foods that cause intestinal obstruction

List of Foods That Cause Bowel Obstruction

Food or a combination of foods can easily trigger bowel obstruction. As painful as the intestinal condition is, no one is immune to it. Are there other factors responsible for bowel obstruction? Yes!

Here is an article that walks you through everything you need to know about intestinal or bowel obstructions, with emphasis on a bowel obstruction diet.

foods that cause intestinal obstruction

What Is Bowel Obstruction?

Bowel or intestinal obstruction occurs when solid or liquid food is unable to pass through the small or large intestine. Advanced or untreated cases usually result in tissue death or infection and can lead to death.

Types Of Bowel Obstruction

There are 2 major types of bowel obstruction:

  1. Complete obstruction: This is when the intestine is totally blocked and no food can pass through.
  2. Partial obstruction: This is when the intestine is partly blocked. Food and drinks can pass through the intestine slightly in this condition.

Foods That Can Cause Bowel Obstruction

If you following a diet for bowel blockage or wish to reduce your chance of experiencing it, watch out for these foods:

Stringy Foods

Stringy foods like dried meat, arugula, rhubarb, and celery can fill up the intestine and create a blockage. If you love eating these foods, ensure you cut them into small pieces before eating. This gives room for proper digestion.

Fiber-containing Food

While dietary fiber promotes excellent digestive functioning, if you are prone to digestive obstruction, steer clear of a high-fiber diet.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. The insoluble ones do not and are the primary cause of bowel obstruction.

Insoluble fiber can be found in foods like lentils, turnip, brown rice, seeds, nuts, sweet potato, pomegranate, and cauliflower. 

Fresh fruits like avocado, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and papaya can also induce bowel blockage.

“Irritating” Foods

Some foods trigger gastrointestinal discomfort. Depending on the individual and the body’s biochemistry, these foods may vary. Common ones include certain spices, alcohol, and caffeine.

Tough And Fatty Meats

Tough meats can be challenging to chew and do not go down easily in the digestive system. Fatty meat can also swell in the digestive tract resulting in obstruction.

Avoid them at all costs if you are following a bowel obstruction diet. Instead, opt for soft and lean meats. 

More Common Causes & Risk Factors for Bowel Obstruction

1. Scar tissue or adhesions

Scars or adhesions are the aftermaths of injuries or surgeries. If they occur in any part of the body, especially in the abdomen, they may obstruct the digestive tracts.

2. Inflammatory bowel diseases

Crohn’s disease, in particular, can cause the tissues of the bowel to swell, making it difficult for food to go through the digestive system.

3. Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis usually results in infected or swollen pockets in the large intestine. If these pockets continue to grow in size, large bowel obstruction may ensue.

4. Hernias

Hernias are spaces that form within the abdominal cavity. Sometimes, the intestines ascend these gaps, which may cause pinching. These pinches can impede the flow of food along the digestive tract.

5. Medications

Abuse or excessive use of opioid medications may result in severe constipation. This may result in a bowel obstruction if not treated early.

6. Ileus

Ileus means the inactivity of the digestive tract. It usually occurs after abdominal surgery. Unresolved ileus can also lead to bowel obstruction.

Symptoms Of Bowel Obstruction 

These symptoms are very painful, and may include:

  1. Nausea and vomiting: Since nothing can pass through the digestive tract, ingested food or drinks are stuck. Defensive mechanisms like nausea and vomiting usually take it from here.
  2. Abdominal Bloating: Bowel obstruction can also make your abdomen extend significantly.
  3. Abdominal pain: Accumulation of food particles, gastric fluids, and stool can cause chronic pain in the abdomen.
  4. Inability to pass gas or stool: This is predominant is full bowel obstruction. 
  5. Diarrhea: Maybe a symptom of partial bowel obstruction. 

5 Ways To Prevent Bowel Obstruction

1. Soft or Liquid Diet

This type of food puts the least pressure on the digestive system and very rarely causes obstructions. Foods such as smoothies, yogurt, cooked eggs, and veggies are great options for tweaking your diet.

If your case is severe, you may be limited to a soft or liquid diet. Your doctor will assist with other supplement prescriptions you may be needing to balance things. A liquid diet can be beneficial while you are waiting for your bowel obstruction to clear

2. Opt For Nut Butters

As I said, nuts and seeds are full of fiber and can strain the digestive system. Nut butter or almond butter, on the other hand, enjoy easy digestion. Preferably, the creamy kind, not the ones with nut pieces.

3. Eat Fruits and Veggies Without Skin

The best way to eat fruits like mango, banana, tomatoes, peaches, kiwi, pumpkin, and spinach is with their skin peeled or the seeds removed. For oranges, make sure you remove the white membrane.

4. Cook Your Fruits and Vegetables

When preparing fruits and veggies, cooking or mashing them breaks down tough compounds like cellulose. This makes digestion easier and reduces the risk of bowel obstruction.

5. Stick to Refined Flours

Whole-wheat pasta and bread are generally important components of a balanced diet. However, when trying to prevent intestinal obstruction, it’s better to stick to refined flours.

Refined flours do not contain grains, hence, have the least protein and fiber composition that can induce blockage.

Meal Ideas for a Bowel Obstruction Diet

  • Breakfast – Bagel, parfait, and smoothie
  • Lunch – Soup, baked white potato, and sandwich
  • Dinner – Salmon, mac n’ cheese, and pasta bolognese
  • Snacks – Fruit and veggies juices, popsicles or ice cream, and yogurt or custard.

Treatment for Bowel Obstruction

In most cases, bowel obstruction resolves on its own. Medications such as laxatives, pain-relief drugs, anti-nausea medication, and antibiotics can help reduce the symptoms of the obstruction.

In severe cases, surgery may be considered the best option. This involves the removal of the scarred or inflamed tissue causing the obstruction. 


It is safe to assume that what we eat, among other causes, is the primary cause of bowel obstruction. If your symptoms persist for more than a few days, you have to see a doctor or dietitian.