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Foods That Cause Constipation: Part 2 of 9 about Elimination

Robyn Openshaw - Jul 19, 2008 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Yesterday, pee.   Today, poop.

Green bowel movements are completely normal (that’s the plant fiber in all those greens  you’re eating!).   Take a look at the horse poo you see along the road, if you live where you can see horses.   It’s indicative of what they eat (alfalfa, all plant foods).   You can read about indigenous people who  have no toilets and therefore “squat” outside.   They don’t worry about human waste removal like we do, because it’s not toxic and disgusting, like it would be here in the U.S.   The poop of indigenous people who eat mostly raw plant food looks like horse poop: lots of it, lots of fiber in it,  greenish, no odor.   Brown feces are simply a result of bile pigments coming from the liver, also normal.

What you should be concerned about is dark, hard, smelly, putrified poop–that’s what most of America is experiencing.   (And that, I believe, is why we’re so shamed about the topic of elimination–feces of people eating the S.A.D. are, in fact, disgusting!)   That’s what eating meat gets you: rotted stool that took days (or with pork, even weeks) to digest.   Accumulation of decaying material in the digestive tract, euphemistically known as constipation, is the single biggest threat to our health, the “modern plague,” according to Dr. Jensen.

I helped run a babysitting co-op for 10 years while my children were small, and I was always horrified when I had to change other babies’ diapers–the smell was astonishing.   I was at a party last week where everyone watched a little boy straining, his face beet red, trying to have a bowel movement in his diaper.   This little boy is fed a steady diet of hot dogs and potato chips, zero-fiber foods.   I never once saw any of my children do that.   Many parents have come to think of that phenomenon as normal (people thought this was funny at the party—I just felt bad for the little guy).   It’s not normal.   Straining at a bowel movement is this, plain and simple: constipation.

People get painful hemmorhoids–that’s when your bulging veins pop out of the anus instead of staying inside like they should–when their colons are overtaxed with low-fiber foods and they must exert lots of force to eliminate.   And that’s just one of many side effects of eating a low-fiber diet.

Diverticulitis is a very dangerous disease caused by chronic constipation, where pouches of the colon sag, lose nerve/muscle tone, and become breeding grounds for bacteria that eventually rot the colon.   Foods that cause constipation?   Meat is mentioned above, and constipation is well catalogued in any honest review of results of the Atkins Diet, since anyone on that diet is excessively eating animal proteins.

But Dr. Jensen and his researchers also constantly noted that those suffering from the worst colon problems ate lots of WHITE BREAD, which functions like the gluey mess that it is, slowing and gumming up your digestive system.   He said anyone eating refined flour better be eating lots of vegetable roughage at the same time (and he recommends whole millet, rye, cormeal and rice instead).

People who eat lots of plant food have soft but formed stool.   People who have been eating an almost exclusively plant-based diet for a long time, and have been through all the “cleansing” so they are now rather clean, have . . . are you ready for this? . . . poop that doesn’t stink.

Chime in about this, if you’re brave!   You can always post on my blogs as “anonymous” if you like!

Here are all the posts in this series on elimination:
Part 1: Green Feces
Part 2: Foods That Cause Constipation
Part 3: Relieving Constipation
Part 4: Natural Laxatives
Part 5: Relief For Intestinal Gas And Bloating
Part 6: Chronic Constipation
Part 7: Best Colon Cleanse
Part 8: Body Cleansing
Part 9: More Experts On Colon Cleansing

Posted in: Detox, Health Concerns, Relationships, Whole Food

26 thoughts on “Foods That Cause Constipation: Part 2 of 9 about Elimination”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I read online that when Dr. Mehmet Oz went on the Oprah show he said your poo should be S, or C shaped. Is that an indication of healthy poop.

  2. yardsnacker says:

    Very informative post Robyn. I think its interesting to note that according to Victoria Boutenko, that if you pee or poop is red from eating beets, your hydrochloric acid is not yet at proper levels. Any truth to this?

    btw, penis, vagina, feces and urine..phew! I feel better lol! 😀

  3. Robyn says:

    “Beeturia” (red in feces from beets): Boutenko and at least one other source I know of says it’s hypochlorydia, and you should try taking Betaine HCl (an enzyme, inexpensively obtained online at Vitamin Shoppe) for that. Other sources say it’s perfectly normal (the dye in beets coming through feces). I address this in a bit more detail in Ch. 5 of 12 Steps.

    S or C shape, yes, shows that the feces haven’t been trapped long periods of time, adhering to and adapting the striations in the lower intestine/colon.

