You might think that they are harmless, ordinary habits but they could be getting in the way of your body's digestive process.
Nobody likes that miserable, uncomfortable, annoying feeling of feeling constipated. It can throw you off your routine and ruin the rest of your day completely. But you might not know that some of the things you commonly do could be what's causing your constipation.
Constipation is so common that every year, at least 2.5 million people in America have to pay their doctor a visit because of it, according to the American College of Gastroenterology. What generally happens is that you're unable to pass your stools properly and have infrequent bowel movements. You would be experiencing chronic constipation if you have less than three bowel movements a week, as pointed out by Mayo Clinic.
Here are some extremely common habits that might be the reason for your constipation.
When you take time with your food, your body gets enough time to digest it well. But if you eat too fast than you normally do, your body might take that as a stress signal. "When your body is stressed, it doesn’t care whether you’re digesting your food well," Justine Altman, health and wellness expert, told Bustle. "The only thing that matters is surviving the immediate threat. The end result is poor digestion because your body resources are being used for fight-or-flight rather than rest-and-digest." And typically, this ends with making you feel constipated.
Water is one of the simplest, effective answers to having smooth bowel movements. It can ease constipation and is especially required when you have a diet rich in fiber. "Fiber is only effective if you have enough liquid in your diet," said Dr. David Poppers, clinical associate professor of medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology at NYU School of Medicine and NYU Langone Health, according to Women's Health.
But water can't be substituted with other liquids. Sometimes you might feel like coffee helps you pass stool better, it actually has a dehydrating effect. The same goes for alcohol. Although water is extremely important, you should also ensure that you're not having water or liquids while you're having meals as this can also sometimes get in the way of your digestive process and lead to constipation.
Sometimes, when your out or you're too busy you might hold it in when you feel the urge to use the bathroom. But when this happens to often, it can result in feeling constipated. The best thing is to have your bowel movements fall into a regular routine. "Some research suggests that people who use the bathroom at timed intervals and don’t fight the urge to have a bowel movement tend to have more regular bowel movements," added Dr. Poppers.
As you grow older, adding more exercise and physical activity can avoid constipation as opposed to a more sedentary lifestyle, according to Harvard Health Publishing. When you're physically active, your colon and abdominal wall muscles respond well and help in bowel movements. But if your muscles are weak, it can get in the way of smooth bowel movements and sometimes make you feel constipated.
Unless your pelvic floor muscles are relaxed, you won't experience smooth bowel movements. If your pelvic floor muscles are tight, there won't be enough room for it to come out. "Some people don't have the ability to relax these muscles as much or as well as they should and ultimately this leads to constipation," said physical therapist, Katy Rush. "In some cases, using a stool or a squatty potty can also help the pelvic floor muscles relax."
Nuts and dried fruits are harder for your body to digest. Although they are rich in fiber (which is good for bowel movements), they also need water to be properly digested. "So if you’re not extremely well-hydrated, those dried fruits aren't digested well, leading to dense stool that’s difficult to eliminate and causes a backup," said Altman.
Without enough thyroid hormones, most of the processes in your body start slowing down. This condition is known as hypothyroidism and it could also affect your digestive system. "If various constipation causes have been ruled out, an internist may check to see if your thyroid function is normal," said Jordan Karlitz, M.D., a board-certified gastroenterologist and a member of the American College of Gastroenterology. When your thyroid gland is underactive, this will weaken your digestive system and slow down your intestines, making you feel constipated.
It is believed that fermented foods, such as probiotic yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut are actually good for your digestive system. However, when you just start consuming them, it can lead to constipation for a short while. It's best to slowly introduce your body to fermented foods because, with time, it can be beneficial to your body. "In the long run, the beneficial bacteria they contain should help to improve your digestion and boost your immunity," said nutritionist Lisa Richards.
When you don't have your meals on time and often skip them, it can get in the way of your bowel movements. "Eating stimulates the reflex that causes stuff to move forward in the gut," said Joanne A.P. Wilson, MD, a gastroenterologist, and professor of medicine at Duke University Hospital in Durham, NC, according to Prevention. It's best to eat your meals at fixed regular times. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast is especially important to get your body in the right swing.
Sometimes, constipation could be a result of a digestive disorder called irritable bowel syndrome. "IBS is a very common disorder that can be either diarrhea predominant or constipation predominant," said Dr. Kartliz. "That can lead to chronic periods of time where you aren't going to the bathroom normally."
When you notice that nothing you do is helping your constipation and it's also causing you pain, it would be best to visit your doctor who can diagnose the real cause for your constipation and give you the right treatment for it.