Almost everyone has experienced some form of constipation at one time or another. A disruption in your regular schedule can not only be wildly uncomfortable but can make it difficult to go about your day.
Whether it’s just the occasional day without a bowel movement for you, or it’s something you deal with daily – constipation stinks. We feel you.
So what causes constipation – and how can we get back to smooth sailing in the defecation department?
Your gastrointestinal tract is full of twists and turns that can easily be disrupted with the slightest changes. A traffic jam in this area of your body is enough to give anyone road rage.
When the colon is unable to absorb enough water from your food, it can cause the stool inside of it to harden, aka constipation.
Constipation can be caused by any number of factors, here are a few of the most common.
Your diet can seriously impact your body’s ability to have a regular bowel movement schedule.
While this can vary from person to person, people who have diets that are low in fiber and high in animal products like dairy and meat, tend to be more prone to constipation.
Your liquid intake, or lack thereof, can also keep you clogged up. Staying hydrated with plenty of water, or non-sugary and caffeinated beverages can help to keep you regular.
Certain age groups are more prone to constipation.
Children tend to become constipated more often than adults. This is especially true for picky eaters, and kids and toddlers who have trouble drinking enough fluids.
Older people, specifically those over the age of sixty-five, are also at higher risk for constipation because they tend to be less active physically, and have more underlying diseases.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Many medical conditions can cause constipation, whether or not they seem related to the gastrointestinal tract.
Here are a few of them:
- Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Two different gastrointestinal disorders.
- Hypothyroidism: Which can slow down the body’s metabolism.
- Diabetes: The nerves in the colon may be affected, which can lead to constipation, a common symptom of diabetes.
- Neurological Diseases: People with neurological diseases like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, MS, or spinal injuries may have difficulty relaxing the pelvic floor muscles or have a slower working colon.
It’s not just medical conditions that can cause constipation, but many medications can as well, like iron supplements, painkillers, epilepsy medications, and heartburn medications.
Pregnancy comes with many blessings, constipation, is not one of them.
About half of pregnant people deal with constipation at some point in their pregnancy.
There is an increased amount of the hormone progesterone during pregnancy, which helps the uterus grow and prepare for pregnancy. Progesterone also relaxes the intestinal muscles which can slow down the passing of food through your system.
Constipation is also common in the postpartum period, especially right after giving birth. This can be caused by going long periods without going during labor, as well as dehydration and lack of food, and any pelvic floor injury. It’s also common for people who had a cesarean section.
If constipation is putting a cramp in your style, there are plenty of things you can do to help alleviate it, and get things back on track.
Get to The Root Cause
Because constipation can be influenced by so many factors, it’s helpful to understand the underlying reason, so that you can find proper treatment.
Knowing the cause still might not help alleviate constipation, but it can give you some insight as to what you can do to help with your symptoms.
Examine Your Diet
Like we mentioned before, your diet plays a huge role in your body’s ability to have regular bowel movements.
A diet high in fiber from fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and animal or plant-based proteins helps to support your colon in doing its duties. You’re welcome for that.
Again, we can’t stress enough the importance of hydration. If you need to set a timer to remind yourself to drink water, you can do that as well. You can also try drinking tea, but keep an eye on your caffeine intake.
Some people swear by drinking warm water with a bit of lemon in the morning to help keep them regular – it may be worth a shot!
Stress can wreak havoc on your body, including your GI tract. High-stress levels can increase constipation and other digestive issues.
How can you help yourself destress? Taking time outside, spending time with loved ones, taking a warm bath, and getting your creative juices flowing can help you manage stress.
Another great way to manage stress is through exercise. Which fortunately can help alleviate constipation as well. It’s a win, win!
Exercise can help increase food move through your large intestine faster and help to stimulate the muscular contractions in your intestines that help to move stools along.
Any level of activity can help support your digestive system. Whether that be walking or running, yoga, swimming, dancing, or more!
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
For people who have had pelvic floor injuries whether, from pregnancy or something else, physical therapy can help alleviate symptoms – including constipation.
Find out if pelvic floor physical therapy is right for you.
Constipation is no joke. If it’s affecting your life, try incorporating these tips into your lifestyle. It’s time to get to the bottom of what’s backing you up, and get you back on schedule!
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.