  4. Katie says:

    I have beeturia, and you already mentioned that I might benefit from Betaine HCl. I looked up beeturia last week, and found out I could have life-threatening hemochromatosis. That’s why you shouldn’t use Google as a doctor, hee hee. I think I’ll go with the HCl first, or the “it’s not a problem” theory rather than latch on to the hemochromatosis!

    Anyway, on to my question. I don’t understand the theory that it takes days to get meat through the digestive system. Wouldn’t the rest of the meal, and everything behind it, get held up if that was the case? Is not the digestive system a first-in first-out sort of system? Or is that not true? Last Sunday I had a steak, potatoes, and corn meal and didn’t bother to chew my corn much. The next morning I had clear evidence that the corn had passed through. So where was the steak? Still stuck, digesting? Or coming out right along with the corn? And even though I still eat meat regularly (not necessarily daily), my beeturia tells me that my digestive time is 12-24 hours.

  5. Robyn says:

    Hang on, ’cause we’ll get to the fact that it’s not what comes out, it’s what stays in, that’s the problem. Something that went in 24 hours ago and you’ve seen come out does not indicate that you’re clean inside–just that THAT high-fiber food did its job. (But yes, if you’re going to eat meat, at least eat a lot of fiber with it, which will help!) Corn virtually always comes through almost intact, and not just in little ones–adults too. Some experts feel it’s not good food–I personally think it’s not easily digested food by humans, but good fiber at a minimum in its whole forms.

  6. Sandra says:

    Just wanted to chime in and say that even little kids who do not eat hot dogs, potato chips, etc can get constipation. I learned this the hard way with my almost 10 month old baby.

    I was told to start feeding her baby cereal at around 4 months. So I fed her little bits with lots of water. A couple of months ago I started feeding her cereal for three meals a day along with fruits and veggies. It was terrible! When she needed to poop, she would just scream because it hurt her so much. So I immediately quit feeding her baby cereal and threw it all away.

    Now I just feed her fruits and veggies and it’s much, much better. Most of the time I don’t even know that she’s pooped and it doesn’t smell. I know your advice is that babies don’t need food until they are 18 months old but I think she needs more than breast milk. I’m hoping to get some raw goat milk at some point.

    I’m betting it’s all the artificial vitamins in the cereal that bothered her. I’m glad that I didn’t follow the peds advice to give her iron supplements. I knew after my first child that that would be a recipe for disaster!

    In many ways, it really bothers me that the food industry’s answer to nutritional defiencies is to fortify junk food with artificial vitamins!


  7. Robyn says:

    Artificial iron supplementation is well known to cause constipation, and I wish OB/GYNs would quit prescribing the cheap synthetic pills that have caused untold misery for pregnant women.

    I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I believe the 18 months thing is some hard and fast rule–but I do believe that the more breastfeeding until the eyeteeth come in, the better. Most women would find it very difficult to not supplement at all until 18 months. (Although 100 years ago, that’s what women did–my husband’s great aunt died because they believed back then you could not feed solid foods until 24 months and the mother’s milk dried up. She would drive from farm to farm asking other mothers to nurse her baby, but it wasn’t enough.)

    I would just be very careful to give as much raw food as possible, with what you DO supplement, while the baby’s digestive system is still maturing. Mostly, I just want to encourage young moms to do as much breastfeeding as possible, as long as possible. (There’s a limit, of course, related to social propriety, but that hardly needs saying.)

  8. Anonymous says:

    It’s wonderful not to have stinky poops! I start gagging when I smell other people’s stinky poops! Also, it’s wonderful not to have any body odor! Yeah for plant based diets. I just love it!

  9. Lindy says:

    I just want to copy and paste your article to my blog so some of the more stubborn readers of my blog will have an eye opener!

  10. Saskia says:

    This makes sense- for years I was a single mom- so my kids at daycare food- school lunch food- etc. and I had a daughter with major constipation problems- in fact, a lot of my kids have been through it- but really no problems now. We don’t have white flour in the house. And I don’t cook meat. My baby saw I was making guac the other day, I turn my back and he has the bowl on the floor and is eatting it as quick as he can, red onions and all, hee hee! That’s how we eat now!

  11. Kristen says:

    Robyn, I am loving these posts! Thanks so much for tackling these issues with your wit and sense of humor. I’ve been a greensmoothiegirl reader for a quite awhile and have learned so much from you! When I had my baby 15 months ago it was a wake up call for us because we always said “when we have kids we’ll start eating a plant based diet”. I know it’s crazy that it took having our little girl to kick start us, but since then it has been wonderful. I have always been a “poop watcher” much to my husbands dismay 😀 so I am loving all of these posts. It’s been awesome to see our poop change since adopting this way of eating. And my daughter has not been constipated a day in her life. Nor has she ever been sick… literally not even a runny nose. So thanks again for all you do!

