Constipation: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid

Answers FAQ

Constipation: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid FAQs

Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP on October 25, 2017

Take the Constipation: Foods to Eat, Foods to Avoid Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
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Q:You are constipated if you don't have a bowel movement every day. True or false?

A:False. It's not true you need to have a bowel movement every day, and missing one bowel movement does not mean you are constipated.

Everyone's body is different; some people may have three bowel movements each day, while others may have only three per week.

Constipation is usually defined as fewer than three bowel movements a week, or your stools are hard, dry, and small, and evacuation is painful or difficult. Fortunately, constipation is not generally a dangerous condition and it doesn't last a long time.

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Q:Adding fiber to your diet can help prevent and relieve constipation. True or false?

A:True. One of the best ways to prevent constipation is to add fiber to your diet.

Fiber helps to soften stool so it moves smoothly through the colon.

There are two kinds of fiber: soluble and insoluble, and both work to prevent constipation. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, fruit, and oats. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and can be found in whole-grain foods and vegetables. Drinking water or fruit or vegetable juice can help the dietary fibers work better, making your stools more regular.

A doctor can help you come up with a diet plan with the right amount of fiber for your body and activity level. When adding fiber to your diet for the first time, do so gradually to avoid bloating and gas discomfort.

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Q:If you're constipated, should you eat white rice or avoid it?

A:Avoid it!

White rice is rice with the husk, germ, and bran stripped away. Basically, all the fiber and nutrients have been removed.

However, brown rice is different. Because it has the husk, bran, and germ intact it can help relieve constipation. Try mixing brown rice with white rice at first to get used to it.

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Q:You're constipated, and your friend offers you a kiwi. Eat it or avoid it?

A:Eat it!

Eat a kiwi to help with constipation. A medium-sized kiwi has about 2.5 grams of fiber and can help you have regular bowel movements. A study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found eating two kiwifruits daily increased the number of bowel movements in adults with constipation. Another study in Advances in Food and Nutrition Research also found kiwis help keep you regular.

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Q:What about chocolate? Eat it or avoid it?

A:Avoid it!

Sadly, chocolate can slow digestion and should be avoided if you are constipated and many of us realize this already. In a German study, researchers asked people with constipation to name foods they thought caused it, and chocolate was the most frequent answer. Like cheese, chocolate is high in fat and has little to no fiber, which can slow the passage of food through the bowel. In addition, if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chocolate can aggravate your symptoms.

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Q:Your child is constipated and is asking for popcorn. Should she eat it or avoid it?

A:Eat it!

Popcorn is a great snack for kids of all ages. You can eat a filling 3 cups of air-popped kernels and get 3.5 g fiber to help relieve you constipation. Bonus: the air-popped kind has less than 100 calories per serving!

Just make sure you stick to the air-popped variety, as movie theater popcorn, or popcorn topped with butter is high in fat, which can cause constipation.

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Q:When you're constipated, should you eat cheese or avoid it?

A:Avoid it!

Avoid cheese if you're constipated. Cheese has little to no fiber, and is full of fat and can cause or worsen constipation. In addition, dairy products contain lactose and those who are intolerant may find they have additional bloating when they eat cheese.

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Q:Sweet potatoes: Eat them or avoid them?

A:Eat them!Sweet potatoes are a great side dish if you have constipation.

One medium baked sweet potato with skin has 3.8 grams of fiber (most of it is in the skin, so leave the skin on!), which can help prevent constipation.

Regular baked potatoes with skin have about 3 grams of fiber and are also good options to prevent constipation.

Avoid high fat, high calorie toppings such as butter or sour cream, which can make your constipation worse. Add more fiber to your baked potato by topping it with other veggies such as broccoli.

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Q:You should eat beans to help relieve constipation. True or false?

A:True. Beans are an excellent food choice to help relieve constipation, because they contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.

They contain more than 10 grams of fiber per one-cup serving – more than almost any other fiber source!

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Q:What foods below should you avoid when constipated?

A:When you are constipated, it's best to avoid foods that are low in fiber and high in fat. This includes cheese, ice cream, potato chips, frozen meals, red meat, and hamburgers and hot dogs.

Many processed foods have little to no fiber and will stall food passing through the bowel. Choose high fiber foods such as those mentioned in this quiz to help prevent or relieve your constipation.

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