7 Foods That 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. Here are seven foods that you should avoid.

Frozen meals

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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, 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 Unger, RD. “When a food is high in fat your body digests it slower.” Looking to add more fiber to your diet? Here are 25+ ways to increase your fiber intake.

Red meat

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Choosing foods with a 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 Unger. “Even though chicken, turkey, and fish don’t contain fiber, they are lower in fat, which helps them digest faster.”

Alcohol and coffee

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“Dehydration can back you up, because you need to have fluids to digest your meals,” Unger says. Alcohol and coffee both can cause dehydration. If you are an avid coffee drinker or enjoy a drink or two at night, you need to balance it out with an adequate amount of water to keep your body hydrated. Most dietitians recommend drinking eight cups of H20 each day, though this can vary depending on your weight, height, and physical activity level.

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

Potato chips, crackers, and other processed foods

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Processed foods including potato chips, saltines, and some breakfast cereals are stripped of their nutrients and can prolong constipation. Unger 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.

Chocolate, cakes, and cookies

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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. Chocolate in particular has been linked to digestion issues and is believed to cause intestinal discomfort according to a 2005 study. Unger recommends reaching for the raspberries instead of the cookies when you’re craving something sweet. “One cup of raspberries has eight grams of fiber,” Unger says. “It’s very easy to get your fiber through fruits and berries.”

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Fried, greasy food

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An impulsive pit stop at McDonald's may satisfy your junk food craving, but will likely make your constipation worse. “Anything that’s greasy like fried chicken or French fries is going to take a longer time to digest,” explains Unger. 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.

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