Food that Cause Constipation


By Dr. Julia Lizy, MBBS (KEMU)

Food that Cause Constipation



Constipation is a condition characterized by the passage of hard, dry, difficult to pass stools, or less than 3 bowel movements a week.

One of the colon’s jobs is to take a watery mush with the consistency of a milk shake and turn it into more of a solid. As long as stool remains in the colon, more water will be extracted from it.

When two or three days pass without a bowel movement, the stool in the colon becomes dry, hard, and difficult, even painful to pass. Excessive straining is needed, and often evacuation is incomplete. The straining can lead to hemorrhoids and fissures.

Allow me to answer the following questions:

How can we have more regular bowel movements?

Is there certain food that cause constipation?

If there is, which foods cause constipation, and why?



How to Have Regular Bowel Movements

There are a number of ways to establish regular bowel movements.

  • Adequate Fiber intake. Getting 20 to 35 grams of fiber in diet adds bulk to stools, causing them to be moved through the colon quicker. Fiber retains water, making stools moist, soft and easier to pass.

  • Adequate hydration. Dehydration prompts the colon to extract extra water that is needed elsewhere by the body. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day is an important step to staying hydrated.

  • Physical activity. Even a little physical activity can help the colon to move stool along better. Something as simple as taking a short walk each day will tone up abdominal muscles, which helps increase bowel motility.

  • Establish a routine. Stress and other conditions can slow muscle contractions of the colon or delay an urge to go. We can overcome this to a degree by training our body, by giving it an opportunity for defecation at a set time each day.

  • Get enough magnesium. 80% of Americans don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. Magnesium is important for proper muscle function. It also pulls water into the colon, adding moisture to the stool.

As discussed above, a moist stool is soft and easy to pass. To ensure we get enough magnesium, doctors and researchers are now recommending a daily magnesium supplement.

Food that Cause Constipation, and Why

pastries coffee food that cause constipation

Food that cause constipation - a closer look

Even as some foods can help to alleviate constipation, there are many food items that cause constipation.

To avoid constipation, we can either cut down on these foods or avoid them all together. Here is a list of food that cause constipation.

  1. Wheat products. Does it surprise you that wheat can cause constipation? It can.

    Wheat contains opioids and peptides. Some of these are strong enough to anesthetize the bowel (like a pain killer) and slow down contractions of the colon, resulting in constipation.

    Some people are more susceptible to opioid peptides, some are not. Your body is the best judge of how wheat opioids and peptides affect you. 

    Second, most food items that are made from wheat are made from white flour, that is, flour where the bran and germ have been removed. The oils in the germ can easily spoil, so the bran and germ are removed so that foods will have a longer shelf life.

    But without the bran and germ, wheat flour has almost zero fiber. No wonder food items, including breads, pastas, pizza, cookies, cakes, crackers etc. all tend to cause constipation.

    For most of us, wheat is a necessary part of life. However, we can try to find products made with whole wheat, rich in both bran and germ. The bran is fiber, and the germ is where most of the vitamins are.

  2. Rice. The same thing has been done to rice as has been done to wheat.

    The hull of the rice is polished off, and the germ leaves with it. Sure, white rice has a much longer shelf life, but at what expense?

    Medium grain brown rice is one of the most nutritious types of rice available. Plus the hull and germ are still intact.

    Without hull and germ, rice tends to bind up our digestive tract. To avoid constipation and for better over all health, choose either brown or wild rice.

  3. Dairy Products. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream can be a cause of constipation.

    Dairy products have a high fat content that is not easily digested. Hard to digest items move more slowly through the digestive tract, as the body takes extra time to digest them.

    When food stays longer in the digestive tract, more water is extracted, making stool “dry and hard”. That is another way of spelling “constipated”.

    But milk and dairy products contain needed nutrients, so what can we do?

    a.    Consume dairy with a good amount of fiber.

    b.
        Get some raw milk (non-pasteurized, non-homogenized) and drink some when consuming diary.

    Milk naturally contains the enzymes needed to digest its fat content. But when milk is pasteurized, it kills these enzymes, making the fats in milk difficult to digest.

