Top 10 Causes of Constipation and How to Find Relief
Are your bowels sluggish? Do you have the urge to go but can’t quite get it all out? You might be experiencing constipation. It’s a common health concern that affects all of us at some point in our lives. Constipation occurs when waste moves too slowly through the digestive tract or is not completely eliminated from the rectum. Being constipated generally means having three or fewer bowel movements a week. In addition to passing small, hard, dry stool, some people also experience vomiting and abdominal pain or bloating.
The causes of constipation are numerous, but most are common and easily treatable. Some causes, however, are more serious and may require medical attention. If you are experiencing constipation, check out this list of causes and their corresponding relief options. And be sure to talk to your medical provider if constipation is a chronic occurrence for you.
- Physical inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle is a significant cause of constipation. Exercising increases digestive tract contractions, enabling stool to move more efficiently through the bowels. Get active with regular aerobic exercise like walking, jogging, yoga, dancing or swimming, and get things moving again!
- Inadequate fiber intake. Fiber helps stool stay soft and pass smoothly through the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber found in whole wheat bread, whole grain cereal, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower and nuts is essential for constipation relief. Be careful to slowly increase your fiber intake or else you may experience bloating, gas, cramping or even more severe constipation. Women over 51 should consume 21 grams of fiber daily; men over age 51 should consume 30 grams (Source: WebMD).
- Insufficient water consumption. Constipation occurs when the colon becomes dehydrated and cannot easily move stool out. Be sure you are drinking the recommended 8-10 glasses of water daily, and add 2-4 glasses each day if you think you might be dehydrated. But water intake alone is not sufficient. Be sure to combine high fluid intake with high dietary fiber intake for the most effective relief (Source: Free Drinking Water).
- Overuse of laxatives. Laxatives work by stimulating the bowels to move. They can be helpful, but when taken too frequently, the digestive system can become so dependent on laxatives for stimulation that it won’t function properly without them (Source: Health). Unless they have been prescribed by a doctor, stop taking laxatives or find a natural alternative, or you may risk worsening your constipation.
- Stress. Ever the culprit for many a health problem, stress can impede proper digestion and cause constipation. Find ways to manage the stress in your life: exercise, meditate, rest, spend time with friends, forgive and forget, relax. Quit stressing out!
- Excessive dairy consumption. A diet high in cheese, whole milk and other dairy products can slow digestion, especially if you are lactose-intolerant. If you suspect an intolerance, cut back on dairy and balance your diet with fiber-rich foods to get your bowels moving.
- Ignoring the urge to go. Don’t view using the bathroom as an inconvenience. When you gotta go, go! If you repeatedly ignore the urge to have a bowel movement because you’re too busy, then that urge may subside. The result: constipation. When you feel the urge, go!
- Medication use. Certain medicines like antidepressants, diuretics, antacids, narcotics, supplements, anticonvulsants and blood pressure treatments can cause constipation (Source: Everyday Health). If you have started a new medication and have noticed a change in your bowel habits, you may want to consult your doctor for an alternative.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). For some people, constipation is a very common symptom of IBS. IBS sufferers have highly sensitive colons and must monitor what they eat. A change in diet or lifestyle may be recommended to improve symptoms. Consult a physician for treatment.
- Colon Cancer. Chronic constipation may be a sign of colon cancer as a tumor may be blocking the colon or rectum making bowel movements difficult. If you are having chronic bouts of constipation, then you need to see a doctor for evaluation.
Natural Constipation Remedies
In addition to the relief options already mentioned, here are some natural remedies for when you are experiencing constipation.
- Drink caffeinated coffee to get sluggish guts moving.
- Take probiotics or eat probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or kimchi to balance bacteria in the gut.
- Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning to stimulate bowels.
- Try a natural herbal laxative you can find over-the-counter.
- Eat prunes or drink prune juice. The sugar found in prunes is a natural laxative.
- Take an omega-3 supplement to lubricate your intestines.
Constipation is a common health problem, but it doesn’t have to be for you! Figure out what might be causing your bowel troubles and make some changes for relief. If you experience constipation regularly, then you need to get yourself checked out by a highly qualified GI specialist. Your condition could be something more serious, but the only way to know for sure is to consult a doctor. Find a center near you and schedule an appointment today!