Constipation is the difficult, infrequent passing of hard stool. For those with constipation, an urge to defecate may be also be present. Constipation can have a wide effect on the body and cause many complications.

What causes constipation?

  • Chemotherapy drugs and other medications
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Eating too little fiber
  • Bowel obstruction from scar tissue/tumors
  • Dehydration
  • Being physically inactive
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Depression
  • Having a diet high in calcium
  • Low potassium levels

What happens when people are constipated?

  • Less frequent bowel movements
  • Hard, dry stools
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Painful, hard to pass bowel movements
  • Belching/gas
  • Stomach cramps
  • Feeling of fullness and discomfort

What should I eat when constipated?

When constipated drink plenty of fluids and fill your diet with foods rich in fiber to increase mobility of the bowels.

Drink plenty of liquids (8-10 cups per day)

  • Water
  • Decaffeinated tea
  • Juice (prune, lemonade)
  • Sports drinks (Powerade or Gatorade)

High-Fiber Foods

  • Whole-wheat products (pastas, breads)
  • Fruit (apples, pears)
  • Popcorn
  • Beans (pinto, kidney, refried)
  • Bran cereals and oatmeal
  • Hummus
  • Plain baked potato
  • Green leafy vegetables (lettuce, cabbage)
  • Trail mix

What should I NOT eat when constipated?

When constipated avoid foods high in saturated fats, caffeine, dairy, and alcohol, which could all worsen the symptoms.

Foods High in Fat

  • Red meat (beef, pork)
  • Fried foods (French fries, chips)
  • Baked goods (muffins, cakes, pies)
  • Bacon/sausage



  • Chocolate
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee
  • Black tea


  • Milk
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Milkshakes
  • Cheese

What else could I do when constipated?

  • Gradually increase intake of high fiber foods. Eating too much fiber before your body gets used to it can lead to flatulence and discomfort.
  • Drink adequate amounts of fluid per day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Talk to your doctor before taking laxatives, stool softeners, or any other medication.
  • Drink hot/warm liquids as it may help relieve constipation. Try drinking hot liquids after each meal.

When should I call my healthcare provider about constipation?

  • If you have not had a bowel movement in three days
  • If you have bloody stools or blood in the anal area
  • If you still have not had a bowel movement 1-2 days after taking a laxative
  • If you have stomach cramps, nausea, or vomitting that does not stop