Does Bacon Cause Constipation? Here’s What You Need to Know

Constipation is a common digestive issue that affects people of all ages. It occurs when stool passes through the large intestine too slowly, becoming hard, dry and difficult to pass. Constipation is generally defined as having fewer than 3 bowel movements per week or stools that are hard, lumpy and strained.

While occasional constipation is usually not a cause for concern, chronic constipation can negatively impact quality of life and lead to complications like hemorrhoids, anal fissures rectal prolapse and fecal impaction. Therefore it’s important to understand and avoid potential causes of constipation whenever possible.

One food that often gets blamed for causing constipation is bacon. But is this reputation warranted? Below, we’ll take a closer look at the evidence surrounding bacon and constipation, and provide diet tips for relieving this troublesome digestive symptom

What is Bacon?

Bacon refers to pork belly that has been cured, smoked and sliced. It comes from the underside of a pig and contains fat and lean meat in streaks.

In addition to being cured and smoked for preservation and flavor most commercial bacons contain added ingredients like salt, sugar water, phosphates, nitrites and flavorings.

Nutritionally, bacon is high in fat and sodium but low in fiber and micronutrients. A single slice of pan-fried bacon contains:

  • 36 calories
  • 3 grams fat
  • 1 gram protein
  • 170 mg sodium
  • 0 grams fiber

The majority of bacon’s calories come from fat, which provides 84% of its total calories. For comparison, dietary guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calories. Just two pieces of bacon provide more saturated fat than the daily recommendation for most adults.

Why Might Bacon Cause Constipation?

There are several reasons why bacon may contribute to constipation in some people:

High in Fat

The high fat content of bacon can slow digestion, allowing stool to sit in the colon for longer periods of time and lose moisture. Over time, this leads to harder, drier stools that are more difficult to pass.

Research indicates that diets higher in saturated fat, in particular, are linked to increased risk of constipation. The saturated fat in bacon may be more constipating than unsaturated fat from plant-based sources.

High in Salt

Bacon is very high in sodium, with a single slice providing 6% of the recommended daily limit.

High sodium intake causes the body to retain more water, resulting in stools that are harder and dryer. Multiple studies show that increased dietary sodium intake is associated with reports of constipation and laxative use.

Low in Fiber

Soluble fiber helps add bulk and moisture to stools. However, bacon contains zero fiber.

A lack of fiber allows stools to become dense and dry as they move through the colon. Without adequate fiber, stools can become stuck, leading to straining and uncomfortable bowel movements.

Contains Preservatives

The curing process used to make bacon employs nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives may contribute to constipation by slowing motility, the contractions that move food through the digestive tract.

One study found that infants fed foods containing nitrates exhibited decreased gastric emptying and slower intestinal transit times. More research is needed, but these preservatives may have similar effects in adults.

Highly Processed

As a cured and smoked processed meat, bacon goes through extensive processing before it reaches your plate.

Highly processed foods in general are more likely to cause gastrointestinal issues like constipation and diarrhea compared to less processed, whole foods. Processed meats may disrupt the balance of gut bacteria in ways that negatively impact stool consistency and regularity.

Other Factors That Contribute to Constipation

While bacon may play a role, many other dietary and lifestyle factors can also lead to constipation, including:

  • Low fiber diet
  • Low fluid intake
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Health conditions like diabetes, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Pregnancy and aging

For most people, no single food or factor causes constipation alone. It’s often the result of multiple influences on digestion and bowel function.

Tips for Preventing Constipation

Here are some diet and lifestyle changes you can make at home to help prevent and relieve constipation:

  • Increase fiber intake: Make sure to get 25-30 grams of fiber per day from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink water, herbal tea and other fluids throughout the day. Prune juice may also help relieve constipation.

  • Limit fatty foods: Avoid fried, greasy foods and fatty meats like bacon.

  • Get moving: Regular physical activity stimulates the body and gets things moving through the colon.

  • Manage stress: Try yoga, meditation and other stress-relieving practices. Stress can interfere with normal digestive function.

  • Establish a routine: Going to the bathroom at the same time each day trains the body and makes regular bowel movements more likely.

  • Consider probiotics: Probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir contain beneficial bacteria that support digestive health. Probiotic supplements may also help.

Making a few simple diet and lifestyle adjustments can go a long way in preventing and treating constipation without the need for laxatives. Be sure to talk to your doctor if your symptoms persist or you experience any bleeding or changes in bowel habits.

Healthy Low-Fat Bacon Alternatives

If you don’t want to fully give up the smoky, salty flavor of bacon, try these healthier low-fat alternatives:

  • Turkey bacon
  • Chicken bacon
  • Tempeh bacon
  • Coconut bacon
  • Shiitake mushroom bacon
  • Eggplant bacon

While not direct substitutes, these options provide a similar crispy, savory taste with less saturated fat and sodium. Pair them with fiber-rich foods to help promote healthy digestion.

You can also look for reduced sodium bacon at the grocery store to help limit excess salt intake. Just be mindful of any added sugars used to counterbalance the lower sodium.

The Bottom Line

So does bacon cause constipation? While not an absolute certainty for everyone, bacon does contain several properties that may promote harder, less frequent stools, especially when consumed in excess.

The high amounts of fat, sodium and preservatives coupled with zero fiber make it more likely to cause issues for those prone to constipation. Limiting intake of bacon and other processed meats is advised if you regularly struggle to have comfortable bowel movements.

However, bacon alone rarely causes chronic constipation. Focus on getting enough fiber, fluids, exercise and probiotics in your diet while limiting other dietary triggers. This, along with healthy bowel habits, will help normalize your digestive system and prevent infrequent, difficult-to-pass stools.

What’s So Bad about BACON? (Truth about Bacon Safety) 2024


Is bacon bad for bowels?

Even small amounts of red and processed meat – such as a rasher of bacon a day – can increase the risk of bowel cancer, according to research. The latest study led by Oxford University and funded by Cancer Research UK, adds to evidence, including from the World Health Organization, that eating red meat can be harmful.

What meats cause constipation?

Red meat is generally high in fat and low in fiber, a nutrient combination that may increase the risk of constipation. If you let red meat replace fiber-rich foods in your diet, it can increase the risk even further.

What meat is good for constipation?

Legumes (navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, soybeans, and lentils), peanuts, walnuts, and almonds will also add fiber to your diet. Other foods you can eat are: Fish, chicken, turkey, or other lean meats. These do not have fiber, but they will not make constipation worse.

What foods cause constipation?

When you’re constipated, highly processed foods, fast food, dairy products, and high-fat meats that are low in fiber but high in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar can worsen symptoms.

Can one eat bacon with diverticulosis?

You can eat bacon with diverticulosis, but it is not the most recommended. In a person with diverticulosis, it is recommended to consume foods with soluble fiber such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes.

Can high-fat meats cause constipation?

To ease constipation symptoms, it may help to avoid the following high-fat meats: Some people report having constipation after consuming cheese, milk, and other full-fat dairy products. This may be because dairy products can contain high amounts of saturated fat and low amounts of fiber.

What foods should I avoid if I have constipation?

To help reduce constipation symptoms, here are some foods that you may consider avoiding. Eating highly processed foods has been associated with a variety of gastrointestinal (stomach-related) conditions, including constipation or diarrhea. This is because tend to be high in fat, sugar, and sodium (salt).

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