Certain foods, such as dairy products, may contribute to constipation in some people. However, research suggests that fermented milk products such as Greek yogurt can improve constipation symptoms.

Constipation refers to a person passing stools less often than they normally would. For some people, this means pooping fewer than three times every week. People with constipation may also experience hard, dry, lumpy stools that are painful or difficult to pass. They may also not feel like they have emptied their bowels completely.

Many factors can increase a person’s risk of constipation, including different medical conditions, medications, routine changes, and dietary and lifestyle choices.

This article explains whether Greek yogurt, a fermented, strained dairy product, has any links to triggering or reducing constipation.

A person eating Greek yogurt-1.Share on Pinterest
Pixel Stories/Stocksy United

According to the National Institute on Aging, a diet high in dairy products may increase a person’s risk of constipation. As Greek yogurt is a dairy product, this may connect it to triggering constipation.

Some people do not tolerate lactose, which is a sugar in dairy products. This can cause gastrointestinal symptoms but is more likely to result in diarrhea than constipation.

However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that the live bacteria that remain in Greek yogurt after fermentation break down lactose. This means that it may be easier to digest than other yogurts for people with lactose intolerance.

Probiotic yogurts, such as some Greek yogurt products, contain live, potentially beneficial bacteria. These bacteria can help to rebalance the community of bacteria living in the gut, also known as the microbiome. Some research has suggested that products containing live bacteria, or probiotics, may help bowel movements.

For example, a 2022 study found that probiotics colonized the guts of mice and relieved drug-induced constipation. A 2021 review found that studies of varying quality suggest a link between fermented milk consumption and reduced constipation.

However, the results of animal studies may not apply to humans, and the available studies have also used supplements of specific live bacteria, such as Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium longum, or Lactobacillus acidophilus. Stronger evidence is necessary to indicate whether probiotic Greek yogurt specifically can help constipation.

Many live bacteria break down during digestion. The Office of Dietary Supplements notes that some probiotic strains in yogurt and other fermented foods do survive passing through the gut. This means they may help to rebalance the microbiome and support healthier stools.

More research is necessary to confirm whether Greek yogurt improves constipation or makes it worse.

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), the following dietary measures can help to improve the ease and frequency of stools:

  • gradually increasing fiber intake
  • including fruits that contain a carbohydrate known as sorbitol, which stimulates bowel movements, including apricots, apples, grapes, strawberries, and raspberries
  • maintaining a high water and fluid intake
  • adding linseed, oats, or wheat bran to the diet to boost fiber

High-fiber foods to eat for constipation include:

  • wholegrain breads, pastas, crackers, and cereals
  • brown rice
  • fruits with the skin on, such as apples and pears
  • blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
  • prunes
  • avocado
  • almonds, pecans, and walnuts
  • black beans
  • pumpkin, sweet potato, broccoli, and green peas
  • home-popped popcorn
  • pearled barley
  • steel cut oats

Read on to learn more about high-fiber foods.

In unrefined, wholegrain foods, more fiber remains in the product. A dietitian can help people determine the right amount of fiber for their age and sex. An adult will typically require between 22 and 34 grams (g) of fiber every day to maintain healthy bowel habits.

Certain foods can clog up, slow down, or irritate the digestive system, increasing the risk of constipation. These include:

  • fatty meats
  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • sugary products, such as sweets
  • processed foods
  • chips
  • frozen meals
  • fast food

Reducing intake of these may help people prevent or manage constipation.

Food intake is not the only cause of constipation. Other factors may include:

  • spending too long each day lying or sitting down
  • not engaging in enough physical activity
  • regularly ignoring the urge to poop
  • making changes to diet or routine
  • taking certain medications that cause constipation as a side effect
  • mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, or stress
  • pregnancy
  • being over 65 years of age
  • rarely, medical conditions, including bowel cancer or diverticular disease

If constipation does not improve after making bowel-healthy changes to diet and routine, a person should consider consulting a healthcare professional or dietitian.

The American Medical Association recommends the following measures for looking after gut health:

  • Monitoring symptoms such as bloating, belly pain, and diarrhea and seeking testing if they do not improve.
  • Paying attention to any changes to bowel habits and pooping frequency.
  • Trying probiotic and prebiotic supplements to balance gut bacteria. Probiotics introduce new bacteria to add diversity to the microbiome, while prebiotics nourish healthy bacteria already in the microbiome.
  • Checking how the body responds to foods containing gluten, and if it does not feel good, choosing gluten-free foods.
  • Eating a balanced diet full of fiber- and vitamin-dense foods.
  • Consuming fermented foods, including kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurts containing live cultures.

Greek yogurt has no proven link to constipation, either as a trigger or a remedy. Likewise, no studies have proven that Greek yogurt can help constipation.

However, fermented milk and probiotic supplements have reduced the symptoms and increased stool frequency in studies of mixed quality.

To reduce constipation, a person can eat a balanced diet containing high-fiber foods, avoid processed, refined, or fatty foods, and drink plenty of water.