Not being able to answer nature’s call is frustrating at best and painful at worst, and can lead to serious complications if it goes on for too long. One popular solution that gets thrown around a lot when talking about stomach issues is the low-FODMAP diet.

“FODMAP” is an acronym that stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.” Yes, it’s a mouthful, but FODMAPs are actually a pretty simple concept: they’re a certain type of sugar that isn’t well-absorbed in your body. This diet was created with stomach issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in mind since FODMAPS are though to contribute to gastrointestinal distress. So it’s only natural that you might consider adopting it as a means to solve your constipation stress and finally go to the bathroom.

But before you start taking FODMAP-heavy foods out of your diet in an effort to fix your stomach issues, there are some things you should know about constipation first.

Is the low-FODMAP diet good for constipation?

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What are the most common causes of constipation?

Constant constipation could stem from a variety of issues. Some of the most common reasons you might be experiencing constipation and other abnormal gut issues include:

  • Dehydration - Part of the digestion and metabolism process involves your intestines adding water to your stools, which makes them softer and easier to pass. But when you’re dehydrated and there isn’t enough water in your system, your stools can end up hard, small, and difficult to pass.

  • Lack of fiber - Fiber, an indigestible starch found in plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, can both add bulk to your poop and absorb water to soften it for regular bowel movements. But a shocking 95% of Americans aren’t getting enough fiber in their diet!

  • Sedentary lifestyle - In order for your gastrointestinal symptom to get moving, so do you! Scientists are still deciphering exactly why sedentariness can lead to chronic constipation, but there’s evidence that moderate-intensity exercise interventions like regular walking might be a viable solution for people with constipation, especially for older adults.

  • Hormones - People with menstrual cycles often find that constipation and other digestive issues come with the territory of PMS. This is likely due to estrogen and progesterone, the two sex hormones that regulate menstrual cycles. On a similar note, chronic stress might also play a role in your gastrointestinal health.

In addition to these common lifestyle factors, chronic constipation could also be a sign of underlying health issues. For example, conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and endometriosis have both been linked to constipation. In addition, some medications can also impact your ability to poop normally.

What is the FODMAP diet?

So, FODMAPs are certain types of sugars found in foods, and because FODMAPs aren’t well-absorbed by your gut, they can sometimes lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms like cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and yes, constipation.

When people talk about the FODMAP diet, they’re talking about a low-FODMAP eating plan that minimizes the amount of these sugars that you eat on a daily basis. It was originally created as an elimination diet for people with IBS and other gastrointestinal conditions, but it’s started to become adopted by other people for a variety of reasons, including the resolution of everyday stomach issues.

Common foods that include high levels of FODMAPs include garlic, onions, wheat, mushrooms, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, apples, mangoes, peaches, nectarines, watermelon, cherries, figs, barley, milk, cream, rye, beans, honey … and much more (if you’re interested in seeing a comprehensive list of high-FODMAP foods, check out this list.)

Can the FODMAP diet help with constipation?

Yes, a low-FODMAP diet might help with constipation. But there’s a caveat: all the research on FODMAPs and constipation are around people with IBS, the group that this diet was created for. So this type of diet is really only recommended if your constipation stems from IBS or other clinically diagnosed gastrointestinal conditions.

In addition, a FODMAP diet is highly restrictive. When people with IBS and other digestive problems are recommended to go on a FODMAP diet, it’s usually done under supervision by a medical professional, and only for a short amount of time. In addition to the elimination of high-FODMAP foods, there is also a phase that involves the reintroduction of certain high-FODMAP foods over time, which can help people with IBS identify specific triggers for their gastrointestinal distress.

So low-FODMAP diets are usually not recommended if you aren’t already diagnosed with a gastrointestinal issue and if your stomach issues are relatively mild. Because it’s such a restrictive eating pattern to completely eliminate all FODMAPs, you may be more at risk of nutritional inadequacies and the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in your gut. It also eliminates a ton of legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains from your diet, so if your constipation is actually stemming from a lack of fiber, a low-FODMAP diet could actually make your constipation worse, not better.

Ultimately, you first need to figure out why you’re dealing with constipation in order to find a better solution. And if IBS isn’t behind yours, following a low-FODMAP diet may not be your answer.

Getting to the bottom of your stomach issues

At the end of the day, a FODMAP diet might help ease your constipation issues, but that’s only if those constipation issues are stemming from a condition like irritable bowel syndrome. If you’ve been struggling with constipation and/or other gastrointestinal distress symptoms for a while, it’s well worth a trip to the doctor to figure out whether you’re dealing with one of these conditions.

In the absence of a medical condition, checking in with some bloodwork can also help you get closer to your stomach issues. Getting your hormones and nutrient levels checked with Base’s at-home Stress Testing Plan, Diet Testing Plan, or through your doctor can help you zero in on more specific causes behind your stomach issues and create a more tailored action plan. For example, if you find that your stress hormone levels are too high and contributing to your constipation, you can start lowering them with a combination of exercise, mindfulness, and supplements.

Other general tips for easing constipation that you can try right now include staying well-hydrated and eating more fiber. If you’re still wary of FODMAPs, there are several high-fiber but low-FODMAP staples you can include in your diet like potatoes, green beans, carrots, corn, raspberries, flaxseeds, quinoa, and oats. Be aware though: while inadequate fiber intake can mess with your bowel movements, some people find that increasing their fiber intake can also have the same effect. Add fiber slowly into your diet, especially if you’re not used to eating much of it currently, to gauge how it will affect your stomach.

Bottom line

There are a ton of reasons that you might be experiencing constipation, and many of those reasons aren’t adequately addressed by a low-FODMAP diet. Instead, get to the base of your constipation first with a blood test and by evaluating your current eating and drinking patterns.


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