It’s been days since you last sat on the throne. When you finally felt the urge to do so, your body is giving you a hard time to let it all out and let go of what you ate for the past few days.
You must be constipated.
It turns out that constipation is a common complaint and gastrointestinal problem among adults. In fact, it affects 42 million people in the United States alone – and the number increases as the age increases. The question now is what the reasons for constipation are.
Read along and learn about the different and some surprising causes of constipation, plus learn some helpful tips on how to get rid of constipation.
1. Constipation: Why It Happens to Most of Us at Some Time in Our Lives
First, what is constipation? The truth is, there is no exact number of normal bowel movements, since it varies from person to person. There are some individuals who pass stools three times a day, while there are others who do it every other day.
Nonetheless, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases defined constipation as:
- Less than three bowel movements in one week.
- Hard, small, and dry stools that are difficult or painful to pass.
If you experienced these two, read the succeeding sections and find out what causes it.
2. The Constipated Group: Individuals More Likely to Become Constipated
Keep in mind that constipation is common regardless of age. Did you know that there are certain groups who are more susceptible to this condition?
People who are more likely to experience constipation are the following:
- Older adults
- Pregnant women
- Women who recently gave birth
- People who just went through surgery
- Individuals who are taking medications such as antidepressants or pain relievers
- People with lower income
If you belong in any of these groups, this doesn’t automatically follow that you will be constipated most of the time. It only means there is a higher risk of constipation. Don’t worry. There are preventive techniques and cures for constipation, which you will learn more about below.
3. Breaking a Bad Habit: Controlling Your Poop to Suppress the Urge
Emptying your bowels is a prerequisite to good health. Nonetheless, there are times when you need to control your urge because you’re in the middle of an important meeting or bathrooms are unavailable. You are able to do so because bowel movements are under your voluntary control, which means you can suppress them anytime you want to.
Apparently, one of the reasons for constipation and abdominal pain is resisting the urge to defecate. Doing it once or twice when the situation calls for it is not deadly, but, if you do this frequently, this could lead to not only disappearance of your urges, but also constipation.
Here is the not-so-surprising part: withholding your poop especially for a longer time could lead to death. This means, if you feel the urge to do it, go ahead and look for the nearest bathroom. It is a natural, human process after all.
4. Lack of Water: The Most Common Cause of Constipation You Can Easily Address
How many glasses of water do you drink everyday? If you are not getting enough H2O, then this could be the reason why you are having a hard time pooping.
Dehydration is among the reasons for chronic constipation. When there is not enough water in your body, the large intestine soaks water from your food wastes, thereby making it hard for stools to pass. By drinking water and other healthy fluids such as fresh fruit juices, herbal teas, and clear soups, you are able to help in keeping your stool soft and easy to pass.
Tips to Increase Water Intake
Here’s how to drink more water:
- Add water-enriched foods in your diet such as watermelon and tomato.
- Place a pitcher of water on your bedside table to make it easier for you to drink.
- Bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go.
- Drink a glass full of water before, during, and after every meal.
- Put ice on your drink to encourage you to drink more.
Eight glasses of water is a realistic goal to increase your water intake and at the same time, minimize constipation.
5. Low Fiber Diet: Another Common Reasons for Constipation
Aside from lack of water, a diet low in fiber is another cause for constipation.
Fiber is indigestible, which means it could add bulk to your feces to make it easier for your digestive tract to push it out of your body. In this way, fiber works to promote easy bowel movements and minimize constipation.
There are two main types of fiber:
- Soluble – Dissolves in and absorbs water, which makes it easy to pass through your digestive tract. Consequently, it helps soften the feces.
- Insoluble – This type of fiber adds bulk to your stools and helps it move quickly for bowel movement.
To promote easy bowel movement and prevent constipation, here are fiber-rich foods you should add in your diet:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Whole wheat
Are you still constipated, even if none of these reasons for constipation apply to you? Keep reading and find out the other constipation causes.
6. Chocolates: One of the Surprising Reasons for Constipation and Gas
This is not-so-good news for chocolate lovers. It turns out that one of the world’s favorites could be the reason why you are having a hard time pooping. However, there are two sides of the story.
Some experts say that chocolate, particularly cocoa, has beneficial effect on constipated individuals. On the other hand, there are those who believe that chocolate is among the culprits.
Cocoa itself is not the issue. The problem lies on the other ingredients in your favorite chocolate bar such as milk and caffeine, which are known constipation triggers. Chocolates are also high in sugar, which often replaces fiber in your diet, hence constipation.
If eating chocolate doesn’t affect your bowel movement, then there is no reason to stop eating it. However, make sure to minimize your intake since your body doesn’t need too much sugar. Otherwise, eliminate it from your diet and see if it helps.
This leads you to the next constipation culprit.
7. Say Hello to Dairy: One of the Causes of Constipation You Need to Know About
How can you say no to cheese in your burger or sandwich? Can you resist eating your chewy chocolate chip cookies without milk within your reach?
