17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause Constipation

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Written By

Rhea Dali

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Cause Constipation 1 1080X675 1 | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause Constipation

Approximately 75% of all Americans struggle with some sort of GI issue—including bloating, gas, skin problems, allergies, anxiety and mood imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances and constipation.

In fact, constipation is the MOST common digestive complaint in the United States of all other chronic digestive conditions, with about 1 in 5 people experiencing irregular bowel movements.

Technically, chronic constipation is defined as fewer than 3 bowel movements every, week, or hard, dry and small bowel movements that are painful or difficult to pass.

However, from a functional and all around health point of view, the human body is wired to “go” at least once every 24-hours (if not 2 to 3 times).

After all…think of a baby.

How often does a healthy, new-to-this-world baby “go” to the bathroom?

Answer: Typically 2 to 5 times in a 24-hour time span.

(Fun Fact: The average baby actually goes through about 12 diapers per day in their first month, and 7-10 after that)

And what happens when a baby can’t go? Or “has to go” but feels constipated?

They cry. They are uncomfortable. They can’t think about anything else.

The same thing goes for us adult humans.

The brain gut connection is real (90% of your serotonin levels, your “feel good” brain chemicals, alone are produced in the gut).

If, and when, we can’t go…it makes us uncomfortable. We may…

Feel bloated.

Lack an appetite.

Get annoyed, fussy or irritated more easily.

Can’t think of anything else.

Obsess over what we ate.

Google search how to “cure constipation.”

—Just to name a few.

Before we can think about HOW to cure constipation though, it’s essential to first understand WHY we are constipated in the first place.

Knowledge IS power. And the more we know what may be driving our own constipation (even “healthy” things), the better able we are to PREVENT constipation from happening in the first place.

Here are 17 Surprising Things That Cause Constipation and in the following post, will share with you 7 Game Changing Constipation Cures—No Laxatives Included.

17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause Constipation

  1. Almonds & Eggs
  2. Kale
  3. Orange Theory Fitness, CrossFit & Running
  4. Prunes
  5. Post-Workout Smoothie
  6. Bone Broth
  7. Carbonated & Tap Water
  8. Whole Foods Market Hot Bar
  9. Birth Control Pills
  10. Sweet Potatoes
  11. Tums
  12. Probiotics & Fermented Foods
  13. Productivity
  14. Keto or Low Carb Diets
  15. Coffee
  16. Green Smoothies and Juice
  17. Eating in Your Car or While Watching TV

 

  1. Almonds & Eggs

“Nut gut” and “egg belly” are real. Nuts and eggs are two of the most common food allergens and sensitivities.

Eggs | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause ConstipationWhile we’ve all heard about gluten-sensitivity and even lactose intolerance, foods like nuts, eggs, soy, grains, shellfish, and gluten-free processed foods with rice flour, gums, tapioca and cassava, can be equally as inflammatory to the gut.

These foods contain “antigens” (foreign proteins) that our body may struggle to break down and, consequently, not fully digest. Instead of digesting  appropriately, these food particles irritate our gut lining, eventually causing a “leaky gut” reaction (gut inflammation). Our digestive process slows down, and…Hello constipation!

