Let’s say you have a “traffic jam” in your bowels. That can be a real pain in the—you know.
What you eat can play a huge role in keeping your digestive tract running smoothly. It’s common to become constipated because of certain things you ate, especially if you have IBS, a food intolerance, or other tummy troubles. Just as those foods can back things up, replacing those foods with healthier choices can get things moving again.
What’s the secret to success? Fiber. Getting enough fiber in your diet is often enough to avoid constipation altogether. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t get nearly enough of the digestion-boosting substance, which you can find in whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits and veggies. Although experts recommend 22-34 grams of fiber a day, the average American only consumes about 16 grams a day, according to a 2014 survey by the USDA.
These seven types of foods often contain zero or very little fiber, which means you may want to avoid them if you’re prone to constipation.
Dairy, especially cheese and ice cream. People with allergies or intolerances to cow’s milk are even more likely to experience constipation from eating these foods.
Chips. Whether tortilla, potato, or covered in orange dust, many chips tend to have no fiber and are often fried (see #7).
Most fast food. French fries, buns made of refined flour, and meaty burgers are an ideal recipe for constipation. The exception: the salads and sides of apples, baked potatoes, and other fruits and veggies that some chains have started serving.
Refined baked goods, like pastries, muffins, and white bread. These goodies are almost always made using refined white flour, which has had the fiber stripped out during processing.
Meat. It may boost your protein total for the day, but it doesn’t deliver fiber.
Processed and prepared foods, like TV dinners, frozen pizza, and canned soup. To help these products last as long as possible on shelves or in the freezer aisle, food companies heavily process the ingredients, which removes most of the vitamins, nutrients, and fiber. That means even a canned soup can be low in fiber even if it’s full of veggies. (Try making this colombian chicken soup at home instead to get the most from your vegetables.)
Fried foods, like doughnuts, onion rings, or French fries. Many fried foods often don’t start with a lot of fiber to begin with (think buffalo wings, corn dogs, or mozzarella sticks). But once it hits the oil, you’ve got a heavy food that’s a lot harder to digest. Here’s how to make sweet potato fries in the oven to cure your fry craving.
What should you eat instead? Here are the high-fiber foods that help ease constipation.