While chocolate has always topped the list of comfort foods, and a fairly healthy one at that, a lot of people are seen wondering if there’s a connection between eating chocolates and getting constipated. Is it true? Does chocolate cause constipation? Let’s find out.
Other things are just food. But chocolate’s chocolate. ~ Patrick Skene Catling
Chocolate….. it’s amazing how that single word manages to conjure up intensely hedonistic images of extravagantly unhinged sensual indulgence every time its written form catches my eyeballs…. every string of my consciousness gets drawn towards a session of rich, gustatory daydreaming each time a vocal articulation of this word falls upon my eardrums! Oh, I’m positive that I am not the only one, or among a handful few, who find it impossible to imagine a life devoid of chocolates and there’s a very strong reason behind this. Ever wondered, why among all other dessert alternatives, chocolate tops the most preferred list? It’s got to be more than the taste alone! Well, as many of you must be knowing, the chemistry of cocoa, the chief ingredient of chocolate, stimulates our bodies in ways that produces a feeling of warmth, fulfillment and ecstasy.
The theobromine content in cocoa stimulates the nerves and triggers the release of serotonin, the brain chemical that is responsible for regulating moods and emotions. A high serotonin level translates into a feeling of euphoria which is equivalent to what you experience when you fall in love with someone for the first time! The slightly faster heartbeat, the warm flush encompassing your entire being, that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling – well, the more cocoa the chocolate contains, the headier these sensations get! Now, the question at hand is, can something that makes you feel so wonderful, about life in general and yourself in particular, pose any health issues for you? Let’s add to that – how can something that induces in you as delightful and sublime a feeling as being in love cause you to experience something as crude and disgusting as constipation? Let’s see what experts have to say.
Chocolate and Constipation Problems – Myth or Reality?
While every atom in my body is dying to yell out Big Fat Myth, I intend to take control of the situation and be more objective towards taking this discussion forward. We all know what constipation is and a surprising majority of us happen to suffer from it owing to our stressfully unhealthy lifestyles and eating habits. Now, the question, pertaining to constipation and diet, that are crossing a lot of people’s minds these days is whether eating chocolate leads to constipation. Let’s first understand the mechanism of constipation to fully appreciate the possibility, or lack thereof, of chocolate being a causative factor of it.
Constipation is caused when there occurs either an obstruction to defecation or a slowing down of colonic transit. In other words, either the post-digestion waste matter gets too hard or stuck up leading to difficulty and discomfort in bowel movements or there is some issue with the intestinal or colonic nerves or muscles which slows down the pace of movement of the bowels for the purpose of expulsion from the body. The latter case is often characterized by irregular bowel movements which may not, necessarily by hard or painful. Now, as far as the first cause, i.e., obstructive defecation is concerned, the reasons behind this are usually related to improper dietary preferences and insufficient water intake. Even there, while most people argue that a high fiber diet does the trick in loosening you up, too much fiber (especially the insoluble variety) can actually worsen your condition as these absorb even more moisture from intestinal walls, making bowels harder to move than ever!
Where Does Chocolate Stand in the Constipation Equation?
On the other hand, based upon first hand experience, a lot of people would swear by the efficacy of foods containing natural, organic fats (such as butter) and lots of water (such as watermelon and cucumber) in loosening stools and easing bowel movements. Trust me, my own experience resonates the claims of the last sentence. Now, coming back to whether or not chocolate is among the list of chief foods causing constipation, let me tell you that chocolate has relatively low fiber and high fats and the darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of natural cocoa fat it contains. This means that the lesser a chocolate has cocoa and the more milk and sugar it contains, the more it is likely to gum your bowels up.
You see, foods that contain a lot of preservatives, artificial flavoring agents, refined sugars and processing ingredients have been proven to contribute to irregular and painful bowel movements. Also, too much protein or calcium in the body makes the digestive mechanism sluggish as these have a complex molecular structure that the body finds a trifle difficult to break down. That’s why, a lot of dairy products that have a high protein and calcium content (such as milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.) are known to cause constipation. Similarly, whole grains and fiber rich vegetables also introduce a lot of insoluble fiber to the digestive tract and if not coupled with sufficient water intake, they lead to constipation as well.
Coming back to chocolate, while a bar of rich, bittersweet dark chocolate and constipation have practically nothing to do with each other, the more sweet milk chocolates CAN make matters worse if you’re already constipated. You see, chocolate, in whatever form, is never a direct causative agent. However, if you already suffer from chronic constipation or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, large amounts of milk chocolate may tighten you up further. So, what’s the final verdict – does chocolate cause constipation? Well, not unless you intend to gobble up a 200g bar at one go! Even then, chances of you getting loose motions is stronger as compared to getting constipation!