  12. Darlene says:

    I have also been noticing some interesting changes in our home since we have changed our diet using the 12 step plan. We started off by having LOTS of gas as we incorporated all the raw fruits and veggies. In the past we might have pulled back from having that many raw fruits and veggies because we thought it was a bad reaction. Well, it was! But our conclusions were wrong. This time, we persevered in the process of eliminating processed foods, most meat, milk, and refined sugars. Well, the result is that we no longer have bad gas when we stick to our plant based diet and we actually have really bad gas when we eat the junk food at other people’s houses.

    Truthfully, the green poop was a little alarming at first. But we had a variety of other people with us on this dietary journey and so it was good to hear that it was a common experience.

    Sandra, I too had the same experience in using commercially prepared cereals for my first baby. She became so constipated because of it. And what did I do? I pulled bananas and rice rather than eliminate the true cause – the cereal! I just didn’t know any better. My second baby has never had constipation. I returned my boxes of baby cereal this time. When asked why I was returning the cereal, I said that it didn’t qualify as food. The lady behind the counter was wide eyed and so I shared a few facts I had recently learned. She later told me that she wished she had known that years ago!

  13. Robyn says:

    Thanks, Darlene, because what you’re saying about gas confirms precisely what the “flatulence” blog will say when I post it in the next couple of days: that you have to give it about three months and it generally subsides. But it can be rather obnoxious when you are first adapting to a whole-food diet.

    That “cereal,” the kind in the box that you add water to, is one of the most processed items to masquerade as food in the grocery store. Poor little babies. I, too, fed it to my oldest child. The truly telling thing is to leave some of it in a bowl and watch it turn into something that any dishwasher (human or machine) is going to have a hard time separating from whatever bowl it’s in, without significant soaking. (No different in the bowel, of course–it’s just glue.)

    I never fed a single bite of it to the last three kids. You can mash up some brown rice and mix it with raw foods like bananas or squash instead. I love it when I can convince a nurse or someone interacting with new moms to help them understand how much of “baby food” is just processed garbage. Babies need real food as much as anyone.

  14. Janelle says:


    How timely of you to be posting about this. I had some questions, but (a-hem) was feeling a little too squeamish to ask. So, thank you.

    What I have noticed is the red from the beets, as well. Also my baby’s poo is even softer, with no lumpy stuff, just goo. He is having less frequent bowel movements, but still he’s regular. I’m just guessing that he is “using” more of what comes in, and that there is not as much “waste”.

    And, yes, my pediatrician recommended starting him on solids at 4 months, which I just smiled at her about, and went home and kept on feeding him only breastmilk. As long as he’s satisfied to get that, it’s all he’s going to get. I’m sure he’ll have solids by 12 months, but I’ll be going with the brown rice mashed, first. Thanks for the tip. I used bananas and wheat germ as the first food for my other children. I also nursed my last baby until 24 months. I wished I’d done that for all the other ones. She still remembers, and wanted to have mommy’s milk when her little brother was born (she’s a week short of being 4).

  15. Anonymous says:

    I have to say I HATE those synthetic iron pills. I only took a few, and felt so awful I threw up. I do tend to be anemic, and found a great whole foods alternative – Floradix liquid herbal iron. It’s not that great tasting, but I crave it during pregnancy. Now I’m pregnant with #6, and I haven’t been morning sick at all (I really think it may be because I’ve been eating so much better and having green smoothies!) BUT, I do still feel super tired if I don’t take the herbal iron. I know you’re not for supplementing, and obviously I’m missing something in my diet since I get anemic when pregnant, but herbal iron is amazing stuff for me, anyway! If I forget to take it, I am dragging by the afternoon and then I remember why.

    And about feeding babies – I started off right and fed my oldest homemade baby food pretty much exclusivel (he maybe had 4 jars of baby food ever.) Then I got lazy and fed the next one commercial cereals and jarred baby food. I have no idea if there’s a correlation, but that poor child has been my most allergic kid. The next 3 got homemade baby food again…

  16. Anonymous says:

    Okay, this is totally TMI:

    the problem I’ve had with uhh… bowels, has been blood in my stool-not hemerrhoids, because i’m not constipated but actual blood…. er….. well IN my stool…?

