Constipation is defined as a medical condition in which bowel movements are infrequent, difficult to pass, or necessitate enemas, suppositories or laxatives in order to pass. Constipation is an extremely common ailment that will affect about 80 percent of people at some point during their lives. Although most of us know the common causes of constipation such as dehydration, low fiber consumption, little exercise, or simply “holding it in” for extended periods of time there are other causes which many of us are unaware.
If you practice regular exercise, consume adequate fiber, drink water continuously throughout the day and act urgently upon the feeling of needing to poop but are still dealing with bouts of constipation 1 or more of the causes listed below are likely to blame:
What could be healthier than vitamins?! For the most part vitamins are good for you and provide vitamins and minerals that you otherwise would not be able to consume. However, often times these vitamins provide too much of a certain vitamin which may cause digestive distress. If you take a multi-vitamin high in calcium and iron you may cause yourself to become constipated. If this is the case talk to your doctor about switching your vitamins and going for something lower in iron and calcium.
Chocolate… WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME! Turns out, many of our favorite treat has shown some evidence of causing constipation. However, everyone’s body is different and in some cases chocolate has been shown to aid in reducing constipation. If you are experiencing constipation and it’s right around Halloween or Easter (i.e. you’re stuffing your face with chocolate) try dialing back the chocolate consumption and see if your symptoms subside.
3. Too much dairy
Cheese, cheese, it’s good for your bones, the more you eat it, the less you poop? Well that doesn’t rhyme particularly well but the message is still potentially correct, particularly if you are replacing higher fiber options with these high fat dairy selections. A diet high in cheese and other low-fiber/high-fat foods can slow down your digestion. If you have a “dairy tooth” simply make sure you are increasing your fiber intake to counter act the effects of the fat within the dairy.
Hypothyroidism is defined as an underactive thyroid gland. If one’s thyroid gland is acting slower or less efficiently than normal the body’s metabolic processes will be slowed which included the gut. Not everyone with an underactive thyroid has constipation, nor do all cases of constipation mean that your thyroid is underperforming but it is something to be looked into if you are otherwise healthy, practice good dietary and exercise habits and are young.
They take the pain away and they take the poop away. Painkillers, specifically narcotics, can and often do, cause constipation. A lot of receptors for narcotics are in the digestive tract, so the use of these drugs tends to slow down all function in this area of the body. If you are recovering from any procedure in which pain killers are prescribed do not be surprised if you are also prescribed a light laxative. Some studies (but not all) have even suggested that chronic users of pain relievers like aspirin and ibuprofen might be a higher risk of constipation.
Constipation is common during pregnancy, but childbirth itself can be a problem as well. Many doctors contribute the postpartum constipation fatigued / weakened abdominal muscles. Also, it is common to have mild to severe discomfort (possible an anal fissure or hemorrhoid) after childbirth, and the fear of worsening that pain with a bowel movement may cause one to ignore the urge to go, thus causing constipation. As stated above, if a pain killer is prescribed after childbirth this may be the culprit or a contributing factor as well.
7. Laxative Overuse
Laxatives cause constipation…huh? Ironically, the use of laxatives can cause constipation if used for long periods of time (beyond what is directed or recommended by a doctor). Laxatives work as a stimulant in your bowels to encourage a movement to occur. If this stimulant is used over a long period of time your body will become accustomed to this stimulant and become unable to function properly without them.
It is wise to never use any drug beyond the scope of its intended use or beyond what is recommended by a doctor. If you have already become dependent on laxatives speak to your doctor about treatments for elevating dependence.
8. Depression and Antidepressants
Depression causes a general slowdown of the body’s normal processes, which can also affect the bowel much like with hypothyroidism. To compound this issue, the very medication that treats depression can also cause constipation. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants such as Prozac (fluoxetine) have been shown to cause constipation in some users. Constipation is even more of a problem with tricyclic antidepressants such as Elavil (amitriptyline). The reason why anti-depressent medication have this effect is still unclear but if you’re taking an antidepressant and have this side effect, ask your doctor about using a gentle stool softener, which will usually do the trick.
Nothing quells that inferno in your chest and upper stomach quite like an antacids but, some have been linked to constipation. Antacids containing calcium or aluminum may be the reason you are having difficulty pooping. Fortunately, the drugstore aisles are crammed with options, so if this is the case, simply try something else, ideally with less calcium or aluminum.
10. Blood pressure and allergy medication
As mentioned multiple times above, medications intended to alleviate one ailment may very well cause constipation. This is also the case with some blood pressure and allergy medications. Specifically, calcium channel blockers and diuretics which are commonly used to lower blood pressure can cause constipation. Diuretics, lower blood pressure and increase urine output, however this increased urine output also increases the risk of dehydration and thus constipation. Antihistamines used to treat allergy symptoms have also been shown to cause constipation in some but the reasoning is not entirely clear.
Again, if you are consuming 25-30 grams of fiber each day, drinking 8-10 cups of water, exercising regularly, and poop when you gotta poop but are still experiencing constipation take a look at the other items your are putting into your body. If one of the above is present, it is likely the culprit!