lactose.

So what’s the problem? Pasteurization kills all the enzymes. Without them, milk is very hard for the body to digest. Poor digestion slows down stool transit times, causing stool to dry out. This is why it is listed among the constipation foods.

What’s the answer? May I suggest doing one of the following:

  1. Take digestive enzymes

  2. Drink raw milk, which contains the needed live digestive enzymes

  3. Cut down on the consumption of milk and dairy products


Meat

Why does meat have to cause constipation?    :-(

The problem is, meat is high in fat, and like milk, it contains hard to digest proteins. The harder food is to digest, the more time it stays in the colon. That's why its one of the constipation foods.

Second, meat doesn't have much fiber.

Of course, we can get our fiber from other sources, and as long as we do, and consume this fiber at the same time we eat our meat, the lack of fiber in meat just isn't a problem.


A Constipation Solution

Magnesium - the secret is out

Sadly, even when we do everything right we can still become constipated. Are there any other answers?

Magnesium is prescribed by doctors to evacuate the colon prior to surgery.

Magnesium products for constipation, like Philips Milk of Magnesia and Epson Salt are highly effective.

Due to their high magnesium content, magnesium constipation products are not recommended for regular use.


Take magnesium every day?

How about taking a daily magnesium supplement to get a real edge over constipation?

This is actually an effective strategy for taking back control of the bowels.

     •  Supplementing with magnesium may have many health benefits.

     •  A magnesium supplement can be taken every day for the rest of
         one’s life.

     •  Some mineral supplements contain valuable trace minerals.

I hope this article has been helpful. After all, keeping our bowels happy is important.

(Return from Constipation Foods to Foods That Cause Constipation)

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