Constipation is a symptom, rather than a disease, which may be acute or chronic in nature. It occurs when the frequency in the passage of stools decreases and/or consists of stool that is hard and difficult to pass. Wondering what could possibly be the causes of constipation? What you eat and drink, or don’t eat and drink, can play a great role in this problem. Keep scrolling to learn more!
We all have different bathroom habits. Someone who doesn’t have a bowel movement every day doesn’t necessarily have constipation. One person might go three times a day, while another might go once every 2–3 days. A number of health and lifestyle factors can cause this problem. The causes of constipation may be so simple that you’ll wonder why you didn’t realize them before.
Here are some common problems that can lead to constipation.
1. Intake of Low Fiber Diet
Some of the fiber we eat attracts water to the stool. This keeps the stool moist and soft helping us to defecate easily. Fiber or roughage is a part of the food that is not digested. It stays in the gut and is passed in the stools. Fiber also adds bulk to the stools and enables the bowel system to work well. A diet with plenty of fiber helps to prevent and treat constipation.
2. Dehydration Causes Constipation
This is a major cause of constipation as the stool dries out. Why? Well, in order to help move the stool along your digestive tract, the poop itself needs to remain a bit moist and slippery. But if the person is dehydrated, the body tries to conserve water for more critical needs like the function of the cardiovascular and nervous systems at the expense of the gut. This means water is reabsorbed from the bowel, the poop dries out, becomes hard, and the rest is history.
3. Bad Bathroom Habits
Some people hold in poop to avoid the grossness of public bathrooms. Others also delay pooping because they’re in the middle of something. But if you put off boarding the number two train too often, your body’s natural sensors (the ones that tell you it’s toilet time) can go haywire. You eventually confuse the muscles in the rectum and anal sphincter and develop constipation. Moreover, the longer the poop sits there, the more water your colon absorbs out of it, making it super hard to pass when you finally do sit on the throne.
4. Medications Causes Constipation
Constipation is a common side effect of many frequently prescribed medications. If you’ve just started taking a new drug and notice that your bowel movements have changed in form or frequency, ask your doctor if your medication could be the cause. Diuretics, antidepressants, pain medications, antacids and iron supplements have been shown to cause constipation.
5. Pregnancy And Childbirth
Constipation is a common symptom of pregnancy. This is because, during pregnancy your body produces more of the female hormone progesterone, which acts as a muscle relaxant. The bowel normally moves stools and waste products to the anus by a process known as peristalsis. This is when the muscles lining the bowel contract and relax in a rippling, wave-like motion.
An increase in progesterone makes it more difficult for the bowel muscles to contract, making it harder to move waste products along. Also, the extra iron that pregnant women are taking can add to constipation. It happens mostly during the first trimester, but if it continues, medical assistance is required.
6. Changes in Routine
When you travel, your normal routine changes. This can affect the digestive system, which sometimes causes constipation. You eat your meals at different times instead of your normal time at home. Sometimes changes also occur in the time you go to bed, get up, and go to the toilet. All these changes can raise the risk of constipation.
7. Hypothyroidism Causes Constipation
When your thyroid hormones are out of whack, the entire body functions slows down, including your bowels. The slower the system, the longer the digestive contents have to be reabsorbed by the colon. This results not only in decreased frequency of stools but harder stools. But not everyone with an under-active thyroid has constipation, nor do all cases of constipation mean that the butterfly-shaped gland in your neck is not working well.
8. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS is a common disorder that affects the large intestine or colon. IBS mainly causes cramps, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. IBS can be controlled by managing diet, lifestyle, and stress. Medication and counseling are also helpful.
9. Lack Of Physical Activity
Constipation can occur if you become too physically inactive. This is because it slows down the metabolism process. Physical activity keeps metabolism high, making the processes in the body happen more rapidly. Exercise also keeps you fit and healthy.
10. Low potassium in The Body Causes Constipation
Potassium is an important electrolyte for proper muscle movement. When your potassium is low, the muscles in your colon don’t move as much which causes constipation. Add more potassium to your diet with foods such as potatoes, bananas, mangoes, prunes, raisins, and kiwis.
11. Health Supplements
Over the counter nutritional supplements can cause constipation. Iron and calcium supplements are the two main culprits. You need to refrain from taking supplements and correct this deficiency problem by having proper food. Eating balanced and healthy meals helps you get all the vitamins and minerals needed for proper functioning of the body.
12. Excessive Use Of Laxatives
Laxatives stimulate bowel activity, but relying on them too much can lead to more constipation. Over time, the nerve cells that release the necessary chemicals for your colon to do its thing looses its function. This leads to your body needing higher and higher doses of laxatives to do the trick. This continues until eventually, they don’t work at all. More of a problem is that when they stop working, the other simple measures that we might try have less chance of working as well because those stimulatory neurons are now dead. Ditch the laxatives for high fiber diet. You can also read this article on natural home remedies for constipation.
13. Dairy Products
If you happen to be lactose intolerant, and you are still consuming dairy products, then you are bound to have constipation. Don’t introduce cow’s milk to infants aged below one year, nor should you give them any dairy products without a doctor’s consent. Having milk and dairy products is undoubtedly good for health, but if you are allergic to them, you must avoid them totally.
14. Depression Causes Constipation
Depression and mental stress are major causes of constipation. One should practice relaxation techniques daily to avoid depression and constipation. Stress of any kind can affect the body’s normal functioning and cause irregular bowel movements.
Symptoms & Signs Of Constipation
Apart from not being able to pass stools, here are some other symptoms of constipation:
The following can help you avoid developing chronic constipation.
- Include plenty of high-fiber foods in your diet, including beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grain cereals and bran.
- Eat fewer foods with low amounts of fiber such as processed foods, and dairy and meat products.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Stay as active as possible and try to get regular exercise.
- Try to manage stress.
- Don’t ignore the urge to pass stool.
- Try to create a regular schedule for bowel movements, especially after a meal.
- Make sure children who begin to eat solid foods get plenty of fiber in their diets.
To be vexed with constipation in the long run is indeed uncomfortable, and it may produce other long-term health issues like anal fissures and hemorrhoids, which in themselves are painful and difficult to treat. Constipation is also linked to the build-up of toxins in the body. It is necessary to nip the problem in the bud before it starts affecting all other areas of your life.