Dealing with constipation? It’s pretty safe to say, you’d do just about anything to have a regular bowel movement. Constipation can be uncomfortable but it doesn’t have to stick around. Learn why you’re suffering and how to get past it.
When constipation strikes, chances are, you’d do just about anything to fight back. Few things are as frustrating and as uncomfortable as not being able to have a bowel movement.
While few people are very regular and always have a bowel movement at the same time each and every day, others aren’t so lucky. They’ll use the bathroom when they have to go, but otherwise not think much about it. Days may pass before they start to feel quite uncomfortable and then realize it’s been quite some time since they last felt regular.
Constipation can happen for a wide variety of reasons and pinpointing the problem is key to finding the solution.
So what are some of the reasons that you may be suffering from constipation? And more importantly, what can you do to get past it?
Let’s go over seven reasons to why you might be feeling constipated and what you can do to put an end to that.
1. Lack Of Dietary Fiber
The first and most common cause of constipation is simply a lack of dietary fiber. Most people don’t even see a fruit or vegetable in their daily diet plan. If you aren’t making that extra effort to get at least a serving or two with most of your meals, rest assured this could be the real reason behind your constipation (1).
By bumping up your intake of fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables, and other high fiber foods like beans, whole grains, and legumes, you can help get your bowels back on track (2).
2. Lack Of Water
Another of the causes for severe constipation is chronic dehydration. If you are someone who doesn’t drink many cups of water each day, it’s finally time to start making that effort and getting it in.
When you’re dehydrated, you’ll suffer from many side effects such as fatigue, headaches, low blood pressure, and heart irregularities, along with constipation.
You need sufficient water to bulk up the stool and get it ready for passing so without that water, it stays very hard and is rather challenging to pass.
3. Too Much Caffeine And/Or Alcohol
Which brings us to the next very likely reason of constipation and that is taking in too much caffeine and/or alcohol.
Both of these are going to serve as diuretics, so they can cause you to lose water and thus will do similar things to your body as not getting enough water would do.
While caffeine (namely from coffee) does tend to help some people have bowel movements, this isn’t always the case. In some others, it actually reduces the likelihood that they go.
Too much caffeine can also reduce your appetite and this could prevent you from getting in the dietary fiber that you need as noted above.
Likewise with alcohol, it also dehydrates you and can replace foods that you should be eating or prompt you to eat foods that you shouldn’t.
For example, when was the last time you heard of someone having a beer with some berries? You don’t. instead, you hear them having beer with pretzels or nuts. Both salty foods that won’t help improve your bowel issues.
Start being more aware of how much caffeine you’re drinking. If you tally it up, you might just be surprised at how much you’re actually taking in. Coffee, energy drinks, sodas, chocolate bars – it all adds up.
If you do find that you are currently taking in too much caffeine, slowly wean yourself off of it. Reduce back by about 50 mg per week until you are at around 100-200 mg per day – no more. Or, if you’re really brave, you can just go cold turkey. Going this route is likely to lead to unwanted side effects (headaches, fatigue/lethargy, etc.) so keep that in mind and be prepared to deal with it.
4. Not Enough Exercise
If you’re not getting in regular exercise sessions, you’ll want to work to change that if constipation is becoming a problem for you. Exercise can often be a great constipation cure because the added movement helps to ‘get things moving’, promoting a bowel movement.
Being on a regular exercise program is one great way to help promote being more regular (3), so the two go hand in hand.
When you’re sitting all day long, food and waste tends to get backed up in your digestive system, making it harder for bowels to form. Sometimes, if you have not gone yet that day, a brief walk in the evening will help get things going.
Don’t think that you have to do very intense exercise for this to be beneficial either. When most people hear the term ‘start an exercise program’ they envision spending hours each week in the gym. This doesn’t have to be how it works though. You can be on an exercise program by just doing 30 minutes of brisk walking 3 times per week and 20 minutes of strength training twice per week.
All that matters is that you get your body up and moving, which in turn will get your digestion system flowing as it should.
You might just find that in addition to promoting better bowel movements, this may also help to reduce other GI related issues you may have as well such as bloating and gas.
Some people may find that taking a walk after meals is one of the best ways to deal with constipation, so consider this a starting point. Then once you get into the habit of that, from there you can start a more formal exercise program if you wish.
5. High Intake Of Dairy
For some individuals, the leading cause of constipation is a high intake of dairy products. If you are drinking plenty of milk, eating yogurt, or serving yourself cottage cheese alongside your meal, you’re probably getting too much dairy in your diet.
This is particularly the case if you are someone who suffers from lactose intolerance. When you don’t possess the right enzymes to break down the type of sugar found in dairy – lactase, it can lead to all kinds of gastrointestinal problems, constipation included (4).
