The seven worst foods for constipation

Constipation can be a real pain, figuratively and literally. The condition, which is defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week, can cause bloating, abdominal pain, and general discomfort. 

Though occasional constipation is very common, some people experience chronic constipation that can interfere with their ability to go about their daily tasks.

Chronic constipation may also cause people to strain excessively in order to have a bowel movement.

A number of things can contribute to constipation, including a lack of fibre in your diet, not drinking enough water, and not getting enough exercise. But there are also some foods that can make constipation worse. 

Dairy products

Dairy products, especially cheese and milk, can make constipation worse for some people.

The milk most people buy goes through a number of processes before it reaches the shelves. It may contain both antibiotics and hormones and will likely be pasteurised to kill off milk-borne bacteria.

However, the pasteurisation process also removes valuable enzymes that help you to digest the milk, as well as other important vitamins and minerals.

Those who are lactose intolerant may be more likely to experience diarrhoea after consuming dairy, but constipation can be a side-effect.


Drinking alcohol can cause constipation because it is a diuretic, which means it causes you to urinate more frequently. This can lead to dehydration, making your stools harder and more difficult to pass. Alcohol can also slow down the movement of food through your digestive system, which can lead to constipation. Finally, alcohol can contribute to poor gut health by damaging the lining of the gut and causing inflammation.

If you’re going to have a drink or two, pour a glass of water at the same time to stay hydrated.

Foods containing gluten

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, spelt and triticale. If someone is gluten intolerant, they may experience constipation when they eat foods that contain it.

When someone with coeliac disease consumes gluten, their immune system attacks their gut, severely harming it. Individuals with this disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet.

In most countries, an estimated 0.5–1 per cent of people have coeliac disease, but many may not be aware of it. Chronic constipation is one of the common symptoms. Avoiding gluten can help relieve and heal the gut.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are two other instances in which a person’s gut may react to wheat. Individuals with these medical conditions aren’t intolerant to gluten but appear to be sensitive to wheat and other grains.

Red meat

Fibre is essential in your diet to add bulk to stools and help them move along, and red meat contains little fibre.

Eating a lot of red meat may also reduce your intake of daily fibre by taking the place of higher fibre options in your diet.

This is especially true if you fill up on a large portion of meat during a meal, reducing the number of fibre-rich vegetables, legumes, and wholegrains you can eat in the same sitting.

If you struggle with constipation, you may benefit from replacing the red meat in your diet with protein- and fibre-rich alternatives such as beans, lentils, and peas.

Fried or fast food

If you often eat on the go, you could be increasing your risk of being constipated.

That’s because these foods tend to be high in fat and low in fibre, a combination that can slow digestion in the same way that red meat does. These types of food tend to contain large amounts of salt, which can lower the water content of your stool, making it harder and drier.


This breakfast staple is high in protein but low in fibre, but you don’t have to take them off the menu completely. Just add some high-fibre food to the dish. Try and omelette with fresh spinach and tomatoes. Or scramble your eggs and cook up some black beans to go with them.

Sweet treats

Dessert and sweet snacks such as cookies, pastries, cakes and crackers have three strikes against them when it comes to constipation – they’re low in fibre, low in fluid, and high in fat.

They may also replace more fibre-rich snack options, such as fruits and vegetables in a person’s diet.

One poll showed many people believe chocolate is one of the main causes of their constipation.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with snacks such as berries and Greek yoghurt with a drizzle of honey.

Have you excluded any of these foods from your diet? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Read: What your poo says about you

Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Ellie Baxter
Ellie Baxter
Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.
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