  1. Kale
    Cruciferous veggies, like kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli ,are FODMAPS—all of which contain the sugar raffinose and can lead to gas, bloating, pain and changes in stool frequency and consistency.Kales | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause ConstipationMany people lack enough of the right digestive enzymes to break down raffinose in their stomach or small intestine. So after passing through these stages of digestion it often arrives in the large intestine still intact, where bacteria ferment it there.How to hack this? Cook your veggies! Instead of raw kale or green juiced kale, sauté it in healthy fat (coconut oil, ghee, avocado oil). The same goes for other cruciferous veggies—cooking them well and adding some fat can help with digestion. And aim to get a variety of all veggie types.
  1. Orange Theory Fitness, CrossFit & Running
    Working out does a body good…except when we go over our edge. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing for constipation conundrums.OvertrainingWith exercise, the “Goldilock’s” approach is always best. When our body is repetitively challenged to run faster, push harder or lift heavier, it can only take so much.Exercise is a natural stressor and when we workout, we elevate cortisol (our stress hormone) levels. This is not a bad thing, unless…cortisol remains elevated. Ideally, our body knows what to do with cortisol—spiking it up, then eventually coming back down as we recover.However, when we continue to push the pedal to the metal, our body goes “May day! May day!” and cortisol imbalances keep our body stressed out inside (Hill et al, 2008 ). The result? Decreased performance or “gains,” stubborn body fat or metabolism, and blunted digestion.The LAST thing the body wants to focus on is digestion and elimination. Even though we may be mentally tough (or applauded for our hard work), our digestive system stops working efficiently.
  1. Prunes
    Prunes are a classic “prescription” for constipation relief—known for their natural laxative properties. However, if you have bacterial overgrowth in your gut (like SIBO), the higher sugar content in prunes may not do your gut any favors.
    Prunes 1 | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause Constipation
    Similar to our cruciferous veggies (like kale), prunes are also FODMAPS (carbohydrates that are often poorly absorbed), and can linger in the gut, becoming food for bacteria there instead of helping us “go” #2.
  1. Post-Workout Smoothie (fillers, artificial sweetener)
    Protein powders, bars and shakes are popular “health foods” that may not be healthy at all. In fact, a vast majority of protein supplements on shelves contain filler proteins and ingredients that are indigestible to the body.
    Greensmoothie | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause ConstipationIf you see these additive or filler names, steer clear:
    • Soy lecithin and Soy
    • Natural Flavors & Artificial Flavors (unregulated term, unless sourcing is further explained)
    • Silicon Dioxide
    • Dextrin/Glucose
    • Maltodextrin
    • Xanthum Gums (and other gums)
    • Sunflower Oil
    • Corn Syrup Solids
    • Sodium Caseinate
    • Mono- & Diglycerides
    • Cocoa (Processed With Alkali)
    • Peanut Flour
    • Acesulfame Potassium
    • Fructose (sugar)
    • High fructose corn syrup
    • Citric Acid
    • Polydextrose
    • FD&C Yellow #5 (and other dyes)
    • Gums and Gum Blends (Cellulose Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carrageenan)
    • Artificial Sweeteners (Sucralose, Aspartame, Erythriol)
    • GMO-derived Plant Proteins (pea, flax, chia, etc.)

    Artificial sweeteners—like aspartame, and stevia — in particular have a gut-disrupting

    effect as they “feed” unhealthy gut bacteria (Suez et al 2015).

  1. Bone Broth
    Bone broth gets praises from just about every health blogger out there, as it boasts a TON of great benefits like: Boosting immunity, healing the intestinal wall lining, protecting your joints, a super dose of vitamins and minerals, and enhancing digestion overall.
    Bonebroth | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause ConstipationHowever, some people drink bone broth and feel none of these things. If you have a histamine intolerance…bone broth is not your friend. Histamine is a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that regulates many physiological functions in the body—including digestion. Histamine plays a role in gastric secretion by helping to induce the production of acid in the stomach.Every BODY has a histamine tolerance “bucket” or threshold.  Once that bucket is full, if the body can’t break it down, the bucket will overflow causing a range a problems, GI distress, bloating and constipation included.Most bone broths and bone broth recipes contain bacteria capable of producing histamine (especially since most of them cook for 24 to 72 hours). Why? Histamine builds up in bones and meats the longer they lose their “freshness” (even a matter of days).

    If you are intolerant to histamine and sip bone broth, consequently, a “gut response” often occurs.

    Hack it: Prepare a “low histamine” bone broth by cooking meat stock (instead of straight up bone broth with bones) with meats at “peak freshness.”  Or, if you do prepare bone broth, use bones that were instantly frozen from peak freshness, instead of allowed to sit for a number of days in the fridge.

