People run away from talking about poop but it’s a normal human function. And, sometimes things can go wrong in this area. If you have ever asked yourself, “Why am I constipated all the time?”, then keep reading. There may be an easy natural solution for you!
Disclaimer: Constipation can cause or be caused by serious medical issues. Always be sure to consult with your doctor if you are experiencing constipation.
There are many possible causes of constipation ranging from serious medical issues to constipation from certain medications. We cannot explore all of these in one post and these types of issues are not my speciality. My specialty is how your muscles and lifestyle can impact constipation so that’s what we will be looking at.
What is considered constipated?
Let’s first go over the amount of times you should be having a bowel movement per week.
Normal frequency of bowel movements has a large range. You can go as much as 3 times per day and as little as 3 times per week and still fall within the normal range.
From my experience as a pelvic floor physical therapist who treated constipation, I found that many people thought that they needed to have a bowel movement every day and would get stressed if they didn’t. This is not true. If you are going 3 times per week and feel good, this is normal!
If you are going 3 times a week but still experience things such as straining with bowel movements, hard stools, or if you don’t feel completely empty after a bowel movement, then you may be experiencing constipation.
You should not spend more than 10-15 minutes on the toilet trying to defecate. If it’s been this long, get up and try again later.
Straining with bowel movements can also lead to other issues. A pelvic floor physical therapist can help you find ways to go to the bathroom without straining (we’ll go into more detail on physical therapy later in this post). For a general rule of thumb, never hold your breath while attempting to eliminate stool.
Also, you may be considered constipated if you depend on laxatives to have a bowel movement. Frequent use of laxatives can cause dependency on them. The longer you take laxatives, the less effective they will be in causing a bowel movement. If you are dependent on laxatives to have a bowel movement, I highly recommend you speak with your doctor to develop a plan that works for you.
Ok, that’s all for the boring stuff.
Let's get into the possible reasons you feel like your constipated all the time:
1. Your aren't drinking enough water
If you don’t drink enough water, your stool will become very hard which makes it difficulty to pass. If your poop looks like little marbles or “rabbit droppings”, you’re probably not drinking enough water.
You should be drinking around half of your body weight in ounces per day. AT LEAST two-thirds of the fluid you drink should be water. This is a general recommendation and could change based on certain factors such as activity level and being in hot/humid environments etc.
You can get a general idea of your hydration level by looking at the color of your urine. If the color is a dark yellow variation you are probably dehydrated. A paler yellow color would indicate that you are well hydrated.
Sometimes the answer to your constipation is as easy as drinking more water. I have seen this have a dramatic impact on people many times.
2. Poor diet
A healthy diet is so important for your body to function optimally. Food is your body’s fuel and if you feed it crap, you’ll probably feel like crap.
A common cause of constipation is not getting enough fiber in your diet. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber is found in foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and legumes.
Fiber basically helps regulate your bowel movements which is why it’s also recommended for people with loose stools.
Foods such as breads, bananas, and white rice can be more constipating.
Mayo clinic suggests that women should try to eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day and men should eat 30 to 38 grams a day. Although the site didn’t specify, I believe this number is for adults under 50. Kids require less fiber and I have also seen sources that state that adults over 50 years old require less fiber as well.
When increasing your fiber intake, do so gradually to allow your GI system to get used to the change. If you increase your fiber intake too fast you make feel gassy. Also, make sure you follow suggestion #1 and you drink enough water because fiber pulls water into stool. If you aren’t drinking enough water, it defeats the purpose of increasing your fiber to help with constipation.
3. Not enough activity
As humans we are meant to move and this modern day world forces many of us to be mostly sedentary.
If food moves too slowly through the intestines, this can cause you to feel like your constipated all the time. Getting in some activity everyday can help with healthy GI function because physical activity helps food move through your intestinal tract.
Any form of exercise can be helpful even something as simple as walking.
Yoga is also great for this. There are certain yoga poses that are intended to stimulate digestion. I have a yoga class on this which I’ll put at the bottom of this post!
4. Ignoring the urge to go
When you feel like you have to go to the bathroom and ignore it, the stool gradually becomes harder as it sits there, making it more difficult to pass when you finally get to the bathroom.
If you ignore the urge frequently, this could eventually cause issues with sensation which could lead to other issues down the line.
Also, if you constantly ignore the urge, your body gets used to this and now when it would normally signal to you that you have to poop, it waits. And what happens when the poop sits there? It gets harder and more difficult to pass.
So go when you have the urge!
5. Pelvic floor dysfunction
So this last reason why you may feel like you’re constipated all the time is one that many people are unaware of.
Pelvic floor dysfunction is a very broad term and it can be related to constipation.
Basically, your pelvic floor muscles need to relax and lengthen to have a bowel movement without difficulty. If your pelvic floor muscles are too tight, this could cause things such as straining or feeling like you aren’t fully empty.
Another thing that can happen is that you’re either unable to lengthen the muscles when you bear down or you actually do the opposite. When the muscles do the opposite, it basically means that when you’re trying to lengthen and relax the muscles, you actually contract and shorten them. The fancy medical term for this is dyssynergia.
A pelvic floor physical therapist can determine if you have any of these issues and can treat it. A pelvic floor issue related to constipation is probably more common than you think, so I highly recommend seeing a pelvic physical therapist. I have seen patients who suffered with constipation their whole life and after determining it was their muscles and treating the problem, they were able to have normal bowel movements again.
Even if it’s not your muscles, a pelvic floor PT is educated on everything I just spoke about and will be able to help you in other ways as well.
Many people suffer with constipation their entire life and don’t know that there are things they can do about it. I don’t want that to be you.
As you’ve seen in this post there are many natural ways to approach and treat constipation. You don’t need to be constipated all the time so listen to your body and take care of what it tells you!
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