  4. Sweets and desserts. Let me explain this in simple terms.

    Our guts contain an array of bacteria, both good and bad. The good are essential for good digestion and proper bowel activity. Under normal circumstances the good bacteria are able to hold the bad bacteria in check.

    However, sugar feeds the bad bacteria. With enough food, they can even take over and control the gut. Hello gas, bloating and constipation!

    This is just one more reason to cut down on fatty and sweet desserts. Did I mention that they characteristically have little or no fiber? Even chocolate fits this category.

    This makes them a double whammy that causes gut motility to slow way down, resulting in constipation.

    To satisfy the sweet tooth without causing constipation, eat fresh fruit. The high fiber in fruit helps to compensate for its sugar content.

    Many fruits such as watermelon and berries also provide additional water, which helps to hydrate the body. I enjoy freezing fruit and making it into smoothies.

  1. Processed foods. In your local grocery store, the outside perimeter of the store is where most unprocessed foods are found.

    Everywhere else we find packaged foods. Fast food and other restaurants rely heavily on them as well.

    Processed foods have a number of problems.

    a.    Most of the fiber has been processed out

    b.    To make them taste better, they are packed full of sugar and salt. For a discussion on sugar, see point 4 above. Because we eat so much processed foods, most Americans get way too much sodium. Sodium is a sterilizer – it cuts way down on the bacterial activity in our gut.

    c.    Processed foods retain very little nutrition. Chemical vitamins are added to fortify it, but cannot replace all the nutrients that have been removed during processing. The one good thing I have to say about processed foods is they have a long shelf life. But what a price we pay for better shelf life.

    To avoid constipation and to stay healthier, it is best to cut way down on processed foods. When they must be eaten, add to the meal foods high in fiber, and drink plenty of water.

  2. Meat Products. Meat is an important part of our diet and a good source of protein.

    However, eating a lot of hard to digest red meat in place of other foods that are high in fiber is a sure recipe for constipation. Red meat takes 24 to 48 hours to be even partially digested.

    As was mentioned above, the longer it takes our body to digest food, the longer it is kept in the colon, and the dryer and harder it gets. Ouch.

  3. Caffeinated drinks. Coffee, tea, and other caffeinated drinks are diuretics.

    They cause the kidneys to flush water out of the body. This can easily result in constipation causing dehydration. To avoid dehydration, these drinks should be taken in moderation, and we should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.

  4. Mineral Imbalances. Many mineral imbalances can also result in constipation.

    •    Excess copper can cause yeast infections in colon and contribute to constipation.

    •    An unabsorbed iron supplement is a major cause of constipation.

    •    Calcium tightens muscles. Excessive supplemental calcium passes through the body unabsorbed. 
    When it reaches the colon, it causes it to tighten, which hinders its wave-like action of pushing waste along. Magnesium counters the effect of calcium, relaxing the colon. 


Therefore, when taking supplemental calcium (or eating lots of calcium rich dairy), consider a magnesium supplement to avoid constipation.

           •    Aluminum, used widely in antacids, can cause constipation.

           •    Folic Acid deficiency can also cause constipation.

  1. Bananas. Bananas may either cause of relieve constipation.

    Unripe, green bananas cause constipation as they contain a lot of hard to digest starch, plus a protein called pectin. Pectin has binding properties, sending water out of the intestinal tract.

    This can result in the hardening of stools and difficult evacuation.

    Conversely, in ripe bananas the pectin has broken down most of the starch into sugar. Also, bananas are a good source of constipation relieving fiber.

    Avoid food that cause constipation by avoiding the foods listed above.


Role of Supplemental Magnesium

For food that cause constipation - help is here!

Magnesium is a tried and true remedy for constipation. It’s a good laxative mineral that pulls water into the colon, softening stool and making it easy to pass.

Magnesium is present in many food items, including figs, lentils, nuts, and leafy vegetables like spinach. It can also be taken as a supplement.

Conclusion, food that cause constipation

Even as there are many foods that help to relieve constipation, there is also food that cause constipation.

But as noted above, many times it is not the food itself, but what we do to the food that makes it constipating. Harder to digest foods can be toned down by eating with them foods high in fiber.
Bon appétit.


(Return from Food that Cause Constipation to Foods that Cause Constipation)

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