Does Food Poisoning Cause Constipation?

As mysterious as it may seem, constipation is a familiar, though not entirely welcome, guest in many households. This common digestive issue affects people across all age groups and cultures. It is estimated that about 20% of the American population suffers from constipation, with the number slightly higher among the elderly and women.

What is Constipation?

Constipation refers to having infrequent bowel movements, typically fewer than three times per week, or difficulty passing stools. These movements might be accompanied by discomfort, straining, and a sensation of incomplete evacuation. The consistency of the stool can also differ, often being hard, dry, and lumpy.

constipation and food poisoning

A myriad of factors can contribute to constipation. These include a diet low in fiber, inadequate hydration, lack of physical activity, certain medications, and underlying health conditions.

Some people may experience constipation when they resist the urge to have a bowel movement due to circumstances, such as during travel or a busy day at work. Psychological factors like stress or changes in routine can also disrupt bowel regularity.

Recent scientific studies are shedding new light on the role of gut microbiota in our digestive health. An imbalance in these beneficial bacteria can lead to various health problems, including constipation. Researchers are exploring this exciting field to develop innovative solutions to manage chronic constipation.

Does Food Poisoning Cause Constipation?

Usually, food poisoning does not cause constipation. However, Clostridium botulinum ( botulism) bacteria can produce toxins and cause constipation or, in rare cases, lead poisoning from canned foods. Additionally, large amounts of fried food, milk, cheese, and white potatoes that are low in fiber can cause constipation even without bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Clostridium botulinum is a rod-shaped bacterium that produces botulinum toxins under low-oxygen conditions. These toxins are among the most potent neurotoxins and can cause a severe and potentially fatal illness called botulism. There are three main types of botulism: foodborne, wound, and infant botulism.

As the name implies, foodborne botulism is caused by consuming food contaminated with the botulinum toxin. This can occur when food is improperly canned, jarred, preserved at home, or, less commonly, from commercially produced foods. The bacterium itself is often found in soil and dust around the world. Foods most often associated with botulism include home-canned foods with a low acid content, such as green beans, beetroot, corn, and fermented, smoked, or salted fish.

Symptoms of foodborne botulism usually appear within 12 to 36 hours after consuming the contaminated food, but they can occur as early as six hours or as late as ten days. Early symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear, including double or blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. If untreated, these symptoms may cause paralysis of the arms, legs, trunk, and respiratory muscles.

Botulism is a medical emergency. If left untreated, it can lead to respiratory failure and death. It’s treated with an antitoxin that blocks the action of the toxin circulating in the blood, and in severe cases, patients may need to be on a ventilator for weeks or months. Early treatment often results in a better prognosis.

Preventing botulism involves proper food handling and preparation. It’s essential to follow strict hygienic practices when canning or preserving foods at home and to boil home-canned foods for 10 minutes before eating to ensure any potential toxin is destroyed.

Always consult a healthcare provider if you suspect you’ve consumed food contaminated with botulism.

Please read our article How Long Does Food Poisoning Last?

Lead poisoning

Lead is a toxic metal that can cause serious health problems if ingested or inhaled. Even though it’s not a foodborne illness in the traditional sense, lead can contaminate food and water, leading to lead poisoning and constipation. Lead poisoning can be caused by:

  1. Imported Canned Goods: Some countries still use lead solder to seal canned goods. The lead can leach into the food, particularly in canned goods containing acidic food, like tomatoes.
  2. Imported Candies or Snacks: Some candies may contain lead, particularly from other countries. In some cases, it’s in the candy itself; in others, it might be in the wrappers, which can contaminate the candy.
  3. Spices, Herbal Remedies, and Cosmetics: Certain imported products can contain lead, particularly from regions where regulations may be lax or unenforced. Turmeric and other spices, as certain traditional or homemade cosmetics and remedies, have been known to be contaminated.
  4. Contaminated Water: If your home has lead pipes or your municipal water system has parts that contain lead, the water you use for drinking, cooking, or irrigating a home garden could be contaminated.
  5. Imported Home-Cooked Foods: Food prepared abroad can be a lead exposure source if cooked, stored, or served in dishes glazed or painted with lead-containing materials.
  6. Game Meat: If game meat is hunted using lead ammunition, small lead fragments can contaminate the meat.

