Constipation is an unpleasant and relatively common condition. If you suffer from constipation, you can improve your transit by making a few simple changes to your diet. Start by avoiding or reducing your intake of foods that cause constipation, such as those listed below.
Here are 7 common foods that can cause constipation.
- The alcohol
Alcohol is frequently mentioned as a probable cause of constipation. In fact, if you drink alcohol in large amounts, it can increase the amount of fluid lost through urine, leading to dehydration. Poor hydration, whether due to insufficient water intake or excessive fluid loss through urine, is often associated with an increased risk of constipation.
Unfortunately, no studies could be found on the direct link between alcohol consumption and constipation. Also, some people report having diarrhea, rather than constipation, after a night of drinking. The effects can vary from person to person. People who want to counteract the potentially dehydrating and constipating effects of alcohol should try to offset each serving of alcohol with a glass of water or another non-alcoholic beverage.
- Gluten-containing foods
Gluten is a protein found in cereals such as wheat, barley, rye, spelled and kamut. Some people may experience constipation when eating foods that contain gluten. Also, some people are intolerant to gluten. This is called gluten intolerance or celiac disease. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, their immune system attacks their intestine, causing severe damage. This is why people with this disease must follow a gluten-free diet. In most countries, it is estimated that 0.5 to 1% of people have celiac disease, but many of them do not know it. Chronic constipation is one of the most common symptoms. Avoiding gluten can help calm and heal your gut.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are two other instances where a person’s gut can react to wheat. People with these conditions are not gluten intolerant, but appear to be sensitive to wheat and other grains. If you suspect gluten is the cause of your constipation, be sure to consult your health care professional to rule out celiac disease before eliminating gluten from your diet.
- processed cereals
Processed grains and their products, such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta, have less fiber and may cause more constipation than whole grains. In fact, the bran and the germinative parts of the cereals are removed during processing. In particular, bran contains fiber, a nutrient that adds bulk to stool and helps it move.
Many studies have linked higher fiber intake to a lower risk of constipation, so people with constipation may benefit from gradually reducing their intake of processed grains and replacing them with whole grains.
Although a fiber supplement is beneficial for most people, some experience the opposite effect. For them, the extra fiber can make constipation worse, rather than relieve it. If you’re constipated and already eat a lot of fiber-rich whole grains, adding fiber to your diet is unlikely to help. In some cases, it can even make the problem worse. If this is the case for you, try gradually reducing your daily fiber intake to see if that gives you any relief.
- milk and milk products
Dairy products seem to be another common cause of constipation, at least for some people. Infants, toddlers, and children appear to be particularly at risk, possibly due to sensitivity to proteins found in cow’s milk. A review of studies conducted over a 26-year period found that some children with chronic constipation experienced improvements when they stopped consuming cow’s milk.
In a recent study, children ages 1 to 12 with chronic constipation drank cow’s milk over a period of time. Cow’s milk was later replaced with soy milk for a later period. Nine of the 13 children in the study experienced relief from their constipation when cow’s milk was replaced with soy milk. There are many anecdotal reports of similar experiences in adults. However, little scientific evidence could be found, as most studies examining these effects have focused on children, not older populations. It should be noted that people with lactose intolerance may experience diarrhea, rather than constipation, after consuming dairy products.
- Red meat
Red meat can make constipation worse for three main reasons. First, it’s low in fiber, which adds bulk to stool and helps it move. Second, red meat may also indirectly reduce a person’s total daily fiber intake by displacing higher fiber options in the diet. This is especially true if you fill up on meat during a meal, which reduces the amount of fiber-rich vegetables, legumes, and whole grains you can eat at one time. This scenario would lead to an overall decrease in daily fiber intake, which could increase the risk of constipation. Also, unlike other types of meat, such as poultry and fish, red meat generally contains higher amounts of fat, and high-fat foods take longer for the body to digest. In some cases, this can further increase the chance of constipation. People with constipation may benefit from replacing red meat in their diet with high-protein, high-fiber alternatives such as beans, lentils, and peas.
- Fried or fast foods
Eating large or frequent portions of fried foods or fast foods can also increase your risk of constipation.
That’s because these foods tend to be high in fat and low in fiber, a combination that can slow digestion like red meat does. Fast food snacks such as chips, cookies, chocolate, and ice cream can also replace high-fiber snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, in a person’s diet.
This can further increase the risk of constipation by reducing the total amount of fiber consumed per day. Interestingly, many people believe that chocolate is one of the main causes of their constipation. Also, fried foods and fast foods tend to contain high amounts of salt, which can reduce the water content of stool, drying it out and making it harder for it to pass through the body. This happens when you eat too much salt because your body absorbs water from your intestines to help make up for the extra salt in your blood.
This is one of the ways your body uses to bring your salt concentration back to normal, but unfortunately it can lead to constipation.
Persimmons are a popular fruit from Asia that can cause constipation for some. There are several varieties, but most can be classified as mild or astringent. In particular, persimmons contain a high amount of tannins, a compound that is believed to reduce secretions and intestinal contractions, thereby slowing down bowel movements. That’s why people with constipation should avoid consuming too many persimmons, especially the astringent varieties.
If you still have difficulty after reducing your intake of foods that cause constipation, see your doctor or naturopath.
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