Constipation – 10 Best and Worst Foods to Prevent and Relieve Symptoms

By peacefulgut | Constipation

Mar 14

Constipation is a widespread problem. Why do you get it and how can you normalize your bowel movement? Learn about the 10 foods to avoid and 10 foods that can help.

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How often should you poop?

To empty your bowel 3 times a week to 3 times a day is considered normal. But what's normal and what's optimal is not necessarily the same. If you only poop 3 times a week, two days’ worth of food will regularly gather up in the intestine. In the hot and humid environment, the food starts to ferment the longer it is left there.

This can create substances that may irritate the gut lining or have a negative effect on our gut flora. When you have nagging gut issues it might be better to aim for optimal bowel movements rather than just normal.

Signs of optimal bowel habits:

  • 1-3 bowel movement a day
  • Evacuation is easy and without straining
  • One feels completely relieved
  • The poop is firm with a smooth surface
  • The poop is brown and does not smell too bad

How many of the above points do you recognize? The food should also pass through the digestive system in 16-24 hours. Quicker passage usually leads to diarrhea while longer passage to constipation.

​From Paul Chek's excellent book "How to eat move and be healthy"

The number of times you poop is probably not the most important thing. What is considered a bigger problem is when the actually bowel movement is causing pain, or when you don’t feel that you had a complete evacuation. That there is something left

What causes constipation?

There are several factors that can contribute. But is most often connected to diet, water intake, emotions, intestinal bacteria, intestinal motility or infections. Below are some of the most common contributing factors:

  • Dehydration: too little water intake during the day causes the stool to become dryer and harder.
  • Disordered peristalsis: when the muscles of the gut is not working enough or not in synchronicity, the food is not pushed forward as it should.
  • Stressful emotions: anxiety, stress, worry and depression affects the autonomic nervous system which control your gut. Acute stress often leads to diarrhea while prolonged stress to constipation.
  • Fiber deficiency: makes it more difficult for the gut to push its content forward.
  • Dysbiosis: Imbalance in the gut flora. The right kind and the right amount of bacteria are needed in the production of serotonin in the gut. Which in turn stimulates bowel movements.
  • SIBO: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Some bacteria produce methane gas that inhibits peristalsis, the movement of the gut.
  • Ignoring the need: regularly ignoring the need to poop can disturb the reflex that tells you that it is time.
  • Laxatives: excessive use of laxatives may in the long run be counterproductive and impair the activity of the gut.
  • Inactivity: motion is needed to massage the internal organs and bowel, helping push its content forward.
  • Medication: morphine, certain antidepressants, ACE inhibitor for hypertension and certain medications for indigestion can cause constipation as a side effect.
  • Hypothyroidism: an underactive thyroid causes the entire system to work slower, even the gut.
  •  Intestinal parasite: usually causes diarrhea but can also cause constipation.
  • Protein-rich dairy products: such as milk, yoghurt, cheese and cottage cheese.
  • Fecal impaction: Hard lump in the intestine that blocks passage.
  • Animal protein: when overconsumed, making you eat to little fiber.
  • Pelvic floor dysfunction: when the muscles is not working as they should.

As seen above there are many contributing factors to constipation. A first step to start handling the problem is to think about which of the above points may be causes for you.

10 foods to avoid that can cause constipation

What can you do to speed up your gut, making it work as it should? So that a bowel movement comes daily, is done without straining, has the right shape and without smelling like rotten eggs? Here are 10 foods to avoid for constipation.

Alcohol constipation1. Alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic and the intestinal tract is one of the first of your body’s systems affected by dehydration. In addition, it may trigger or aggravate a host of other problems in the stomach including gas, bloating, stomach ache, and heartburn.

Can also cause the opposite effect with diarrhea.

Fried Foods contipation2. Fried foods

Deep-fried fast food contains a lot of fat, often trans fats, that are difficult to break down and slow digestion. They also contain simple carbohydrates, which quickly turn to sugar in the body and offer very little nutrition, making fried foods one of the worst foods you can eat.

For some people, fried foods can also cause the opposite effect and contribute to diarrhea.

banana constipation3. Unripe bananas

Unripe bananas contain resistant starch that is difficult to break down and can slow down passage through the intestines. They also contain pectin, which is a binding substance that may make the intestinal contents more viscous. 

For some of us, bananas may have the opposite effect, and alleviate constipation. As always, listen to your body and observe what effect bananas to have on you.

white rice constipation4. White Rice

White rice is a low fiber food included in the BRAT diet, which is often recommended for cases of temporary acute diarrhea. BRAT stands for banana, rice, applesauce and toast. These foods are all easy to digest and can slow down the passage of food through the intestines.  While beneficial for diarrhea, you certainly want to avoid these foods when you are constipated.

caffeine constipation5. Caffeine

Caffeine can either alleviate or aggravate constipation, depending on the person. Since caffeine has a diuretic effect, it is especially important to avoid if you are dehydrated. It is also not good to rely on caffeine to prevent fatigue as long-term use can contribute to lasting fatigue

dairy cottage cheese milk yoghurt constipation6. Dairy products

Studies have shown that when protein-rich dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, and quark are eliminated from the diets of people suffering from constipation, stoppages often decrease. But high fat products like cream, crème fraiche, and butter do not seem to have the same binding effect. If you eat a lot of milk products and suffer from constipation, it may be worth eliminating protein-rich dairy products for a 2-week trial to see if you notice improvements.

meat constipation7. Overconsumption of meat

Animal protein does not necessarily cause constipation, but if large amounts of meat are eaten without enough fiber it can be a contributing factor. Be sure to prepare plenty of vegetables to accompany meat dishes. Depending on other stomach complaints and your tolerance for starch, some fiber-rich root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, or parsnips are also good side dishes.

