It happens to most of us: constipation is a silent pain, and just like poop, nobody wants to talk about it.
“Constipation is often benign,” says registered nurse and nutrition expert Abigail Keeso of Toronto-based That Clean Life “However, it can be a sign of another underlying health issue like hypothyroidism.”
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult to pass. And although you may experience gas and abdominal pain and feel like you’re expanding, Kesso says bloating isn’t something that actually occurs when you’re constipated.
“When we say we ‘feel bloated,’ we are often referring to our abdomens feeling full, tight or swollen,” she says. “Think of it like a mullet: bloating is a party in the front and constipation is a party in the back.”
This condition can be caused by a variety of things, she adds, including lack of exercise, stress and a lack of fibre in the diet. Fibre and drinking water are key players to getting your bowels moving, and fibre-rich foods like prunes and flax seeds will also make you go.
Below, Kesso has chosen 10 common culprits that often cause constipation, and while we’re not suggesting to never eat these foods again, it may be time to cut back on some if you have a tendency to over-consume them.
For some, milk that is high in fat can slow down the digestion process, says registered nurse and nutrition expert Abigail Keeso of That Clean Life in Toronto. Since milk also contains lactose, it can cause gas and stomach upsets for some people, or worsen the overall symptoms of constipation.
The large amounts of fat in red meat and small amounts of fibre can slow down the digestion process. Red meat also has protein fibres, which are difficult for our bodies to digest thoroughly.
Another one high in fat, cheeses, like milk, also contain lactose which can cause gas. People who are already constipated should avoid cheese in general.
It sounds like a myth, but Kesso says there’s some truth to it. Green bananas, or unripe bananas, have a high amount of starch, which can make constipation symptoms worse.
If you’re used to drinking a cup of coffee every day, but you’re also getting constipated, you may want to consider cutting back. For some, caffeine can cause dehydration and lead to constipation.
Because fried foods are high in fat, they can slow down the digestion process in our bodies, Kesso says. And while there aren’t many nutrients in a bowl of French fries of chicken wings to begin with, fibre is a crucial one that is missing.
Gluten can cause constipation on a case-by-case basis. If you are unaware of any gluten allergies but deal with constant constipation, you may want to speak to your doctor. “A gluten intolerance can lead to constipation and other gastrointestinal symptoms,” Kesso says.
Foods high in sugar like cakes, cupcakes and cookies are high in fat and low in fibre. While avoiding sugar is good for our overall diets, the key is moderation.
Chocolate is basically a double threat: It is high in fat, which slows down digestion, and may also have caffeine, which can cause dehydration.