A lot of people—one in five, to be more precise—are constipated. Particularly women. And even if you're having a bowel movement every day, experts still say you could be constipated. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, all you need is one of the following symptoms: fewer than three bowel movements per week, straining to start or complete a bowel movement, having a stool consistency that looks like rocks and pebbles, and/or having a feeling of incomplete emptying.
If you think you might be constipated, there are plenty of possible explanations behind it, from a lack of exercise and water to too much stress. But your diet is one of the biggest. Here are eight foods that could be part of the problem.
You might want to avoid these foods that cause constipation
1. Dairy Milk
Drinking a lot of water can help with constipation, but milk only halts your progress. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can cause constipation in some people because it's harder to digest. In fact, an older, smaller study of chronically constipated participants found after up to 15 days of not having a bowel movement, giving up cow's milk is what finally solved the issue. Luckily, there are an ever-growing number of plant-based milks for you to choose from.
2. Red meat
While red meat may not directly cause the constipation you're experiencing, there's a reason why it leaves you so backed up. When you eat a lot of it, it takes the place of the plant-based foods—like fruits and veggies—that are packed with digestion-boosting fiber that helps you poop, leaving you constipated. So for the sake of your bathroom trips—or lack thereof—it might be time to cut back.
3. Pre-made dinners
Making a frozen dinner is tempting. Unfortunately, despite saving you time, it's not going to do your digestion any good. The National Institute on Aging says eating prepared foods—from the freezer section or in boxes on store shelves alike—are low in fiber (and high in sodium). As a result, such meals often lead to constipation.
Milk isn't the only offender on this list. You might want to pass on the cheese plate, too. According to the Cleveland Clinic, eating large amounts of cheese can also cause constipation. Instead, reach for some of the vegan cheese options available that are filled with plant-based ingredients, like this sharp, tangy version or this dairy-free nacho cheese sauce.
5. Unripe bananas
While ripe bananas contain high amounts of fiber that can help get things moving, unripe bananas—which are still packed with starch—have the opposite effect, causing constipation or making pre-existing constipation worse. So if you're backed up, just make sure you're not eating the fruit unless it's bright yellow.
6. Fried foods
Because they're loaded with fat and low in fiber, fried foods slow your digestion, making it easier for your system to become backed up.
Yep, even chocolate made the list. The sweet treat is a known to cause constipation, and in one study, it was actually the most frequently-mentioned food patients blamed their constipation on. Other offenders they mentioned? Black tea and bread.
8. Processed grains
Speaking of bread, eating processed grains is another common cause of constipation. While you're good to go on whole grain options, anything made from white flour—be it pasta or bagels—is a big no-no. Because the bran and germ has been removed, you're taking in a very low amount of fiber that's only going to cause constipation or make it worse.
Now that you know which foods to avoid, meet the foods that will make you poop (almost) immediately. And while you're at it, give these natural constipation-relieving remedies a shot, too.
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