Why do vegans have more frequent bowel movements? The most obvious cause is that our bowels rely on fiber to properly function, and animal foods have no fiber. Dietary fiber, the indigestible portion of plant foods, are required for the formation of the soft, bulky stools that move through the intestines at a rapid clip. Simply adding more fiber to the diet is the most effective way to treat dietary-induced constipation (the majority of cases) (3), (4).
Vegetarians had more bowel movements than omnivores because they eat less animal foods and more plant foods. The vegans do better than the vegetarians because they eat no animal foods and more plant foods. The key to less constipation is More Whole Plant Foods.
Choosing animal foods over plant foods will always lead to more constipation. Among those who take this to the extreme, such as those who follow the very low-fiber, high dairy, and high meat Atkins diet, 70 percent report constipation (8).
Causes of Constipation: Go For The Smooth Snake Look
The foods that cause constipation play a role in altering our stools, making them harder, slower to move through out systems, and more painful to pass.
The Bristol School Scale, displayed to the right, is what doctors and scientists use to classify human stools. Types one and two indicate constipation, with four being the "ideal stool" that's easiest and quickest to pass. Types five to seven represent worsening types of diarrhea. (6).
Where do you normally fall on this scale?
Less than half of all people pass ideal type four stools, and the more animal and processed foods you eat the more likely you are have the hard-to-pass stools (7).
In a test of different eating habits and stool results, omnivores averaged a type three, while vegetarians and vegans averaged type 4. The vegans took the lead with stools that were 18 percent softer than the vegetarians (7).
No matter what diet group a study participant was in, as the amount of dietary fiber they ate increased, mean intestinal transit time decreased, stool frequency increased, and stools softness increased (7). Once again, whole plant foods are the key.
Foods That Cause Constipation: Beware Of Milk
Milk is most notorious among the foods that cause constipation for its ability to completely stop people up, regardless of how much fiber they're taking in. The protein in dairy appears to be the main culprit.
In one study looking at 65 severely-constipated children who had bowel movements every 3 to 15 days and didn't respond to laxatives, 44 of the children found complete relief when they simply took all dairy out of their diet (9).
The bowel inflammation, pain, and anal fissures that were stalling their bowel movements faded away. A year later, when those children were reintroduced to dairy, all their symptoms returned (9).
There are also plenty of other reasons to avoid dairy. Learn why you should keep away from the stuff here.
Foods That Cause Constipation: The Problem
With Grains And Starches
Steps For Overcoming Constipation