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Constipation is a funny little thing that we never talk about. Yet, each time I go give a presentation and discuss constipation there is always someone, usually multiple people, who come to me after and talk to me about their constipation. There are so many people who have constipation, in fact, about 16 out of 100 adults have constipation 1.
Constipation isn’t just not pooping.
We most often think constipation means not pooping. That is partly correct. Constipation is not having regular bowel movements. But constipation also is more than just not pooping.
Constipation can also refer to the types of poops you have. I’m talking about those hard, dry, poops that often have cracks on the surface and can sometimes be small in size. I go over this a bit more in my post here about the different types of poops we have.
Constipation can also be pooping regularly and still feeling like you’re not completely empty. Oftentimes you are pooping but those hard and dry types of poops. Bloating is also another common symptom you might see accompany constipation.
Let’s dive back into constipation and not pooping because not pooping can be a problem. Ideally, you really want to be pooping once a day. Think of pooping like taking out the trash. It’s something we want to be doing pretty regularly. Everyone does have their own normal for how often they poop but really you don’t want to go without a bowel movement (aka poop) no more than every 3 days.
Why constipation isn’t something you should just live with.
It’s time we all kicked to the curb the idea that constipation is just the status quo. You should have to live with constipation just because you’ve “always had a slow digestion” or your normal pooping schedule is just having a bowel movement once in a blue moon.
When you feel constipated you literally feel sh*tty. That feeling really bleeds into every area of your life because when you are constipated you don’t want to do anything. You’ll choose the leggings over your favorite pair of jeans, you’ll be in a sucky mood because your stomach hurts, or you’ll have a nagging feeling of discomfort all day. You deserve to live your best life and chronic constipation should not be a part of that life.
What causes constipation.
Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors. The usual suspects for constipation are diet and lifestyle. A diet-related reason can be a lack of fiber, eating foods you might have a food sensitivity to, fatty or fried foods. Lifestyle reasons can be stress and lack of movement.
Constipation can because of nerve or pelvic muscle problems. If you do see any blood in your poop, have black stools (poops), or unexplained changes in your pooping habits that don’t have an explanation then it is advised to see a doctor. Regardless, if you do have chronic constipation it is always a good idea to see your doctor (and don’t be embarrassed by it) to get evaluated.
The 4 F’s to improve constipation.
There are a few strategies to help combat constipation. These 4F’s are the foundation for good pooping habits. There is no particular order but I guarantee the last F might surprise you.
I used to hate drinking water. It was so plain, it had no taste, it sucked. Now it’s the only thing I drink. While I do enjoy drinking water it is something that I easily forget to do. Just because you might not feel thirsty doesn’t mean you’re automatically hydrated. Use your pee color as a way to make sure you’re drinking enough. You want to have pee that’s a light yellow. Clear is ok too and probably means you’re drinking more than enough. You’re looking at 12-15 cups of water a day.
Fiber is my favorite thing. It really is the underdog nutrient we don’t talk enough about. Fiber is what is going to help bulk up your poops plus give you really smooth, easy to pass poops. You also get the benefits of fiber helping with weight, cholesterol, and blood sugar. And if you are like me than you stand to benefit from improving your blood sugar. Check out this post about my 5 favorite fiber foods.
We really need to move more as a society. A lot of us are stuck in chairs and sitting all day and then when you get home you’re tired and naturally don’t want to move but we have to. Lack of movement, or fitness, can be a contributing factor for constipation. The best exercise for digestion is the one you do. It can be as simple as walking to something more high intense like HIIT.
Play! Have fun! So many people, myself included, can benefit from just doing something fun simply because its fun. Surprisingly many people don’t realize quite how much power stress has over our digestion. Stress can really be the worst thing for us and our constipation. Saying just to be less stressed is super easy to say but hard to do. I am challenging you to find one fun thing today and do it just because, no strings attached.
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.