Foods That Cause Constipation (and how the FODMAP Diet can help!)

Learn how high FODMAP foods cause chronic constipation and if IBS might be to blame. Luckily, diet and other natural remedies are safe and effective if you’re dealing with this frustrating condition.

Save it on Pinterest!

Dealing with occasional constipation is very low on the list of fun and enjoyable things. Dealing with chronic constipation (infrequent bowel movements over an extended period of time) is even more aggravating.

The abdominal pain, the discomfort, the cramping, pinching, and feeling of being unable to let it all go… it’s pretty awful, and it impacts your daily life in countless ways.

If you’ve been struggling with chronic constipation, and nothing you’ve tried so far has helped, you might have IBS-C. And if that’s what’s going on, there’s good news: The FODMAP diet can help you with this stubborn symptom.

Unlike the occasional bout of constipation, IBS-C is caused by specific types of carbohydrates called FODMAPs. FODMAPs are found in a wide array of foods.

While these foods are perfectly healthy for most people, they can trigger symptoms if you have IBS. (And if you aren’t sure whether your constipation is caused by IBS or not, keep reading.)

Foods That Cause Constipation

For people with IBS-C, constipation is caused by the fermentation of high-FODMAP foods as they sit in the large intestine. These foods can’t be digested properly by people with IBS, and the byproduct of that fermentation is gas, among other things. This, in turn, causes the bloating, pain, and digestive slow-down. No fun.

Here are some of the most common constipation-causing high-FODMAP foods:

  • Apples

  • Pears

  • Peaches

  • Cherries

  • Blackberries

  • Watermelon

  • Plums

  • Dried fruit

  • Asparagus

  • Cauliflower

  • Peas

  • Onions

  • Garlic

  • Milk, yogurt & ice cream

  • Wheat bread and pasta

  • Rye bread

  • Beans

  • Cashews & pistachios

  • Coconut flour

For a free cheat sheet listing high-FODMAP foods, click here.

Some people with IBS are prone to constipation, while others are prone to diarrhea, in what’s called IBS-D. And some folks with IBS experience both constipation and diarrhea, at different times. It’s not entirely sure why this happens. Research is still being done!

FODMAPs are the major constipation culprit if you have IBS, but other foods can also play a role if eaten in large quantities or very frequently.

Other constipation-causing foods:

High Fat Meals - If you’ve spent a weekend eating fried food or lots of desserts and chocolate, you might end up constipated since fatty meals are slower to digest.

Red Meat - It can be higher in fat than other proteins, but its high iron content can stop you up as well. But don’t give red meat completely--just reduce the frequency so you can still get the health benefits.

Starchy, Low-Fiber Foods - Unripe bananas, white bread, and white rice can move through the digestive tract slowly. Opt for whole wheat bread and brown rice instead.

Alcohol - It irritates the stomach and dehydrates you, leading to slow-moving bowels. Drink in moderation and get plenty of fluids.

Natural Ways to Relieve Constipation

Constipation is a stubborn condition so often multiple strategies are needed. So, where do you start?

More Fiber? Yes, But...

A commonly-held belief with constipation is that it’s caused by a lack of fiber. Because of this, people often assume they need to add fiber to their diet, in the form of things like whole wheat breads and pastas, beans, fibrous veggies, and so forth.

But with constipation caused by IBS-C, this actually ends up loading the system with more high-FODMAP foods, causing even more problems. Tried adding more fiber to your diet, and it hasn’t helped? You might be dealing with IBS. Increasing your FODMAP intake is going to increase the problems.

Soluble vs. Insoluble Fiber

Even on a low-FODMAP diet plan, getting enough fiber is important, but you have to do it safely, in line with your plan. Foods like potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, nuts, chia seeds, spinach, other greens, carrots, strawberries can be great sources of safe fiber. You can aim for 20–25 grams per day, and adjust based on how you feel.

(You can also check out this article on my blog for more specific recommendations on fiber intake and the low-FODMAP diet!)

You can also take a fiber supplement, but if you have IBS, it’s important to only add the right kind of fiber to your diet.

Soluble fiber attracts water, which helps with the formation of normal stools--not too loose or too hard. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, keeps things moving through your digestive tract.

Both soluble and insoluble fiber are good to add for IBS-C. For IBS-D, you should avoid the insoluble type.

Soluble fiber is great because it’s gentle and works for both IBS-C and IBS-D, regulating the bowels regardless of what extreme you’re dealing with.

One brand of soluble fiber I like and recommend is Heather’s Tummy Fiber. It’s been made specifically for IBS sufferers, and many of my clients love it. If you don’t have IBS, other fiber supplements made for constipation are a good option, too.

Of course, there are often other reasons why people experience occasional or chronic constipation. Those can be things like food allergies and intolerances, side effects of medication, unbalanced diet, other dietary or GI conditions, surgeries, or even hydration.

With any kind of constipation, it can be challenging to treat, and often done by trial and error. But if you have IBS, or suspect that it’s the source of your symptoms, then the FODMAP diet should be your first stop, because of how effective it can be at identifying those specific trigger foods.

The FODMAP Diet for Constipation

People hear the word ‘diet’ and think, ‘I’m going to be stuck eating three boring foods for the rest of my life! Maybe the symptoms are worth it, to keep enjoying the foods I love.’ I’m here to tell you that this isn’t the case!

The FODMAP diet is an action plan to help you identify which specific trigger foods are worsening your symptoms, so you can avoid them. It’s a three-step plan that begins with a short period of eating a very low-FODMAP diet, for only four to six weeks.

If removing FODMAPS helps you feel better, then you know you are on the right track.

Next, foods are slowly reintroduced, and your symptoms are monitored. As soon as a culprit is identified, you know what it is that’s messing you up! After reintroduction and analysis, you can go on with eating a wide array of healthy foods in sensible portions, and avoiding the foods that cause you discomfort.