Vegetables and constipation

Generally, vegetables are high in dietary fiber, which can help prevent constipation rather than cause it. However, if your diet includes too many low-fiber or high-starch vegetables, this could potentially contribute to constipation. Examples might include:

  1. White Potatoes: While potatoes do contain fiber, especially in the skin, they are also high in starch, which can contribute to constipation if consumed in large amounts without sufficient water and other high-fiber foods.
  2. Cabbage: Some people find that cabbage causes bloating and gas, which might discomfort the digestive system.
  3. Unripe Bananas: While technically a fruit, bananas can contribute to constipation if they are not fully ripe due to their high starch content.

Please remember that everyone’s body reacts differently to various foods, and what causes constipation in one person may not cause it in another. Other factors can also contribute to constipation, including inadequate water intake, lack of physical activity, and certain medical conditions or medications.

Preventing Constipation

Prevention is often the best cure, and constipation holds the same. Incorporating a fiber-rich diet is the first step in this direction. Foods high in dietary fiber—like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes—can add bulk and soften the stool, making it easier to pass.

Hydration is another crucial factor. Drinking adequate water helps keep the stool soft and supports overall digestion.

Regular exercise is a natural stimulant for your digestive system and can help maintain bowel regularity.

When to Seek Help

Occasional constipation is typically not a cause for concern and can be resolved with lifestyle modifications or over-the-counter treatments. However, it’s crucial to seek medical attention promptly if constipation is persistent, associated with weight loss, blood in stool, or severe abdominal pain. These symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition that needs to be addressed.

Moving Forward

While constipation can be an uncomfortable, often taboo subject to discuss, recognizing its prevalence and impact on quality of life is essential. Increasing public awareness about dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way in managing this common condition.

The field of gut microbiota is burgeoning with possibilities, and we’re hopeful that advancements in this area will provide innovative strategies for managing constipation. Until then, maintaining a fiber-rich diet, drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and listening to your body’s cues can help you maintain a healthy digestive system.


While food poisoning and constipation are digestive issues that can cause significant discomfort, they are usually distinct conditions with different causes and symptoms.

Food poisoning typically results from consuming food or drinks contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or toxins. Symptoms usually appear within hours or a few days after consumption, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. These symptoms occur as the body attempts to expel the harmful substances, with diarrhea being one of the most common signs of foodborne illness.

On the other hand, constipation, characterized by infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool, is more commonly associated with a low-fiber diet, insufficient fluid intake, lack of physical activity, certain medications, or underlying health conditions. It is typically not a symptom of food poisoning.

While diarrhea is a typical result of food poisoning, constipation can occasionally occur if a person becomes dehydrated after vomiting or experiencing diarrhea and doesn’t replenish their fluids adequately. However, this is a secondary effect and not a direct result of food poisoning.

Food poisoning and constipation are different conditions that can adversely affect your digestive health. The important thing is to identify and understand each condition’s potential causes and symptoms. This awareness can help manage them appropriately, seek medical advice when needed, and maintain overall health and well-being.

Igor M

Igor M

My name is Igor, and I like food and cooking. On this website, I will share facts related to nutrition, food, big US food chain brands, kitchen, United States grocery store reviews, etc. As an avid reader of cookbooks and professional chef blog posts, I will try to create helpful articles. I enjoy researching different food industry topics such as sustainability in farming practices, health benefits of certain ingredients, food marketing tactics used by large companies, etc. This helps him stay informed on the latest nutrition news and develop a deeper understanding of how our food choices can directly impact our overall health and well-being. As someone who truly values good quality food combined with nutritional awareness, I hope to inspire others by highlighting healthy food and offering the best deals from stores and restaurants.

Recent Posts