Everyone gets constipated from time to time. Some people get constipated after eating a certain type of food (I can relate to this one!). Others may experience constipation as a natural result of chronic dehydration. Whatever the case may be for you, it’s important to try to avoid constipation whenever possible.
Constipation is much more than just an uncomfortable and embarrassing condition. It is also a condition that can be detrimental to your health. Here are a few things you should know about constipation, what causes it, and why you need to do everything you can to avoid it.
Constipation occurs when the stool becomes hard and dry and can’t easily pass. If you can’t have a bowel movement for one day, it doesn’t technically count as constipation. To meet the technical definition of the condition, you need to have fewer than three bowel movements in an entire week.
What Causes Constipation
Now that we understand the commonly accepted definition of constipation, let’s talk about what causes this uncomfortable condition. Like many ailments in life, there are many potential causes for excessive bathroom straining. They include:
Lack of exercise: Those who exercise regularly are less likely to experience constipation than those who live sedentary lifestyles.
Insufficient intake of fluids: Your body requires water to digest food and move stool through the colon. If you aren’t drinking enough liquids, your body won’t be able to push stool out very easily and you’ll end up with dry, compacted stool.
Abuse of laxatives: Many people take laxatives to help them have regular bowel movements. The problem is that some people use laxatives inappropriately (including for the purpose of losing weight). The extended use of these products can potentially damage the colon’s nerve cells and impact the colon’s contraction abilities. However, the occasional use of laxatives is nothing to worry about.
Certain medications: There are some medications that can cause constipation. Examples include iron supplements, antidepressants, sedatives and iron supplements.
Insufficient fiber intake: A lot of diets are deficient in fiber, which is necessary to help the stools absorb water and become easier to pass.
Old age: Getting older causes the metabolism to slow down, which can impact the frequency of your bowel movements.
Now that you know some of the common causes of constipation, let’s talk about the negative health impacts of experiencing constipation too often.
Negative Health Impact of Constipation
Constipation can be pretty harmful to the body. If you need concrete reasons to avoid constipation, take a look at the following list of complications that can occur when your stools are too hard and infrequent:
Damage to the muscles of your pelvic floor from straining too much
Swollen veins in your rectum (otherwise known as hemorrhoids)
Fecal impaction, which is when too much stool gets piled up in the rectum
Diverticulitis (an infection of pouches in the colon wall from trapped stool)
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not deal with these common complications from chronic constipation. That’s why I researched some ways to avoid constipation whenever possible. Allow me to share my findings with you!
How To Avoid Constipation
There are a few things you can do to avoid constipation in your daily life. They include:
Eating a healthy diet that’s high in fiber
Taking an over-the-counter stool softener occasionally to help you with your bowel movements
Raising your legs up slightly (in a squatting position) when sitting on the toilet
Keeping a food diary of foods that cause constipation
If you’re still having trouble avoiding constipation after doing all of these things, consider taking a probiotic or prebiotic supplement. You may also want to get a physical checkup from your doctor to see if there’s an underlying medical reason for your constipation issues.