One way around this is to look into a good quality digestion enzyme, such as MassZymes. These enzymes will help provide the missing ones your body isn’t producing so you can break down these foods with ease. Usually for most people this will cure the problem and provide the constipation relief that you’re looking for.
Some other people may notice that the constipation still persists and they still aren’t feeling quite right after taking the digestive enzymes and when this happens, that’s when you know it’s time to just work on eliminating dairy altogether.
You may want to consider eliminating the dairy that has the highest overall sugar content as this form will have the greatest amount of total lactase, therefore triggering your symptoms. High sugar dairy varieties include ice cream, fruit flavored yogurts or Greek yogurts as well as milk. Too many people surprise,milk is actually quite high in sugar and is going to do your diet plan and constipation issues no favors.
If you’re someone who feels they need to have milk as part of their day, consider using almond milk or coconut milk instead. Both of these will be much better for those who are suffering from constipation and tend to cause fewer GI issues as well.
Cottage cheese can also be an okay option if you still feel the need to have dairy because cottage cheese contains less overall sugar so it won’t be as high in lactose.
Another of the contributing factors to constipation that you should know about if you are looking to find relief is hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland, which is the ‘master regulator’ gland of the body so to speak is running much slower than it should.
As such, all reactions taking place in the body begin to slow down –including the processing of bowels. This means fewer bowel movements and constipation.
The good news is this is usually an easy problem to remedy. Simple blood tests will reveal if your thyroid is functioning at a lower capacity than it should be. If it is, then you can take a synthetic thyroid hormone to help boost your levels to where they need to be.
For those who are dealing with constipation, this can be a very effective way to resolve the situation. Just do keep in mind that once you go on thyroid medication, you will need to stay on this medication for life – which isn’t a bad thing – but it’s important to take note of so you take your doses seriously. Skipping your meds a few times a week is likely to do you more harm than good.
7. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Finally, a constipation cause to know about is irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. This is a condition that typically flares up due to a variety of different factors. Mostly due to foods you are eating or stress you are experiencing, and when it does flare up, diarrhea or constipation is highly likely to result. Those who have irritable bowel syndrome may swing from one end of the pendulum to the other, never really having good and regular bowel movements.
Irritable bowel syndrome can be an embarrassing condition and one that you would want to resolve as quickly as you possibly can. So it’s no wonder that anyone dealing with this is looking for help.
So there you have some of the most common reasons that you may find yourself dealing with constipation. Constipation is not something to be embarrassed about. With the right approach, it’s very treatable and something that you can definitely get past and get on to feeling better again.
How can you do this? Let’s look at some of the best foods for constipation and other constipation relief strategies.
Best Foods For Constipation
One of the best ways to attack constipation head on is to make sure that you are eating a diet that is going to encourage the relief of constipation.
This means consuming plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber and also eating plenty of whole grains as well.
Prunes tend to be particularly important and of great benefit for anyone who might be trying to better manage symptoms of constipation.
Along with that, some other great options include beans, lentils, legumes, oatmeal, berries, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. Eating at least one serving of these per day will help you see better constipation relief.
The Importance of Probiotics
Finally, the last thing you want to be looking at doing is taking a good quality probiotic. Many people completely overlook the importance of probiotics as far as digestive health is concerned, but they do play a key role.
While probiotics are also critical for fostering a strong immune system, they are also going to go a long way towards keeping your digestive tract in proper working order. This would include promoting an effective bowel schedule (5).
It’s important to note that not all probiotics are the same. So you’ll want to be sure that you purchase one that has a powerful strain and that will work quickly to multiply in the body such as P3-OM. This probiotic is most likely the constipation cure that you need and if you take it regularly, can help you prevent constipation from developing in the first place.
So there you have a closer look at the causes of constipation and what can be done if you find you are suffering. Don’t let constipation get you down. Remember that you can and will overcome this if you take an inventory of what is going on in your body and what changes you can implement in order to get things back on track again. Very often all you need is one or two changes in order to make and notice a huge difference.
1. Yang, Jing, et al. “Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis.” World journal of gastroenterology: WJG 18.48 (2012): 7378.
2. Arnaud, M. J. “Mild dehydration: a risk factor of constipation?.” European journal of clinical nutrition 57.S2 (2003): S88.
3. Meshkinpour, H., et al. “Effects of regular exercise in management of chronic idiopathic constipation.” Digestive diseases and sciences 43.11 (1998): 2379-2383.
4. Tabbers, Merit M., et al. “Effect of the consumption of a fermented dairy product containing Bifidobacterium lactis DN-173 010 on constipation in childhood: a multicentre randomised controlled trial (NTRTC: 1571).” BMC pediatrics 9.1 (2009): 22.
5. Ouwehand, Arthur C., et al. “Effect of probiotics on constipation, fecal azoreductase activity and fecal mucin content in the elderly.” Annals of nutrition and metabolism 46.3-4 (2002): 159-162