    I talked to my doc about it, because it’s happened a few times in the last year or so, but a month after starting GS, for a day, i had quite a bit-like, if I could measure it was probably about 2 tablespoons… (gross, i’m sorry!!), and he of course recommened a colonscopy…i wussed out and couldn’t go.

    Before I had my thryoid fixed, I had times when I felt like my insides were being torn out of me, during a movement and constipation has never been a problem, even during pregnancy, but neither has diarrhea.

    I attributed the blood this time to adding the GS-maybe i was eliminating something that had been in there for a while, but I’m wondering if this has happened to anyone else? Maybe a cleanse would be a good idea or a bad idea? Part of why i didn’t want to do it was because of the cleanse they wanted me to do before the scope! BTW-I’m only 28-i don’t think diverticulitis makes a lot of sense at my age.

  17. Robyn says:

    Blood in the stool, of course, is indicative of a number of different possible things. I can’t diagnose, of course–but with those issues, a diet kind to the digestive tract becomes that much more important. So you’ve got that AND your little daughter’s issues to motivate you! I also wouldn’t rule out diverticulitis even if you’re young–these issues are now seen in younger and younger people.

  18. Heather says:

    I realize that this is late but I had to chime in, I’m new here and just started reading this series. It’s an interesting concept about poop not smelling. A bit off topic but some what related- I took my 90 lb dog off of dog food nearly a year ago and feed her a 100% raw food diet. All she get’s is raw meat, whole chickens, organic beef, organic eggs, and the occasional green tripe to make sure her vitamins are balanced. Now this would kill any person but her body is made to eat meat, she has a short acidic digestive tract that efficiently digests meat – not the crap and fillers they put in dog food. Needless to say, her skin cleared up, her eyes cleared up, she lost her excess body fat, her yeast infections in her toenails went away, she no longer gets urinary track infections, her behavior changed, and she’s still a pain but she looks amazing. And believe it or not, HER POOPS DO NOT SMELL. I don’t even pick them up in the yard anymore, they are the size of a poodles because she is eating what is biolgically appropriate for her and she actually metabolizes and absorbs 95% of the nutrients. The morning sprinklers just dissolves whats left and washes it into the ground. Anyway, my point is that if you can feed a dog a diet that leaves no smell in it’s feces a person should be able to do the same. It’s important to remember what is biologically appropriate for us. So if anyone scoffs at the mention of “sh*t that doesn’t stink” just invite them over to my house and they can check out the dog poo! My own poo is a different story completely but I’m working on it! 🙂

  19. Jenna says:

    Hey Robin,

    I am doing a cleanse I bought online called Colonix by Dr Natura. I’m on about day 10 and I don’t see any major changes other than that I feel very bloated and fat and really not very well at all. I eat a decent diet, not high enough in raw veggies, but low amounts of processed foods, if any. I’m not sure if I should keep on with the cleanse, stop it or alter some part of my diet to aid the cleanse. Any suggestions?


    1. Robyn says:

      I looked at that cleanse but haven’t used it or seen any research on it, so I don’t know. Perhaps one of the ingredients is bothering you. Call their customer support?

  20. Carol says:

    How long can beeturia last? I ate beets 2 days in a row about 3 or 4 days ago and am still experiencing it. Bowel movements the first few days were normal, but this morning, 4 days later, my stools had purple clinging to the outside. Just relocated out of state and have no doctors yet. Do I need to find a doctor and have this checked out? I recently went off topomax for migraines because of severe GI side effects, and also went off proton pump inhibitor for acid reflux because of side effects.

    1. Robyn says:

      Nothing about that is indicative of a need for a doctor, but you might want to take HCl supplements until your stomach acid normalizes (through eating whole foods, mostly raw).

  21. Mark says:

    Question. I started doing green smoothies daily but still eat a regular diet that u would probably frown upon and I have a lot of green poops but they are more stinky than before also whenever my smoothie comes out it is never solid. It almost looks like i poured the smoothie in the toilet. Am I messing something up.

    1. Robyn says:

      Mark, please read in The Green Smoothies Diet, or in 12 Steps to Whole Foods, about the infamous “cleansing reaction,” or “detox reaction,” sometimes known as the “healing crisis.” it’s normal.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I would like to concur with your comment about not having smelly poo. I’m plant-based eater and my poo doesn’t smell! WOOHOO!

  23. Lori says:

    Hi Robyn, I’ve been drinking green smoothies for several months now and I’m still frequently having bowel movements that look like the green smoothies. They are often not formed at all. I feel like I should be past the detox stage. Is this bad?

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