  1. Carbonated & Tap Water
    Tapwater | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause ConstipationLa Croix, Top Chico, Perrier and Zevia are popular water “substitutes” for folks who “just don’t like water,” however carbonation can “back things up” by triggering bloating. As the carbonated water bubbles in the stomach, it can cause a buildup of air, triggering abdominal distension and gas (bloating).
    Bloating and constipation often go hand in hand. When we bloat, the body’s natural digestive process flow slows down, often leading to “slowed” GI motility and build up in bowels over time.In addition, unfiltered water (like tap water) contains hundreds of unregulated chemicals and toxins that our body views as a threat. Similar to eating poor quality meat (like Grade-D McDonald’s meat), poor quality water can tax the digestive system (especially the liver/gallbladder—the organs responsible for creating and excreting wastes).
  1. Whole Foods Market Hot Bar
    If you get it from Whole Foods it’s healthy right? Not quite. Check your food labels. Many dishes in restaurants, takeout, and even Whole Foods’ hot bar and cold case contain gut-inflammatory vegetable oils, like canola oil or rancid olive oil. Vegetable oils contain high amounts of PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) that promote the growth of Gram negative bacteria and thus contribute to the constipation conundrum.
  1. Birth Control Pills
    Contraceptive pill use can affect gut health. You have hormone receptors everywhere in your digestive tract. The added hormones in your body from the pill can affect those receptors by increasing demand for more receptors, without the ability to keep up. The result? Increased circulating hormones and inflammation from the imbalance in the body. In addition, contraceptive use has been associated with “leaky gut,” IBS and Chron’s disease (Khalili, 2016).
  1. Sweet Potatoes
    Similar to kale and prunes we’ve discussed, sweet potatoes contain sugars that may not be beneficial if you have a carbohydrate malabsorption.Consequently, carbohydrate malabsorption leads to bacterial overgrowth, increased gas production, bloating and…constipation.No, sweet potatoes do NOT cause constipation for everyone, but if carbohydrate malabsorption os at play, then, for a time, starchy or sugary foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes and fruits may not your BFF until you address the underlying gut dysfunction.Some causes of carbohydrate malabsorption? SIBO, low stomach acid, fungal overgrowth, dysbiosis (unhealthy gut bacteria) and intestinal permeability.
  1. Tums
    Speaking of low stomach acid, most people pop Tums (or other PPI’s—acid suppressing drugs) to banish bloating, not realizing it actually suppresses and kills off stomach acid.Stomach acid is ESSENTIAL for digestion. Without it, bloating, and constipation are natural byproducts.
  1. Probiotic Supplements & Fermented Foods
    Probiotics are healthy sources of bacteria found in both supplements and fermented foods that are essential for a healthy gut microbiome. However, not all bacteria is beneficial for our gut. If we have bacterial overgrowth, or higher levels of constipation-inducing D-Lactate bacteria, lactic acid bacteria cultures (often found in the majority of supplements on shelves) in particular do more harm than good.Probiotics and fermented foods are NOT bad, but it’s important to recognize that:A.) Not all probiotics are created equal, andB.) People with IBS, SIBO and other gut imbalances do not tolerate lactic acid bacteria—UNLESS currently being treated for the bacterial overgrowth (reach for spore-forming bacteria instead)
    1. LaxativesMany laxatives contain high doses of fiber, often raved about for “curing constipation,” including: psyllium, methylcellulose,  polycarbophil, bran and oat fiber. The goal is to accelerate the movement of food through your digestive tract. However, in some cases, fiber actually worsens IBS and constipation symptoms (Ho et al, 2012 ). In addition, oat fiber and bran fiber are grain-derived (a common known gut irritant).
    1. Keto or Low Carb Diets
      Just like too much fiber is no bueno, so is too little. A common roadblock people run into on keto or low-carb diet is neglecting fiber almost completely. Bring on the coconut oil, coconut butter, olive oil, butter, bacon, steak and salmon…forget the prebiotic-rich fiber foods, moderate amounts of starchy tubers and even the greens—all of which help “push” feces through.
    1. Coffee
      Coffee—particularly poor quality coffee— is one of the moldiest foods we consume. In addition, instant coffee and low-grade quality (like Keurig, Starbucks and Folger’s) is one of the most cross-containing foods with gluten. A lose-lose for constipation.
      Hack: Reach for a high-quality, organic, fair trade roast.
    1. Green Smoothies and Juice
      Green Smoothie | 17 Surprising (Healthy) Things That Cause ConstipationGetting your greens on is not a bad thing! However, problems some people run into when they drink cold pressed greens or smoothies is:1.) Too Much Fiber. An overload of veggies to the body and colon at once (since green smoothies are packed with fiber, and often consumed within a SHORT time frame)2.) Poor Detoxification. Many people drink green juice on a juice fast to “detox” their body. However, if they already have gut imbalances or a sluggish liver function, then detoxification actually backfires. Since the body is unable to cleanse through healthy digestion, toxins build up in the body. Enter: Constipation.
      1. Productivity

    Eating on the go, eating while working in front of the computer or screen, sleeping less and burning a candle on both ends may seem like efficient ways to get things done—often times at the detriment to healthy digestion.

    Stress goes far beyond mindset. Physical stress such as circadian rhythm dysfunction (not sleeping, bright lights and over screen exposure), erratic eating habits and pushing our bodies past their limits all wreak havoc on cortisol (stress hormone), similar to overtraining discussed above.

    The result? A less efficient digestive system.

    The bottom Line

    Every BODY is different. There is not ONE primary cause of constipation, and what may be constipating for one person is not for the next.

    Above all, the body desires balance. Reflect upon the areas that are out of balance, and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

    What to do about it? Check out 11 Game-Changing Constipation Cures for some helpful constipation-busting hacks.

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