There are few feelings worse than the heavy, unmovable pit in your stomach that comes when you can’t poop. While it’s pretty clear that diet plays a role in the clog, you may have trouble pinpointing the culprits if you don’t happen to eat prunes and flaxseeds at every meal.
Since (Almost) Everyone Poops never got the green light as a no-nonsense guide to constipation, we collected some of the worst offenders when it comes to backing you up. Take heed.
Enough steak may produce the opposite effect in the short term, but regular consumption of red meat can mean less fiber and a slower system. “A high-meat, low-fiber diet may promote constipation,” warns Sharon Palmer, a dietitian and author of Plant-Powered for Life. If you’re loading up on it for the protein, but avoid putting any fiber in your diet as well, watch out.
Chocolate could reduce your time on the throne? Say it isn’t so! Sadly, for some people this is the case. A 2005 study found that people who were backed up regularly or had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS, which can cause constipation in some people) said chocolate caused their clogs While chocolate can be a trigger for constipation and other signs of gastrointestinal distress, its exact mechanism of action isn’t known, so just keep an eye on how it works for your body.
Wait, but aren’t bananas fruit? They should make you poop, right? Sadly, bananas are an exception to the rule that fruit tends to keep your digestive tract moving. The aforementioned study found that bananas could spell disaster for your insides, and Cassie Bjork, a dietitian with Healthy Simple Life, agrees that green bananas in particular can be a cause of constipation due to their high starch volume.
A study in the ‘90s examined 65 severely constipated children who had bowel movements every three to 15 days and didn't respond to laxatives. Fifteen days without pooping! Upon giving dairy the boot, 44 of the children found complete relief, likely due to undiagnosed sensitivities that make milk difficult to digest. The milk protein IgG may play a role in constipation, as it has the potential to provoke an immune response, making it difficult for the body to process. Consider skipping the cheese plate, and see if that loosens things up a bit.
Black tea may seem like it would fall into the same category as coffee -- and we all know what that does to your system -- but it’s actually just the opposite. It turns out that black tea can also muck up your bowels, the same study found, and it looks like it has nothing to do with fiber intake. Black tea may be a trigger for IBS symptoms, which can occur in people who haven’t been diagnosed with IBS, so play this one by how it works on your body.
Going gluten-free to be trendy? If you don’t have to eliminate gluten from your diet, you may not want to. Constipation can be a symptom of celiac disease, but those who eat bread on the regular (especially if it’s not whole-grain bread) also report that it backs them up.
“Gluten can cause constipation, especially in those who are sensitive to it,” says Bjork. Not that everyone, or even most people, are sensitive; but if you find that it happens every time you eat a bagel, you might want to consider the possibility.
A plumber for your bowels
Ready to resume your regular relationship with the bathroom? Get more fiber into your diet. Men 50 and younger need 38g of fiber a day, while ladies should aim for about 25g. And if you need some suggestions on where to get it, here are some other foods to nosh on that can help move things along.
“Fiber is nature's best constipation aid. High sources include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies. Plus consume with lots of water,” Palmer says.
However you get your fiber, beware of how much and how quickly you consume it. Very bad things can happen.
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