Dairy products like milk and cheese make your meals better. Can you imagine an afternoon with no grilled cheese? Here’s the catch: it could be the reason why you haven’t passed stools for days.
A diet high in cheese, milk, and other dairy products coupled with low fiber and high fat meals could slow down your digestion. There are also people who become constipated when they consume milk and other dairy.
The best way to go about this is by lowering your intake of dairy and increase fiber in your diet. If you plan to have lots of cheese on your burger, then don’t forget to have salad and use whole wheat bread along with your meat and cheese. If you can do it, eliminate dairy and see how it will go.
This could also be why drinking formula milk, along with breastfeeding, is one of the reasons for constipation in breastfed babies.
8. When Little to No Exercise Leads to Constipation
You might think that exercise is only meant to help you lose weight and keep you fit and healthy. Did you know that the lack of it could also be the reason why you are constipated?
Here’s the truth: experts are unsure as to the relationship between constipation and physical inactivity. Nonetheless, some believe that physical activity keeps your metabolism high. Consequently, it accelerates your breathing and keeps your heart pumping, which makes your body work in a rapid rate, including digestion.
This could be the reason why elderly people are more likely to experience constipation. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk since their sedentary lifestyles are among the reasons for constipation during pregnancy.
One of the simplest exercises you can introduce in your daily routine is brisk walking. Brisk walking for 10 to 20 minutes after dinner and before bedtime to encourage blood flow in your intestines, which could help digest food. If you like to keep it indoors, then go for yoga to help strengthen your stomach muscles.
9. A Change in Your Usual Routine That Sends Your Bowel Movements Crumbling
One of the best things you can give yourself is to travel. It allows you to see places and experience different cultures.
Here’s the catch: you might get caught of traveler’s constipation and the effects are not good. In fact, almost 40 percent of travelers get constipated when they travel. This is because your normal bowel movement depends on your routine and any changes might upset your internal body clock.
Aside from this, you eat your meals, go to bed, get up in the morning, and even go to the bathroom at different times. This could affect your normal bowel movement, hence constipation.
Try these techniques to prevent traveler’s constipation:
- Walk first thing in the morning to increase the motility of your gastrointestinal tract.
- Eat berries during breakfast to increase fiber supply.
- Drink lots of water and other healthy fluids.
- Take frequent stops or walk around to stretch your legs and have bathroom breaks.
10. An Often Overlooked Cause of Constipation Hiding in Tablet Form
Medications are meant to help you and provide relief from any medical condition. Apparently, most medications, although mild, come with side effects. This includes constipation among the many side effects.
Some of the common medications that cause constipation are the following:
- Antacids, particularly those with aluminum or calcium.
- Calcium supplements
- Iron supplements
- Antiepileptic or anticonvulsant drugs
- Opiate painkillers
- Antipsychotics or drugs that treat schizophrenia and other mental health conditions
- Narcotic-containing drugs
Oftentimes, simple measures to treat constipation are so effective, there is no need to discontinue drug use. If constipation treatments don’t work, consult your doctor for a checkup and proper diagnosis. Your doctor can provide an alternative and less constipating medication. You will feel relief in no time.
Speaking of medications, read the next section to learn about this specific treatment that may cause your constipation.
11. Laxative Overuse: Another Culprit for Irregular Bowel Movements
When you are having a hard time passing stools, your first line of defense could be to use laxatives. Laxatives help stimulate bowel activity, which could come in handy during constipated circumstances. It makes it easier for you to pass stools and saves yourself from going through the pain and discomfort of hard, painful stools.
Here’s the catch: laxatives could cause even more constipation, especially when used long-term.
When you use laxatives for a long period of time, your body develops a sense of dependence on laxatives. If this happens, your body won’t be able to function properly and encourage bowel movements without them. Long-term use of laxatives could also damage the muscles and nerves in the colon, which could possibly lead to constipation.
To prevent this from happening, do not use laxatives longer than what is written on the label or according to your doctor’s instructions. Most laxatives work in a few hours after taking them, so if you can, stick to one pill.
12. Watch Out for Vitamins: Another Surprising Causes of Constipation
The truth is, there is a possibility that you won’t be getting all the nutrients your body needs to function properly. This is why you need vitamins to make sure that you have ample supply of nutrients in your system.
Did you know that it could cause constipation?
Generally, vitamins are not constipation triggers. However, those vitamins with iron and calcium could spell problem in your digestive system.
Unless you need them, spare yourself from taking iron and calcium supplements. If you need to take any or both supplements, counteract them with a stool softener. The last thing you need is having a hard time letting it go because you take iron and calcium, which are crucial to your health and proper function.
13. Pregnancy: Making a Woman More Susceptible to Constipation
Being pregnant is a rollercoaster of emotions. You are happy because the idea of life inside you could be overwhelming – in a good way. On the other hand, pregnancy comes with many conditions that could make your life uncomfortable. Aside from back pain and urgency to pee, constipation is one of the many issues pregnant women face. In fact, two in every five women are constipated during pregnancy, especially in the early stages.