I have a ton more information about getting started on the FODMAP diet! You can check it out here.

What about some other, at-home things you can do?

Essential Oils for Constipation

The use of essential oils can work wonders for constipation. Ginger, Peppermint, Fennel, Lavender, and Chamomile are some of the top choices.

You can add them to a diffuser throughout the day, add them to a nice warm bath, or gently massage your stomach with them, after they’ve been diluted in a safe carrier oil. (Never apply essential oils directly to your skin!)

Osmotic Laxatives

Osmotic laxatives such as MiraLAX are a great choice for constipation because they don’t cause harsh side effects like traditional laxatives do.

They work by drawing water into the colon and softening the hard stool there, making it much easier to pass. They can be a good choice for constipation, even as a result of IBS-C, but should also be paired with dietary changes overall, to prevent the stools from getting too hard.

Another option is Magnesium, which also draws water into the colon and intestines to soften the stools. Like MiraLAX, this softening allows the muscles of the digestive system to flex and move more naturally, passing the softened stool without pain or constriction.

Magnesium can be added to your diet by increasing your intake of magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, peanuts, oatmeal, potatoes, rice, and salmon. Or, you can take a Magnesium supplement; I prefer Magnesium Citrate, because of your body’s ability to absorb it easily, but other forms can work too.

The Recommended Daily Allowance of magnesium—including food intake—is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women.

Osmotic laxatives (or any laxative) should be reserved for occasional use, rather than an everyday go-to. Use them when symptoms are particularly bad, or you aren’t able to stick to your normal diet (think travel, illness, or times of high stress).


Constipation is frustrating, but you can make a difference with your symptoms through a few simple changes. Avoiding foods that cause constipation in the first place is key. The next step is trying additional remedies until you find the right mix that works for YOUR body.

If you aren’t sure whether your chronic constipation is caused by IBS or something else, a gastroenterologist should be your first stop to uncover the source of your symptoms.

If you want to know more, or if your head is spinning from a recent IBS diagnosis, then head over to my free 7-day Calm Belly Challenge. You’ll learn how to get started with the FODMAP Diet as quickly (and painlessly!) as possible.

This post contains affiliate links.

3 Ways To Deal with IBS Constipation (and 1 thing not to do)

Eating a low FODMAP diet may not be enough to manage constipation when you have IBS. Luckily there lots of strategies that really work to manage constipation so you can feel great, beat the bloat and have calm belly life. Click through to read the post and watch the video!

Save this post on Pinterest!

When it comes to managing IBS symptoms, smart eating is your first line of defense. Doing the low-FODMAP Diet is an amazing way to learn what foods trigger your symptoms AND what portion sizes keep your belly calm.

But sometimes supporting strategies are needed, which is why I'm doing a 3-part series on Calm Belly TV to help you deal with the 3 major symptoms of IBS: 

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Bloating

Fun topics, right!? Okay, they may not be fun, but there's a lot you can do to deal with these symptoms besides just watching your intake of high-FODMAP foods. That's what I'll be covering in the series. 

[Want to learn more about the FODMAP Diet and why it's so effective for IBS? Check out this blog post!]

Check out the rest of this series:

Want to get even more support from people who know what you're going through? Click here and request to join the Calm Belly Kitchen Crew, our private Facebook group!

Now onto Part 1 of the series:

3 Ways to Deal with IBS Constipation (and 1 thing not to do)

Watch the video to go deep on this topic, or keep reading to get the main points.

Just the key points:

First thing's first: Calm Belly Kitchen is an educational resource and doesn't replace personalized medical advice. Check with a doctor before starting any new dietary treatment or supplement.

Let's recap: A low-FODMAP diet can help decrease constipation a lot, but additional treatments and strategies are often needed.

Why? FODMAPs are one of the major causes of IBS symptoms, but many other factors play a role in your digestion:

- The food you eat (fiber, fat, etc)
- Your hormones
- Bowel motility (how fast food goes through your system)
- Life stress 

In my experience and in my work with clients, I've seen that learning your personal trigger foods makes a huge difference. Still most people need supporting strategies to deal with constipation.

3 Strategies to Manage IBS Constipation with Diet

1) The food you DO eat is important, so include a variety of fiber: 

  • Insoluble fiber: Adds bulk, pushes stool through the bowels; found in fruit and vegetable skins and whole grains

  • Soluble fiber: Softens stool; found in fruit, veg, legumes, nuts and seeds (flax and chia are especially good for constipation)

  • Resistant starch: Feeds the good bacteria in your gut with prebiotic fiber; found in under-ripe bananas, cooked and cooled potatoes, and legumes (canned, rinsed lentils and chickpeas are great low-FODMAP options)

>>> Water: Acts as a stool softener; important if you're taking soluble fiber products such as Metamucil

2) Fiber supplements

  • Metamucil and similar products contain soluble and insoluble fiber

  • Ground psyllium contains soluble and insoluble fiber

  • Heather's Acacia Fiber contains only soluble fiber, which is thought to promote optimal bowel motility >>> works for both constipation AND diarrhea

3) Magnesium Citrate

  • Helps relax bowel spasms so it does not cause a sense of urgency unless you take a very large does

  • Has a gentle osmotic it pulls water into the bowel, softening stool so it's easier to pass

  • Recommended not to exceed 900 mg/day

  • Experiment to find a dosage that works for you

  • Non-addictive

Solaray tablets and Natural Calm drink mix are two good options.

One Thing NOT To Do To Manage Constipation

Stimulant Laxatives (such as ExLax)

  • Only use for a limited time and exactly as directed

  • Stimulant laxatives are addictive because they reduce your natural bowel contractions and train your body to be dependent on their irritant effect

  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration