Constipation can occur for a number of reasons: A lack of exercise, ignoring the urge to go, and certain medications and supplements can be to blame. However, your diet is typically the primary culprit—and certain foods are harder on the body than others.
To help you keep things moving on the reg, we’ve tracked down common foods that make you constipated. And to cover all our bases, we’ve also included a number of eats that will worsen your symptoms if you’re already backed up.
It’s not that eating a serving of chips will immediately make you back up. It’s just that anytime you eat a low-fiber snack (like chips, cookies, or pretzels), you’re passing up the opportunity to eat something more wholesome that supports digestive health. Plus, chips are typically potent sources of unhealthy fats that slow down the digestive system, making it more difficult to go.
Next time you get hungry between meals, skip the chips and grab a pear. They don’t taste the same, we know, but bear with us. Pears are a known constipation remedy. Not only are they packed with fiber, but they also have naturally-occurring, sorbitol which acts as a laxative to loosen up the stools. These high-fiber foods are also smart picks.
2. Underripe Bananas
Though ripe yellow banners made our list of the foods that make you poop, their green, underripe cousins have the opposite effect, landing them a spot on our list of foods that make you constipated. The reason: Unripe bananas contain a higher concentration of tannins. This naturally occurring antioxidant can cause or aggravate pre-existing constipation, according to a study in Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition.
They’re not the most popular fruit on the block—and maybe that’s a good thing. Though sweet persimmons won’t likely wreak havoc on your digestive system, the more astringent varieties have a high tannin acid concentration. Why’s that matter? The naturally occurring compound inhibits the muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract, which can aggravate or cause constipation.
As persimmons mature and grown in size, the fewer tannins they will have—so stick to the bigger guys if you’re susceptible to digestive troubles. That said, according to one Korean study, some healthy individuals experience painful defecation (yes, that’s poop) after eating larger, ripe persimmons. The bottom line: Chomp at your own risk.
4. Gum—But Only If You Swallow It
Despite childhood rumors, if you swallow a piece of gum, it won’t take seven years to come out the opposite end. If you swallow enough pieces, however, it may just form a mass that will block your digestive tract and cause constipation. Womp, womp.
This is an easy one, just don’t swallow your gum.
To gain a better understanding of the connection between food and various digestive issues, researchers (who ultimately published their finding in the European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology) asked a group of people suffering from constipation which foods they thought were to blame for their stomach issues. Strangely enough, chocolate was a top offender for foods that cause constipation. White bread, black tea,and bananas, were also named tummy troublers.
Though it’s true that eating dark chocolate has numerous benefits including reduced risk of heart attack and lower cholesterol levels, if you get backed up on the reg, consider quelling your sweet tooth with a chocolate-free energy bite or cookie. Who knows, axing the treat from your diet may just help you earn your frequent visitor badge in the bathroom.
6. Rib-Eye Steak
Protein and fat are both nutrients that take a longggg time to digest. And rib-eye is filled to the gills with both of them, which can back you up and make you feel uncomfortably full. As the crème de la crème of steaks, a 3.5-ounce serving packs a whopping 37.6 grams of fat (nearly a day’s worth), 15 grams of saturated fat, and 30 grams of protein.
To keep things moving, switch to a sirloin tip side steak or filet mignon, which are far less fatty, and pair the meat with a fiber-rich side dish like spinach, potatoes, or broccoli.
7. White Bread
Every time you make a sandwich with white bread, you’re passing up an opportunity to consume some fiber-packed whole grains. While a slice of classic Wonder bread has less than one gram of the digestion-friendly nutrient, a slice of whole grain has three grams.
Stick to whole grains to keep uncomfortable cramping and constipation at bay. For more intel on your favorite lunchtime carb.
8. Frozen Dinners
If the majority of your meals need to be thawed out before you can dig in, that might explain why your bowels are a bit, well, frozen. Most heat-and-eat dinners contain next to no fiber and high amounts of fat and salt, which can result in water retention. And since water is needed to push waste through the digestive tract, when there’s not enough of it in the body to go around, it can result in constipation.