chocolate cacao constipation8. Chocolate

When questioning people who have long-term stomach ailments or constipation as to what foods exacerbate their condition, chocolate is a common answer. The connection is not entirely clear, but it may be worth reducing the consumption of chocolate if you want to ease stomach discomfort.

black tea constipation9. Black tea

Tea is a widely consumed beverage that often has the opposite effect of coffee, slowing down the intestines. Tea contains caffeine that has diuretic effects, and can therefore make the intestine dryer and more compact. Replace black tea with herbal varieties instead. Peppermint, chamomile, and ginger all have beneficial effects for the stomach, senses, and mind.

iron supplement constipation10. Iron and calcium

These dietary supplements may not fit on this list of foods, but iron and calcium can have constipating effects. If you take these supplements alone or as a part of a multivitamin or multimineral supplement, they can contribute to stoppages in the gut. Magnesium on the other hand, acts as a stool softener, thereby attracting additional fluid

10 foods that can reduce constipation

drink water to reduce constipation1. Water

While you work on eliminating the above foods from your diet to control constipation, you can try adding more of the 10 foods listed below. These foods have the opposite effect and help to activate intestinal activity and alleviate constipation.

berries against constipation2. Berries

Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are all great nutritional choices and rich in fiber that can stimulate the intestines. They also contain lots of vitamins and antioxidants that help the body to stay healthy and strong. In addition, they can satisfy our sweet tooth while still providing a healthy snack, making them a perfect combination.

pineapple against constipation3. Pineapple

This tropical fruit contains a host of beneficial enzymes that support digestion and help you break down your food. Faster break down of food allows for faster passage through the intestines. Enjoy a few pieces of sweet pineapple at the beginning of a meal so that the enzymes are ready when the rest of your meal enters the stomach.

vegetables constipation4. Vegetables

Vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but low in calories. If you have major problems with gas and bloating you should be careful when consuming large quantities of vegetables, especially raw vegetables. If you experience any discomfort, try eliminating onions, garlic, broccoli and cauliflower first, and focus on boiled or steamed vegetables instead of raw, as cooked vegetables are more easily digested and cause less gas and bloating.

chia seeds for constipation5. Flaxseeds, psyllium seeds, chia seeds

Fiber-rich and nutritious seeds. Whole linseed and psyllium seeds pass undigested through the intestine. If you want to get the health-giving benefits of these seeds, they first need to be ground. Make sure to drink plenty of water, otherwise they may further aggravate constipation.

pruns constipation6. Prunes

Perhaps the most famous and widely used home remedy to speed up the bowels. Prunes contains a lot of fiber and sorbitol that attracts extra water into the intestine and helps loosen things up. Also, studies have shown prunes to be more effective in relieving constipation than psyllium seed husks. A downside is that prunes may cause gas and bloating. If you have any issues when eating prunes, you should choose another option.

coffee can alleviate constipation7. Coffee

Long used for its laxative effect, coffee stimulates the intestinal tract, causing it to work faster and eliminate more quickly. Less fluid gets absorbed through the intestinal walls and the stool gets a looser consistency and is emptied more often. Unfortunately, coffee can also contribute to stomach ailments and usually worsens most other stomach upsets. If constipation is the only problem with your stomach, coffee may be worth a try. But even if coffee is helpful, there is a risk that the intestine will depend on it to keep running and function even worse without coffee.

nuts and seeds can help with constipation8. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a highly nutritious snack option that are easy to pack and bring along to all your activities. In addition to healthy fiber, they are also rich in complex carbohydrates and protein. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are all great choices. However, be careful if you have severe stomach ache or other stomach condition like IBS or IBD as these symptoms may worsen.

Nuts are easier to digest if they are allowed to soak overnight. Nut butters also tend to be easier to digest because they are already ground and easier for the body to break down. Remember to drink a lot of water with nuts and seeds, otherwise they may contribute to constipation

Quinoa, whole grain rice, and oatmeal against constipation9. Quinoa, whole grain rice, and oatmeal

Whole grains provide plenty of fiber and complex carbohydrates for prolonged energy. However, if you consume excess carbohydrates you run the risk of aggravating stomach ailments or other digestive issues. Start with small amounts of the above whole grains and observe how your body reacts. If you are gluten intolerant, you should only use gluten-free oats completely free of additives.

lentils constipation10. Lentils

Lentils provide a protein-rich alternative for vegetarians or for those of us who wish to reduce our intake of animal products. In addition to protein, they are also a rich source of fiber, carbohydrates, and a wealth of other nutrients. As with most carbohydrate-rich foods, there is a risk that overconsumption can contribute to gas and bloating. You can reduce the risk of these effects by soaking the lentils overnight and boiling for a minimum of 1 hour.

Red lentils are usually easier on the system than green lentils. Start with small portions and see how your body reacts.

Topp 2 supplements against constipation

For additional help you can try these supplements. I recommend at least one of these to almost all of my clients suffering from constipation and they usually help a lot.

1. Magnesium

Can have a relaxing effect on your muscles and your mind. But more imortantly, it can pull additional water to when it enters your colon. Making the stool softer and easier to push forward and also easier to evacuate.

There are different forms of magnesium which have different effects on the body. For constipation magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate usually works very well. I good combination product that contasin these and magnesium aspartate is this one from NOW.

I hope this article has provided you with some useful tips so that you can modify your diet or add dietary supplements to relieve your constipation. If you have other helpful tips or observations you wish to share about your own experience, please leave a comment or share the article so that this information reaches those who need it.

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