A good diet supports good digestion. And good digestion nourishes the body. However, sometimes this cycle gets off track and you become constipated. It can happen when you travel. Or spend time sick in bed. And especially when you get dehydrated.
But even when you stay hydrated and eat right, there are 10 other factors about which you might not be aware that can contribute to constipation.
1. Low thyroid can affect bowel function. It essentially slows down all bodily functions. Including your digestion. Your physician should diagnose and treat this condition.
2. Opioid painkillers can also cause constipation. Yes, they effectively manage chronic pain and post-surgical pain. But they also slow down the movements of the GI tract. So patients and their physicians need to be on the lookout for constipation.
3. Ironically, taking laxatives regularly can also lead to constipation. As with many stimulants, your body builds up a tolerance. So, you may begin taking a laxative for a little help moving things along. But before long, you need more and more laxatives to keep things moving. Eventually, you might not have a normal movement all week long…with one big movement one or two times a week. It’s better to avoid laxatives altogether. The temporary “help” isn’t worth the long-term consequences.
4. Taking antacids for heartburn can lead to constipation as well. Antacids that contain aluminum are probably the culprit. Just a reminder…don’t take anything that contains aluminum, no matter the reason.
5. Antidepressants can also cause constipation. They’re notorious for it, in fact. You see, they interfere with normal nerve transmission. And your body needs normal nerve transmission to stimulate the bowels to move.
6. Diuretics can also cause constipation. Diuretics belong to an old class of high blood pressure medications. They force the body to lose water from the kidneys. So the bowels makes up for it by absorbing more water from the stool. This causes hard bowel movements.
7. During pregnancy, constipation is a common problem. Initially, changes in diet and hormone levels effect bowel function. Later, the weight of the baby, placenta, and amniotic fluids can press down and block the intestines. Just don’t ever resort to taking a laxative. Consult with your ob-gyn about appropriate exercises than can help.
8. Most people associate irritable bowel disease (IBD) with diarrhea. But some people will develop chronic constipation that alternates with runny stools. Truthfully, any painful condition of the bowel can cause constipation. Including fissures and hemorrhoids. It happens because people avoid having bowel movements altogether. (Ironically, hemorrhoids can develop in the first place from straining at stool due to constipation).
9. Heavy metal poisoning is another cause. Exposure to lead, in particular, damages the nerves that supply the intestines.
10. Finally, both calcium and iron dietary supplements can cause constipation. Of course, you shouldn’t take either of these as supplements. You can get healthy amounts of calcium and iron with a good, balanced diet. But your diet must include fish, meats, cheeses and green, leafy vegetables. And never take an iron supplement, or any supplement with iron, unless you have been diagnosed by a doctor with iron-deficiency anemia.
Ultimately, don’t let the relentless advertising about “regularity” influence you. Many people have regular bowel movements once or twice a day. Others may have them two or three times per week. As long as you’re consistent, and don’t have discomfort or experience significant changes, don’t worry too much about how often you go.
Just make sure to eat right. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. I always recommend Red Joe rooibos powder.