Nix the gross fat- and salt-filled fare, and pick up some of these clean and healthy frozen foods. Or, better yet, cook the majority of your meals from scratch and steer clear of the salt shaker.
9 & 10. Milk & Cheese
Full-fat dairy is all the rage right now—and it’s not without good reason. Not only can certain full-fat foods increase satiety and in turn, aid weight loss, people who eat a lot of high-fat dairy products actually have the lowest incidence of diabetes, according to a 2015 study of 26,930 people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, since they’re processed very slowly, fatty dairy products are one of the foods that make you constipated. Pair that with gas-causing lactose and you’ve got yourself a recipe for bloat and stomach pain galore!
Make the switch to 1% milk (this allows you to get some of the healthy fats, without as many of the negative stomach side effects) or if you find that you’ve super sensitive to dairy, consider ditching it altogether à la Khloé Kardashian.
11 & 12. Energy Drinks & Coffee
According to a study published in the journal, European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, coffee promotes a “gastrocolic response” in the body shortly after consumption, which causes many people high-tail it to the bathroom after a cup or two. However, sip too much of the stuff—or anything else with caffeine for that matter—you’ll likely experience the opposite response. Not only are you not sipping water when you reach for a caffeinated drink, the stimulants can also dehydrate you. Since H2O pushed waste through the body, when your body is as dry as the desert, it makes it difficult to lighten your load.
For every cup of caffeinated liquid you consume, consume an equal amount of water. Hate the taste? Consider making a batch of delicious, hydrating detox water.
After a heavy night of drinking, likely one of two things will happen: You’ll have a bad case of the runs or you won’t be able to go at all. Though it’s a bit hard to wrap your head around the conflicting information, there are scientific explanations for each scenario. Ethanol, a substance that revs up the digestive process, is plentiful in alcohol, which explains why drinking sends some people running to the bathroom. While the latter effect is brought on by the booze’s dehydrating effects, which can cause electrolyte imbalances and slow digestion.
If you find that you’re stopped up after a night that includes one (or seven) too many glasses of wine, cut back your intake and order a round of water after each round of the hard stuff. For more tips on healthier boozing, check out our tips for healthy alcoholic drinks!
14. Fast Food Burgers & Pizza
When you waste your meals on junk like nutrient-void burgers and greasy pizza, that means you’re not consuming healthy fare that supports optimal digestion. Fast food burgers, for example, are filled with dehydrating-salt and digestion-slowing fat. To add insult to injury, all that is sandwiched between two fiber-free white buns—not what you want to be wasting your precious calories on if you’re prone to potty problems. Pizzaholics face many of the same issues. Pizza and cheese (which is packed with salt) are the biggest food sources of saturated fat in the U.S. diet, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. And the crust is pretty much free of any nutrients the body can utilize for better health.
Instead of ordering foods that make you constipated—like pizza—make your own with a store-bought whole-wheat crust. Top with low-fat cheese and veggies and just say no to fatty meat toppings like pepperoni and sausage that can stop you up. Homemade also trumps restaurant fare in hamburger land. Use meat that’s at least 90 percent lean to make your patties, ditch the cheese, and use a whole-wheat bun. Up the flavor with organic ketchup (we like Annie’s and Sir Kensington’s bottles), and fiber-filled veggies like spinach and tomatoes.
15. Ice Cream
Bad news, ice cream lovers, your favorite frozen treat may one of the foods that make you constipated—and it’s all thanks to its high-fat content and lactose. Not to mention, it’s totally free of fiber, which only makes your bathroom situation worse.
Make your own homemade frozen banana ice cream or switch to a low-fat alternative like Arctic Zero. Makers of the treat replace the cream and milk typically found in ice cream with water and whey protein, which makes it easier to digest. We’re big fans of the Snickerdoodle Dandy and Cookie Dough Dip flavors.