Constipation – What Causes It and What Foods Can Help

Constipation can be quite a pain in the butt—literally and otherwise! Though it’s usual to experience changes in our bowel movement, in some people, these changes occur as constipation or difficulty in passing stool. So for those of you who are frequently constipated, it’s a good idea to learn about what causes constipation and how changing your foods habits can help you remedy this awful feeling.

By the way, many people come to me asking about what to take for constipation, which isn’t really surprising as this condition is one of the most common digestive ailments in the U.S. It’s time to change it! Don’t be shy.

Constipation – Which Symptoms to Expect?

I’m sure that everyone knows what it’s like to be constipated—feeling bloated, having discomfort in the lower abdomen, and having difficulty passing stools. Medically, constipation is described as having fewer than three stools in a week. Additionally, a more accurate description would be having hard, dry, lumpy stools that are difficult to pass out.

Other symptoms may include straining to poop, the feeling that you still “have to go,” and pain during pooping. In more severe cases, bleeding in the rectum can occur.

What Causes Constipation?

A number of factors can be the cause of your constipation. The most common of this is a lack of fiber in your diet. Fiber bulks up the feces and makes it much easier to pass. If you frequently consume foods that are low in fiber like meat and dairy, you are more likely to suffer from constipation.

A lack of water and being frequently dehydrated can also make you feel constipated. This is because the stool should contain a certain amount of water for it to pass easily.

Some people also experience constipation when there are changes in routine. Traveling, having different meal times, and even a drastic change in sleeping patterns can affect the digestive system and lead to constipation.

Being pregnant also raises the risk for constipation. This is due to the increase in hormones that slow metabolism for more nutrients to reach the fetus. This is why constipation is one of the most common complaints of pregnant women. (See specific post I wrote about it – Pregnancy Constipation – What to Take for Much-Needed Relief!)

Other causes of constipation include aging, inactivity, and a condition called irritable bowel syndrome. Some medications may also cause constipation, such as narcotic painkillers, medicines that contain aluminum, and certain drugs for high blood pressure like water pills, nifedipine and diltiazem.

Delaying bowel movement or ignoring the urge can also cause hard stools. This is because a lot of water is reabsorbed in the colon, and the longer defecation is delayed, the more water is lost from the stool.

Are There any Foods Changes I Can do to Prevent and Ease Constipation?

The most important diet changes you need to do are to drink more water and eat more high-fiber vegetables and fruits. Sure, this may be a challenge to meat eaters out there, but try adding in a little more veggies or fruits each day, and you’ll see improvements in just a few days!

Examples of fiber-rich foods are whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and fruits. Most natural plant-based foods are high in fiber, so they don’t just ease constipation but also makes you healthier!

There are certain foods as well that you can consume to help with this. Dried fruits like dates, raisins, figs and prunes can help relieve hard stools. Prunes, in particular, can help relieve constipation. Not only are they high in fiber, but contain sorbitol that helps draw more water to the stool. Prune juice can also be helpful.

Some people also report that yogurt can help move things along. Plus, you an add in some berries as well! Not only do they contain a lot of fiber, they’re also low in calories. This means you can consume an entire bowl without worrying about your weight!

In some cases, constipation can happen very frequently and can occur even with changes in your diet. If this happens to you, it’s a good idea to pay your doctor a visit. This can help determine if there are more serious causes of it. These may include problems with the colon, rectum or with the nerves and structures in these areas.

If you’re looking for faster relief, check out my next post where I talk about medications and some Over-the-Counter and natural remedies you can take to relieve constipation – Constipation Remedies – Over-the-Counter Meds for Relief!