Cottage cheese is a fresh, curdled cheese with a mild flavor and a creamy, lumpy consistency. As a high fat, low fiber food, it has the potential to cause or contribute to constipation.

Constipation refers to infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stools. People with constipation may produce stools that are hard, dry, or painful to pass.

This article explores the effects of cottage cheese on digestion and lists some other foods that can cause constipation.

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Below are some examples of how cottage cheese may affect digestion and lead to constipation.

Increasing digestive transit time

Dietary fiber is important for healthy digestion. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber adds bulk to stools, while insoluble fiber helps move food through the digestive system, promoting regular bowel movements.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 recommends that adults consume between 25 and 34 grams (g) of fiber daily.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 4 ounce (oz) serving of cottage cheese contains no fiber, or 0 g.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that consuming low fiber foods may cause constipation.

Increasing sodium levels

The balance of sodium and water in the body is crucial for health. If a person consumes too much salt, their body will absorb water from the intestines to help balance salt levels in the blood stream. This could result in constipation. Indeed, a 2022 study found a correlation between high sodium diets and the risk of constipation.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020–2025 recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.

A 4-oz serving of cottage cheese contains around 356 mg of sodium. While this figure is below the recommended dietary allowance for sodium, people should be conscious not to consume too many other high sodium foods throughout the day.

Learn about the benefits of cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese is one of many low fiber foods that can increase the risk of constipation. Some other examples include:

  • meat
  • fast foods
  • prepared foods, such as some frozen meals and prepackaged snack foods
  • processed foods, such as cured meats and cheeses, and baked goods

Eating high fiber foods can help relieve constipation. However, a person should add fiber to their diet gradually and increase their water intake to help the fiber work more effectively.

Combining high fiber foods with cottage cheese can make it so that people can still enjoy cottage cheese without the side effect of constipation.

Some high fiber foods to consider include:

  • whole grains, such as:
    • whole wheat bread and pasta
    • millet
    • buckwheat
    • oatmeal
    • bran flake cereals
  • legumes, such as:
    • lentils
    • black beans
    • kidney beans
    • soybeans
    • chickpeas
  • fruits, such as:
    • oranges
    • apples with the skin on
    • berries
  • vegetables, such as:
    • carrots
    • peas
    • broccoli
    • leafy greens
  • nuts, such as:
    • almonds
    • pecans
    • peanuts

Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about cottage cheese and digestive health.

Is cottage cheese good for bowel health?

Consuming cottage cheese and other dairy products may have a beneficial effect on the gut microbiota. This is the collective term for organisms that live inside the digestive tract and serve numerous functions, including:

  • harvesting energy from food
  • strengthening the intestinal barrier
  • protecting the body from pathogens

A 2020 literature review found that consuming dairy products promoted the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria, including the species Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. However, the authors noted that more research is necessary to understand the extent to which dairy consumption affects the gut microbiota.

It is important to note that cottage cheese contains the milk sugar lactose, which can cause digestive issues in people with lactose intolerance.

What foods should you avoid if you are constipated?

A person who is constipated or prone to constipation should avoid low fiber foods, prepared foods such as some frozen meals and snack foods, and processed foods such as hot dogs, some microwavable dinners, and fast food.

Cottage cheese is a curdled cheese with a mild flavor and a creamy, lumpy consistency. It is high in fat and low in fiber, meaning it may increase the likelihood of constipation.

Like other dairy products, cottage cheese also contains the milk sugar lactose. As such, it may cause constipation or other digestive issues in people with lactose intolerance.

People who are prone to constipation may benefit from incorporating high fiber foods into their diet, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain foods. Dietary fiber helps soften stools and speed up digestive transit time, thereby helping prevent constipation.

It is possible to enjoy cottage cheese still and have it as a part of an individual’s eating plan. Combining it with high fiber foods or making sure there are plenty of high fiber foods in one’s diet can make it possible to have cottage cheese and avoid the side effect of constipation.