Not being able to pass stools for more than a few days is a sign of constipation. But fewer people recognise that having hard and dry stools is also a form of constipation. With this definition in mind, it would mean that almost everyone has had experienced constipation some time in their lives, and needless to say, it can be quite an unpleasant experience often accompanied by bloated stomach symptoms, a loss of appetite, stomach pain, and flatulence.
One well-known and natural way to relieve constipation symptoms is to increase one’s intake of fibre and fluids. Thus, drinking up and having foods like prunes, figs, leafy greens, sweet potato, and beans are highly recommended for anyone experiencing constipation.
However, do you know that some foods you eat may be causing your constipation instead? Few people consider that foods can also be the trigger of their constipation in the first place. If you are prone to getting constipation without knowing why, it would be worthwhile to examine your diet for these potential culprits.
Gluten is commonly present in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. Some people who are sensitive or allergic to the protein may suffer from constipation after consuming it.
Gluten intolerance is most commonly associated with celiac disease, but people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity or irritable bowel syndrome may also experience reactions like constipation after ingesting gluten.
- Red meat
Red meat is a huge offender when it comes to constipation-triggering foods, as it is high in several of the compounds that are difficult for the body to digest. These include fats, tough protein fibres, and iron.
Indirectly, red meat may also cause a reduced intake of other fibre-rich foods, as it is very filling and takes up a big portion of the meal.
- White bread & white rice
If you are prone to having constipation, a high intake of processed grains may be a factor. White rice and white bread are made from grains which have had their husk, bran, and germ removed – parts of the grain which contain a lot of fibre. This means you lose out on a lot of fibre – which is good for bowel health – when you consume a large proportion of processed grains.
Instead, people with constipation may benefit from switching over to brown rice and other whole-grain foods.
Those nights out at the bar or club may be making your constipation worse without you knowing. Alcohol is very dehydrating, and slows down the body’s digestion process. All these may aggravate constipation symptoms, especially if alcohol is consumed in large amounts.
Beside limiting alcohol intake, drinkers can ease the effects on their body by drinking a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
Many anecdotal reports and surveys by people with constipation suggest that chocolate is a trigger for constipation. While there have not been firm empirical evidence to suggest this, the ingredients of chocolate do pose a possible risk. The high fat content, caffeine, and milk in many chocolate bars are potential aggravators of constipation.
- Health supplements
Certain health supplements like calcium and iron tablets may cause constipation as a side effect. Wherever possible, it is still best to obtain your nutrients from a balanced diet. However, if your doctor prescribes these supplements to you, you can reduce the chances of experiencing constipation by increasing your dietary fibre intake.
If you experience constipation often, consider ruling out these possible aggravators one at a time to pinpoint the trigger. Not all these foods may be constipation-triggering in every person, and some are worsened only by underlying health conditions (e.g. celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome).
Besides food, other lifestyle factors that may be causing your frequent constipation may be:
- Inactive lifestyle
- Old age
- Stress or mental health conditions
Chronic constipation without an immediately identifiable cause may also be a sign of other health issues such as a blockage in the colon, weakened pelvic muscles, or neurological problems. Do consult a gastroenterology specialist to rule out any of these conditions.