I’ve lived for 28 years thinking that constipation is the thing that happens when I eat too many carbs—a special shout out to ramen—and not enough vegetables, but apparently, there’s more to it than that. While being constipated does mean struggling to back one out, there’s the additional factor of there being too much time in between poop sessions. Basically, if you poop less than three times a week, you’re constipated. Most doctors distinguish between two types of constipation: 1) occasionally experiencing it from time to time and 2) pretty much struggling for three months straight.
When I’m constipated, I usually try to load up on more vegetables (read: fiber, baby) and drink lots of tea (miserably, baby). But even more important is to figure out what your body is trying to tell you.
Causes Of Constipation
- Fiber – Yes, fiber is a double-edged sword. Fiber soaks up water, so if you increase your fiber intake without also drinking more water, all that fiber gets stuck in the digestive tract.
- White rice – Cry me a river, your favorite thing in this world is making it hard for you to poop. But tbh, white rice is the worst kind of food because it’s refined and basically stripped of all the good stuff like fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium—nutrients that help you poop.
- Holding your poop – On a really busy day, when you just want to get shit done (pun intended), it’s tempting to put off pooping until you’re ready to take a break. But this habit messes up your body’s signals; it confuses the muscles in your rectum anal sphincter, enough to develop constipation.
- Pregnancy – We already know pregnancy changes your body’s natural state in more ways than one. For example, your hormones shift your digestive tract into relaxation mode, which reduces the contraction frequency of the colon. As the baby grows, it also puts a lot of pressure on your bowels and that definitely doesn’t help. Apart from upping their water intake, some women have to rely on stool softeners to poop regularly.
- Eating a lot of dairy – If you love cheese more than anything, it doesn’t love you back because the high fat-low fiber combo is probably making you constipated. Fat slows down digestion and if you’re lactose intolerant, yes, you might poop more, but it might also lead to constipation.
- Traveling – Can you believe it? Traveling takes you out of your comfort zone and your daily routine, which, surprise, includes pooping around the same time. When you’re traveling, however, there are so many unpredictable things that could happen. Sometimes, you have no choice but to hold it in until you find a clean (enough) restroom.
- Taking too many laxatives – Yes, laxatives help you poop, but taking too many could also lead to constipation. When you abuse laxatives, the nerve cells responsible for releasing chemicals to activate your colon gets depleted.
- Antidepressants - Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are known for taking out water from the colon, which can cause constipation as a side effect.
Symptoms Of Constipation
As previously mentioned, a common symptom of constipation is pooping less than three times a week, but watch out for these signs as well:
- Hard or lumpy poop
- Feeling like it’s hard to poop
- Feeling a blockage in your butt
- When you start pooping, feeling like there’s still something stuck there
- Needing to press your stomach to get it all out
Factors Of Chronic Constipation
There’s always a risk of chronic constipation, especially if you’re always dehydrated. Here’s a list of other risk factors:
- Being a woman—the risk increases as you get older
- Having a diet that’s low in fiber
- Not exercising enough
- Taking certain medications—like antidepressants and sedatives
- Having a mental health illness like depression or an eating disorder
How To Cure Constipation Naturally
Constipation is extremely uncomfortable. If you want to try some natural remedies before you see a doctor, here are some ways to cure constipation at home:
- Drinking more water – Water isn’t just good for your skin, it’s great for your bowels! Not only does it hydrate the gastrointestinal tract (GI), it also adds more mass to your pool, which helps it pass through easily.
- Drinking coffee – This one’s my favorite because it’s the surest way to poop in the morning. Coffee has a laxative effect that might help you unclog those pipes.
- Eating more fiber – Take a break from your beloved carbs, and trade your pizza for some broccoli! Soluble fiber pulls water into the colon. But, of course, it could also backfire, so don’t just buy broccoli in bulk. Test out other sources of fiber and find a balance.
- Exercise more – Isn’t it funny how exercise is a cure for a lot of things even though it’s so painful while it’s actually happening? Another gift from the universe, lol. Aerobic exercises—or literally just moving more than you usually do—gets the gut functioning better. This helps stimulate the GI tract, and you’re pooping before you know it.
- Trying flaxseed – Before you say no, we’re not suggesting eating flaxseed on its own (unless you’re into that). Try adding a sprinkle to your yogurt or even a bowl of fruits. Seeds have a little oil in them, which helps soften your poop.
When To See A Doctor For Your Constipation
Of course, natural remedies don’t always work. Sometimes, you really just have to give in and accept that you need a medical professional’s help. Here’s when you should book an appointment ASAP:
- When you’re in pain – I’m talking about the kind that gets in the way of your daily routine. If you can’t move or sleep or eat properly, it’s because when you’re constipated, the poop builds up in your colon and stretches it.
- When there’s blood in your poop – Blood in your poop is definitely a red flag. If you’re bleeding, it might be hemorrhoids, which is a small tear in your anus because that area is inflamed. Don’t wait before you have this checked up because blood in your poop could also be a sign of colon cancer.
- When you’ve been constipated for weeks – If you haven’t changed anything in your routine but have realized that you’re not pooping normally, consult your doctor.
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