What are the causes for constipation during pregnancy?
Your bowel moves wastes to your anus by a process called peristalsis. In this process, the muscles lining the bowel contract and relax in a motion similar to waves. During pregnancy, your body produces more progesterone, which functions as a muscle relaxant. This means, producing more progesterone could make it difficult for your muscles to contract. This makes it harder to move bowels and waste products, which causes constipation.
Tips to Reduce Constipation During Pregnancy
Here are some ways to reduce your bouts of constipation when you are pregnant:
- Drink lots of water and other healthy liquids, like fruit juices or soups.
- When going to the toilet, rest your feet on a low stool to keep your knees above your hips. This makes passing stools easier.
- Increase your intake of fiber.
- Include bulking agents like wheat bran in your diet to make stools softer.
- Go for a walk every morning.
- Establish a toilet routine to teach your body to “schedule” bowel movements.
In relation to hormones, read the next section to find out how medical conditions affecting hormones contribute to the causes of constipation.
14. It’s a Hormone Thing: Conditions That Can Lead to Constipation
Pregnancy alters your hormonal levels, thereby causing constipation. This follows that medical conditions that changes your hormones could lead to constipation.
The question is why.
Hormones balance the fluids in your body, which makes it easier for you to pass stools. Changes in your hormones lead to changes in your body fluids, hence constipation. Diseases and medical conditions that could upset the balance of hormones are:
- Overactive parathyroid gland or hyperparathyroidism, which raises calcium in your blood
- Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid
- Menstruation on women
Hormonal changes don’t automatically follow that you will experience constipation, especially if you are still young. Still, your hormones and thyroid gland are worth checking to make sure that the condition will be addressed before it gets worse.
15. Colon Issues as a Culprit for Hard and Painful Stools
There are many reasons why you are constipated. Aside from lifestyle factors and a dependency on certain medications, your biological makeup could also be the culprit causing you are having a hard time passing stools.
One of them is issues with your colon or rectum. In fact, there are two ways on how colon issues could affect your normal bowel movement.
Any blockage in your colon or rectum could slow down or stop stool movement. Some of these color blockage conditions are:
- Anal fissures or small tear in the skin inside the anus
- Bowel stricture or narrowing of the colon
- Bowel obstruction
- Colon cancer and other abdominal cancer that presses your colon
- Rectal cancer
Aside from the blockage, neurological problems could also be another culprit. It affects the nerves, which cause the muscles in your colon and rectum to contract and move bowel easily through your intestines.
These neurological problems involved:
- Spinal cord injury
- Autonomic neuropathy
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
If you have any of these conditions, make sure you talk to your doctor and find a medication that could help you address your constipation before it gets any worse.
16. Pelvic Muscles Issues: Another Reason for Chronic Constipation
Pelvic muscles play an important role in your body. They reduce the risk of prolapsed, improve your bladder control, helps you recover from childbirth, and even increase your orgasmic potential and sexual sensation.
Did you know that problems with this type of muscles could result to chronic constipation? Believe it or not, up to 50 percent of individuals who suffer from chronic constipation also have a pelvic floor dysfunction.
Aside from bladder control, you also use your pelvic floor muscles to facilitate better the bowel movement. Pelvic muscles problems include:
- Anismus or the inability to relax your pelvic muscles for or during bowel movements.
- Dyssynergia. when your pelvic muscles are unable to coordinate contraction and relaxation correctly.
- Weakened pelvic muscles due to childbirth and menopause.
Treating Pelvic Floor Dysfunction to Address Constipation
If your doctor diagnoses you with a pelvic floor dysfunction, they may try the following therapies to help you:
- Biofeedback – This provides visual and auditory feedback to retrain your pelvic floor muscles and relax your anal sphincter.
- Constipation Classes – This treatment option is carried out by a nurse educator or dietician and teaches you techniques to manage your bowels.
- Intensive Pelvic Floor Retraining Exercises – This option helps improve pelvic floor dysfunction and teaches you how to coordinate abdominal and pelvic floor muscles during defecation.
17. Constipation: An Underlying Reason for Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Other Gastrointestinal Disorders
One of the most common causes of constipation is irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. Although there is no exact cause for this type of digestive disorder, patients with IBS have highly sensitive colons, which mean you need to watch what you eat.
At the same time, constipation could be a sign of inflammation in your rectum or an obstruction in the small intestine, which could be indicative of either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Still, keep in mind that constipation alone does not indicate that you have inflammatory bowel disease.
If you experience other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, mucus in your stools, bloating or swelling of your stomach, or that feeling you need to empty your bowels even after going to the toilet, then it could be a sign of something serious.
There is Hope
Now that you know the 17 reasons for constipation, keep in mind that there is hope for this condition. Do not feel embarrassed when talking about it. On the other hand, seek treatment and take note of the treatment options mentioned to help you get over this condition.