There are so many causes of constipation. And more and more people are starting to suffer from chronic constipation. Learn the common causes and what you can do to keep yourself regular.
Everyone has been constipated at one point in there life. Constipation is defined by 3 or less bowel movements per week, and usually feature hard or dry stool that at times can be painful to pass.
For those that suffer from frequent constipation, it can effect every facet of their life. And finding relief in the moment can be nearly impossible. Unfortunately, most of the causes of constipation lie in lifestyle choices.
And outside of using laxatives, there really is no quick solution or relief for constipation. Utilizing laxatives on a regular basis can be hugely detrimental to your health. Many times people can become dependent on them and their body is unable to go without them.
If you are suffering from chronic constipation, you should absolutely talk to your doctor. There may be other underlying health problems that constipation is merely a symptom of. But if this is not the case, there are quite a few lifestyle modifications you can make to ensure regularity. Let’s talk about some of the common causes of constipation and how we can combat those in our day-to-day life.
Not going when you need to
I chose this as the first one, because I genuinely think the majority of people suffer from this problem. Our bathroom habits are one of our most private moments. And let’s face it, public restrooms, especially those in public places like schools are not conducive to the privacy most of us require.
I know that in my youth I refused to poop in public, and I know I’m not the only one. Being comfortable while you go is very important, but relieving yourself when you need to is the most important.
It is so imperative that children and adults create a system that allows them to utilize public restrooms whenever they need to go. Holding your bowel movements, does not necessarily cause constipation, but over time it can develop some issues.
If you hold it too long, your muscles start to tighten and make it extra difficult to release and let it out. And as the stool sits in your colon your body continues to dehydrate it, so when you do finally go, it may be a painful process.
Ultimately, you need to start honoring your body and its requests as quickly as you can. Once you start to do this, it becomes easier and easier. The key here is remembering we are all human, and all have to do the same thing in the restroom. Find a situation that works for you, so you are able to use the restroom when you need to.
Train your body
Continuing off the previous suggestion, I know at times, a nice private restroom is not available. For many their office or school has public restroom with multiple stalls. Offering very little in the way of privacy or concealment. Whether this is your situation or not, I highly recommend training your body to go at a specific time.
I had never heard of this, until a friend came back from Hawaii and told me her internal clock was off. She needed to hit the restroom at the same time she had to leave for work. I was confused by the concept and had her explain.
She uses the restroom at the same time everyday to ensure she has a comfortable and regular bowel movement. What a genius idea! I quickly read up on it, and in fact, you can train your body to eliminate at a specific time.
The best way to do this, is monitor your current habits. Do you tend to go in the morning, after lunch, or maybe in the evening. Whatever is your preferred natural time, start making it an appointment with yourself.
At the specific time, head to the bathroom and get comfortable. It may not work the first few times, but after a few days or week of telling your body what you’d like to do, and giving it a few minutes each time to get the picture. You’ll start to develop a habit, and your body should get on board. This way you can make sure you are able to accommodate the need to go, when it arises.
Adjust your diet
Most of our digestive distress is caused by the foods we eat and the amount we eat them in. Even the time we eat them, can play a part in how efficiently we digest our food and when we eliminate it.
I highly recommend keeping a food journal where you can note and recognize any adverse side effects from foods you’ve eaten, or any possible intolerances. Think beyond the normal dairy and gluten intolerances, as there may be specific foods or meals that do not sit well with you.
I know, I know, it’s the solution for everything, but drinking more water will absolutely help keep you regular. In fact, it’s the first side effect I notice when I am slacking on my normal water intake.
Shoot for a minimum of 64 ounces a day, and work your way up from there depending on your activity levels. I shoot for a gallon a day, as I sweat a lot and live in a warm climate. Drinking plenty of water keeps your digestive system hydrated and lubricated, and ensures there is enough moisture in your stool when you are ready to go.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but staying active and walking can be one of the best ways to ensure regular bowel movements. Our digestive system actually depends on gravity (one of the reasons why eating before bed can cause digestive distress) to push the contents through our tract. Walking, running, and moving in general help aid in this process.
It doesn’t need to be high intensity, in fact just a simple walk after dinner can help keep everything moving well. And if you’re looking for quick relief, you can utilize stomach massage to get the system moving again. Check out our post on using stomach massages to eliminate bloating and pressure.
Eat more Fiber
There has been a lot of back and forth over whether fiber is good for our bowels or not. For the general public, fiber is an absolute necessity. There are several different types of fiber.
The first is soluable fiber is digestable, and adds water to your stool. Insoluable fiber is not digested and instead adds “bulk” to your stool, (think corn). And there is also fermented fiber, which comes from fermented foods like saurkraut, kimchi, and kefir. All of these play a huge role in effectively eliminating waste from your body.
Try to incorporate a large variety of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains which all contain lots of soluable and insoluable fiber. And add in some fermented foods to ensure you have those extra fermentable fibers to support your gut health. To learn more about gut health and improving your microbiome check out our post What is Gut Health?
Hormones & your cycle
For women in particular, your hormones can play a part in your digestive system. Some experience constipation as a Pre-Menstrual Symptom, and may persist through your actual period. It can be very uncomfortable, and for this there isn’t much we can do.
I highly recommend keeping track of your cycle and detailing all symptoms. If you can’t prevent it, at least you can predict it and make adjustments in response.
I definitely experience this and try to keep my water intake up and add some extra fiber-filled veggies during this time. To be honest, not much I do helps, so it is more something I work around.
Relax & Eliminate Stress
The most overlooked cause of constipation is stress. Our lives leave us in a state of chronic stress, where our sympathetic nervous system is always in a form of “flight or fight” mode.
Meaning it is pumping our body full of adrenaline and cortisol in the hopes we can escape or fight what is stressing us out. But our world just doesn’t work like that anymore. You can’t just run or fight off your financial woes, your family disagreements, or your interpersonal relationships stressors.
When we are in this heightened state of arousal, our body prioritizes other systems, and puts our digestive system on the back burner. This means it is not receiving the energy it needs to function, and shockingly our digestive system takes a huge amount of our daily energy to function.
We must be able to find ways to reduce our stress so that our nervous system is not constantly being overrun with these hormones.
Things like meditation, journaling, exercise, laughing, and just spending time with loved ones can all bring you back to the present, return you to a mindful state and relax you.
My last tip, is actually a product and not a lifestyle change. But my life has changed since I receiving a Squatty Potty also known as a toilet stool.
It elevates your feet while you are sitting on the toilet which relieves the pressure off your pelvic floor and allows for an easier, more natural elimination.
I cannot recommend this product enough. It is so amazing that they even make a travel version so you always have one no matter where you go. Trust me, once you use it, you’ll never go back.
Overall, most of the causes of constipation can be eliminated from our lives. Many times it is just a case of habit, or not knowing better, that leaves us in this state. Now that you can see what is contributing to your constipation you can make the necessary changes to improve your regularity and your overall health and wellness.