No matter how chill your bowels usually are, constipation happens. And while it may be tempting to reach (okay, lunge) for some OTC relief, your bod may be trying to tell you something—you know, besides that you’re backed up. If you’re wondering why things are slower-moving than normal, here are 13 sneaky culprits and what to do about them:
Yes, the same thing that helps move things along can also cause a traffic jam in your colon. The biggest faux pas many people make is increasing their fiber intake without also upping their water intake.
The thyroid regulates a smorgasbord of organs. When your thyroid is out of whack, the entire body goes into slow-mo, including your bowels. “
Travel-related constipation is super common, and stems from the disruption in your normal routine—number two or otherwise.
White rice is refined and stripped of all the good stuff like fiber, proteins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Basically, some of the very nutrients that can help you poop. The indigestible fibers that remain can obstruct the bowel and lead to constipation.
Constipation can be a side effect of certain SSRI antidepressants, such as Prozac (fluoxetine), though it’s more of a problem with older tricyclic antidepressants (TCA), such as Elavil (amitriptyline).
Bad bathroom habits
Some people hold out using number two in public, while others delay pooping because they’re in the middle of something. But if you put off boarding the number two train too often, your body’s natural sensors (the ones that tell you it’s toilet time) can go haywire.
Potassium is an important electrolyte for proper muscle movement. When your potassium is low, the muscles in your colon don’t move as much and can lead to constipation. Luckily, the cure is simple: Add more potassium to your diet with foods like potatoes, bananas, mangoes, prunes, raisins, and kiwis.
When you’re pregnant, the hormonal changes shift your digestive tract into relaxation mode, which in turn reduces contraction frequency of the colon. And as the pregnancy progresses, the pressure the growing baby puts on your bowels makes it more difficult to unclog your pipes. Use a combination of hydration, exercise, fiber supplements, and stool softeners to keep things moving—and if necessary, pregnancy-compatible osmotic laxatives.
Full fat dairy can cause constipation due to its high fat/low fiber content. Fat can slow digestion, while a sensitivity to lactose (milk sugar) can present as diarrhea or constipation. Either cut down on your dairy intake, or balance the scales by mixing more foods into your diet that contain fiber.
Irritable bowel syndrome
If you have IBS with constipation, or IBS-C, your bod isn’t pushing food from your stomach to your poop shoot as quickly as it should be. That, combined with your colon not secreting enough water, can lead to hard, dry stools.
Calcium supplements can have a mild binding effect in the stool, making it difficult to pass. Too much calcium in your blood can also change the way your muscles receive the signal to contract your colon, and could make these muscles sluggish.
Too many laxatives
Laxatives stimulate bowel activity, but relying on them too much can lead to more constipation. Over time, the nerve cells that release the necessary chemicals for your colon to do its thing end up depleted. This leads to your body needing higher and higher doses of laxatives to do the trick—until eventually, they don’t work at all.