Constipation affects up to 1 in 3 American adults. Older adults and women are at greatest risk. Constipation is usually characterized as:
- Having fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Having stools that are hard or dry
- A feeling that stool hasn’t passed completely
- Having stools that are hard or painful to pass
You may also experience bloating, gas, and abdominal pain as a side effect of your intermittent bowel habits.
Board-certified gastroenterologist Bharat Pothuri, MD, and the team at GastroDoxs can help patients in and around Houston, Texas, to ease uncomfortable constipation so they feel more relaxed and healthy. Although aging, certain medications, and functional gastrointestinal disorders can cause constipation, so can your dietary habits. One way to reduce constipation is to revise your food choices.
Just a few dietary revisions go a long way in making you more comfortable. Be aware that the following foods can contribute to your problems with constipation.
1. Red meat
A juicy steak or burger once in a while can be a healthy addition to your diet, but eating red meat daily can contribute to constipation. Red meat has no fiber. Fiber is needed because it adds bulk to stool so it moves through your system smoothly. Plus, if you fill up on red meat – which can be quite satiating – you may eat fewer fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (all high-fiber foods) as a result.
Many cuts of red meat contain high amounts of fat and iron, two nutrients that can contribute to constipation, too.
Sensitivity to the proteins in cows’ milk is often associated with loose stools or diarrhea, but research shows that come people experience constipation due to milk (or other dairy) consumption.
Try a dairy alternative, such as soy or almond milk, to see if you experience an improvement in your constipation symptoms. Minimize your intake of cheese and butter, too, if you find dairy is a trigger.
3. Refined grains
Refined grains, such as white bread, processed snack crackers, and white rice, have much (or all) of the fiber stripped away. When you consume them instead of fiber-rich whole grains, your bowel function suffers.
The USDA recommends consuming a minimum of 6 ounces of whole grains per day if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet. So make substitutions such as 100% whole-wheat bread for white slices and brown rice or quinoa instead of white rice.
Alcohol is dehydrating. When you don’t have enough fluid in your body, your stools grow hard and compact so they’re hard to pass. Alcohol also slows digestion and can cause bowel irritation, exacerbating constipation symptoms.
Stick to the recommended one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men. If you have serious constipation problems, forego alcohol altogether or save it for special occasions.
5. Fast food
At most fast food restaurants, white buns and fries are the norm. The burgers or fried chicken patties inside these buns are high in fat, and the whole meal package is very low in fiber. Fried foods and low-fiber foods both contribute to constipation. Make them a steady staple in your diet and you may be responsible, at least in part, for your blocked bowels.
Opt for turkey burgers or lean ground beef burgers cooked at home with 100% whole wheat buns. If you can, find takeout that offers sweet potato fries as an option as they’re higher in fiber and more nutritious than the white type.
Constipation is not only uncomfortable, it can be maddening. At GastroDoxs, we’re here to help with dietary revisions, medication, and lifestyle changes. If you’re done with the misery of bloating, gas, and hard stools, call today for an appointment or schedule using the online tool.