5 Foods to Avoid When You're Constipated

When you're constipated, it's a good idea to avoid foods like dairy, red meat, and foods that have been processed or fried. These food choices may slow digestion and create hardened stools.

Although there's little published research regarding the effects of specific foods on constipation, there are common-sense guidelines to follow if and when constipation strikes. There are plenty of foods you can eat to help ease constipation, but knowing what foods make constipation worse can help, too.

This article lists a number of foods to avoid and explains the reasons why. Some of these foods need only be avoided when you are constipated. You may want to limit others from your diet altogether in order to prevent future bouts.

Anything With White Flour

A loaf of sliced white bread

Ross Durant Photography / Photolibrary / Getty Images

White flour is wheat that has had most of its gut-healthy fiber taken out. A healthy intake of fiber is essential to keep your bowels moving smoothly. To ease and prevent constipation, avoid foods made from white flour. These foods include:​

  • White sandwich bread or rolls
  • Hamburger buns
  • Bagels
  • Cake 
  • Cookies
  • Pizza dough
  • Flour tortillas
  • Saltines and similar crackers

A lack of dietary fiber contributes to constipation problems. To maintain digestive regularity and improve heart health, women between age 31 and 50 should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, while men of the same age should consume 31 grams daily.

Processed Meats

A plate full of bacon
Amy Neunsinger / Getty Images

Processed meats can be hard on the digestive system. They almost always contain high amounts of fat, which can slow digestion. They also are low in healthy dietary fiber. Many processed meats contain nitrates to extend their shelf life. These nitrates also may contribute to constipation.

When you are constipated, it is best to avoid processed foods like:

  • Bacon
  • Bologna
  • Hot dogs
  • Sausage
  • Corned beef
  • Beef jerky

There are health concerns about processed white meat products too, like turkey sausage and chicken lunch meat. But these do tend to be healthier options than processed red meat.

Fried Foods

A box full of fried chicken
Jobrestful / Getty Images

Like processed meats, fried foods are hard to digest. This slows digestion and may contribute to hardened stools.

Fried foods, particularly deep-fried foods, are high in saturated fat. Diets high in saturated fat are known to increase constipation, particularly in older adults, compared to diets low in saturated fat.

To help ease constipation (and possibly prevent it from coming back), make an effort to avoid:

  • French fries
  • Fried chicken
  • Fish and chips
  • Onion rings
  • Donuts
  • Corn dogs
  • Potato chips
  • Fried tortilla chips

Dairy Products

Blocks of cheese on a cutting board

Image Source / Getty Images

Many people report that dairy products make them constipated. This may be due to lactose or other compounds found in dairy. There are also suggestions that milk allergy can promote constipation, particularly in children.

A 2018 study from Australia found that the long-term restriction of lactose and fructose reduced the severity of chronic constipation in a small group of children. The results suggest that these natural sugars also play a role.

When constipated, try to reduce your intake of dairy, especially full-fat dairy. These foods include:

  • Cheeses of all types
  • Ice cream
  • Milk
  • Sour cream
  • Custard
  • Yogurt

Once your constipation has eased, try adding a little yogurt back into your diet. Yogurt contains natural, gut-healthy probiotics. They may help to normalize gut bacteria and prevent constipation before it starts.

If you think dairy is causing constipation, try an elimination diet. Avoid eating all dairy for a few weeks to see if symptoms improve.

Red Meat

A hanger steak cut and spread on a cutting board

Brandon Rosenblum / Getty Images

Most doctors will advise you to cut back on red meat to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. More than anything else, red meat contains high levels of saturated fat that can clog arteries and lead to atherosclerosis. There is also some evidence that it promotes constipation.

In the same way saturated fat in fried foods contributes to constipation, eating large quantities of red meat may do the same.

A 2015 study in Neurogastroenterology and Motility reported that a high level of saturated fat in the diet, defined as over 30 grams per day, is linked to a higher risk of constipation.

To put this into context, one ribeye steak can deliver as many as 28 grams of saturated fat per serving. The researchers suggest that eating this much fat activates the ileal brake, a biological mechanism that slows the emptying of the stomach.

If you are a beef lover, grass-fed beef may be "healthier" than grain-fed beef because it has up to 4 fewer grams of fat per 100-gram portion. Even so, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends limiting the intake of red meat, including processed red meat, to one portion per week.

What Should You Eat When Constipated?

Foods rich in fiber are good choices when you're constipated. Some examples include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds


Constipation may seem an inconvenience but it's also a measure of your digestive health. The foods you eat may be making your constipation worse, so it's good to identify the foods that may be contributing to the problem.

Another advantage to doing so is that fried foods, too much red meat, and a lack of fiber can contribute to a host of other health issues. By making changes to your diet, you can avoid constipation while promoting better overall health.

15 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Barbara Bolen, PhD
Barbara Bolen, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist and health coach. She has written multiple books focused on living with irritable bowel syndrome.