- A diet low in fiber, not drinking enough water, antidepressants, and diuretics drugs can lead to constipation.
- Constipation can also be caused by medical conditions such as IBS.
- Other potential causes include pregnancy, stress, or a sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re feeling backed up, you’re not alone. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, an estimated 4 million Americans suffer from constipation on a regular basis. But what exactly is constipation? And what causes it? Read on to find out.
What exactly is constipation?
Constipation occurs when bowel movements become difficult or less frequent. According to the Mayo Clinic, most people have a bowel movement anywhere from three times a day to three times a week. If you’re going less than that or having trouble passing stools, you may be constipated. Some common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and feeling like you still need to go even after you’ve already been to the bathroom.
What are the main causes of constipation?
There are many different factors that can contribute to constipation. Here are seven of the most common causes:
1. Not enough fiber in the diet
One of the most common causes of constipation is a diet that’s lacking in fiber. Fiber helps to add bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass. The National Health Service recommends that adults eat 30 grams of fiber every day. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
When your body is short on fluids, it pulls water from your intestines, making stool harder and drier and more difficult to pass. Health experts recommend adults drink eight glasses of water a day. More if you live in a hot climate or exercise frequently. Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda, which can contribute to dehydration.
Certain medications like antidepressants, diuretics, iron supplements, and blood pressure medications can cause constipation by drying out your intestines or hardening your stool. If you take medication regularly and think it might be contributing to your digestive issue, talk to your doctor about changing your dosage or switching to a different drug altogether.
4. Lack of exercise
Exercise helps keep things moving through your digestive system by stimulating bowel contractions. Sedentary adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like brisk walking, on most days of the week to reduce their risk of constipation.
Anxiety can definitely make things worse when you’re already feeling backed up. Stress causes muscle tension which can lead to slower digestion and fewer bowel movements overall. If stress is affecting your bathroom habits, consider relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
6. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a chronic condition that affects the large intestine and can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and sometimes constipation. There’s no cure for IBS, but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you think this might be behind your constipation issues.
Pregnancy can cause constipation for several reasons:
- The growing uterus puts pressure on the intestines.
- Pregnancy hormones slow down digestion.
- And iron supplements (which many women take during pregnancy) can further contribute to constipation.
The good news is that this is usually a temporary issue that will resolve after childbirth. In the meantime, try drinking plenty of fluids and eating high-fiber foods like fruits and vegetables to help ease the problem. However, if you’re pregnant and having trouble with constipation, be sure to talk to your ob-gyn about safe treatment options.
Constipation is pretty common. Many factors can contribute to it, including diet, dehydration, medications, lack of exercise, stress, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and pregnancy. If you’re struggling with persistent digestive issues, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.
Also read: 9 Foods that Relieve Constipation Quickly