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Healthy Aging

5 Surprising Constipation Triggers

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 03/15/2016
Last Updated: 03/15/2016

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Unfortunately, being a woman increases your risk of chronic constipation; hence many men being the envy of their female partners.

So, what's causing your symptoms? While most of us know that a diet low in fiber and fluids can be a culprit—you need about 25 grams of fiber each day and six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid daily—there are other less-known offenders.

1. Foods.  Just as there are foods that promote regularity, there are others that can impair it.

A 2005 study showed that when patients were asked which foods caused constipation, they most frequently blamed chocolate; also cited were white bread, black tea and bananas. On the flip side, coffee, wine and beer were perceived to have the opposite effects. Other likely culprits: a diet low in fiber and high in cheese.

2. Vitamins. Generally, vitamins shouldn't cause constipation, but there are certain components in them that may play a role, such as iron and calcium.

3. Certain medications. Sedatives, narcotics, antihistamines, some antidepressants and medications used to treat high blood pressure (calcium channel blockers and some diuretics) can cause constipation.  If you use laxatives to treat constipation, be aware that if you use them for a long time, they can lead to dependence, meaning your body won't be able to function properly without them. And beware of some antacids—they may contain aluminum or calcium, which can contribute to constipation.

4. Your thyroid. An underactive thyroid—called hypothyroidism—can slow your body's metabolism, including the activity in digestion and elimination. 

5. Depression. Similar to hypothyroidism, depression can slow down your body's normal processes and lead to constipation.

It's important to remember that there are lifestyle modifications to help prevent and relieve constipation, like eating fiber-rich foods, drinking plenty of fluids and exercising regularly.

Here's some sage advice from the Mayo Clinic:

"Call your doctor immediately if you have bloody stools, severe cramps, pain, weakness, dizziness, unusual tiredness or rectal bleeding. You should also see a doctor if you have unexplained changes in bowel patterns or if constipation lasts longer than seven days despite laxative use. If you're dependent on laxatives to have a bowel movement, ask your doctor for suggestions on how to gradually withdraw from them and restore your colon's natural ability to contract."

And finally: Did you ever consider that your posture in the bathroom can affect the ease of elimination? A study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences found that squatting produced more success than sitting on either a 16-inch or 12-inch toilet. While I'm not suggesting you go out and purchase a bucket, it might be helpful to place your feet on a low stool to enable a better position.

More (Bathroom?) Reading:
How to Deal With Constipation
Tips for Coping With IBS Symptoms
What Your Poop May Be Telling You


Oh my goodness...there is nothing more unpleasant for sure. It's good to be aware of the triggers. Thanks for sharing this.

Fascinating discourse on a subject that usually isn't talked about. The posture point makes a lot of sense.

Surgeries can cause changes in digestive behavior too. I'm thinking of gall stone surgery which removes an organ involved in digestion.

I am having so many bladder and bowel issues that this is an extremely useful article, Sheryl! Wonderful.

Don't hate me, but I have never been constipated. Thank God. I have to hope it always stays that way.

Ground flax seeds are the best stool stimulant I've ever found.

I have ibs so I deal with constipation a lot. Glad for the informational article.

Foods and depression are the main causes for me. Our diet could lead us to some complications if we eat unhealthy foods. Stress and depression are the other cause for constipation problem. We just have to drink more water and an herbal supplement like this Digestic by Mimonis could be very helpful to a lot of people here. It is very effective treating our constipation problem a few months ago that is why we trusted it.

This was really interesting. It is so strange to see the new commercials on TV about constipation related to taking opioids. To realize enough people are doing it to warrant several whole commercials.

I found myself in the ER several years ago with a severe backup that was causing me much pain. The only thing I'd done differently is switched to a healthier vegan diet. My acupuncturist thought it might have been all of the yucky stuff that had built up in my system trying to eliminate itself at the same time. I have no idea, but I know I don't ever want to go through that again!

It's always interesting to me how depression affects our body. That it's not just a brain thing - it messes with every other aspect of our body.

I usually don't have too many issues with constipation. Shredded wheat is my secret solution. :-)

Good information Sheryl. I 'd add that changes in what you eat and srink while you are traveling can be a factor, too.

Great advice on a topic that many may not want to talk about. And most people only think constipation results from not eating enough fiber, not all the other things that can impact our colon.

Certain medications FOR SURE. I once gave up a med for this very reason.


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