Health

Why Am I So Constipated? We Asked A Doctor, So You Don't Have To

In this instalment of Asking For A Friend, Dr. Seema Marwaha gives you the scoop on poop.

Let’s be honest. Some of us are full of crap. Literally.

Being constipated is a really common problem most people will experience at some point in their life. And it’s double trouble: For one, you have fewer bowel movements. Plus, the stools you do manage to pass are hard, and can cause strain. Here, general internal medicine specialist Dr. Seema Marwaha answers the questions about being “backed up” that you’d rather not have to ask.]

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How often should I have to go?

The normal length of time between bowel movements varies widely from person to person. Some people have them three times a day, others twice a week. Going longer than three days without one is usually too long — the stool hardens, and becomes more difficult to pass.

What do I get so backed up?

One of the most common causes of constipation is diet. Processed foods, dairy, red meat, salty foods and caffeine can sometimes make constipation worse. So can dehydration and not eating enough fibre. If you’re backed up, try drinking more water — 6 to 8 glasses a day — and adding more high-fibre foods like fruits, veggies and even high-fibre cereal into your diet. Remember that your body and intestines adapt to your diet, so if you make major changes to your eating habits, you can get constipated while your body adjusts.

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Why Are My Feet So Stinky? We Asked A Doctor, So You Don’t Have To

Another constipation culprit is a lack of exercise. Working out helps stimulate the natural contraction of intestinal muscles, which helps food move through your body quickly and easily. So get moving to get things moving!

Could a new medication be the cause?

Yes — constipation is a also a side effect of many medications including iron, calcium, antacids, narcotic pain killers, diuretics and anti-depressants. On a related note, stress, anxiety and depression can also back you up. Your brain and your bowels are thought to be linked.

Sometimes I know I have to go, but I just don’t feel like it, so I don’t. That’s ok, right?

If you repeatedly postpone bathroom trips until a more convenient time, you can disrupt the nerve reflex that prompts you to poop. To get back on schedule, try to reset your body by choosing a regular time and place to go — and give yourself plenty of time to get the deed done. 

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My mom used to tell me to drink prune juice. Is there anything to that?

If diet, exercise and routine changes aren’t helping to move things along, you could try some natural remedies, like your mom’s advice to drink prune juice or eating dried prunes or apricots. There are also many over the counter stool softeners, fibre supplements and laxatives you can talk to your pharmacist about.

Okay but this is totally normal, right? Do I have to worry at any point?

Constipation is common and usually easily treatable, but it can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical issue. Seek attention if you’ve had a sudden change in your bowel movements that isn’t due to a change in your routine, or if you’re experiencing abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, weight loss or constipation that lasts for weeks.

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