Does Cheese Cause Constipation?

A common affliction for U.S. adults, constipation is defined as having less than three bowel movements per week. It's not surprising that many sufferers wonder what dietary factors may be contributing to it. At some point, you may have even heard that cheese can cause constipation. But is there any truth to it?

Unfortunately, there's little scientific evidence proving whether or not cheese causes constipation. One 2021 study concluded that women who consumed one to two servings per day of dairy had fewer instances of constipation compared to those who ate less than a serving per day (via Nutrition and Health). However, the data only showed "moderately reduced odds" of constipation.

A research paper published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology studied the relationship between cheese and fecal transit time in 21 retirement home residents. The researchers found no direct link between increased cheese consumption and fecal frequency, thus concluding that omitting cheese from the diet is not an effective strategy for constipation prevention.

Other contributing factors

Despite the lack of supporting evidence, some health experts still maintain there may be a link between cheese consumption and constipation. 

Perhaps cheese's bad reputation is more highly associated with its lack of fiber and high-fat content. Doctors suggest that constipation is more likely to occur for those who don't eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as these are the richest sources of fiber in our diets (via the National Institute on Aging). If we're consistently eating more high-fat foods like full-fat dairy instead of fiber-rich foods, we can vastly increase our odds of becoming constipated.

The lack of supporting evidence may please you if you're a cheese-lover, but if you consistently experience constipation, it may also feel frustrating. Unfortunately, dietary associations when it comes to things like cheese consumption and constipation aren't well known. Considering other factors like water intake, exercise, and fiber intake may help you improve. Some experts say that improving constipation should be considered a multi-pronged approach, rather than assuming one could just cut out cheese and expect it to improve (via SF Gate).