What are typical constipation factors in your everyday life?
When you manage to realize why you’re experiencing constipation symptoms, you’ll be able to act on it. So, let’s see how your lifestyle can trigger discomfort in your body.
Nutrition has a direct impact on your transit and your ability to manage a peaceful routine. Not eating enough high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains may cause you constipation. Eating a lot of high-fat meats, prepared food1, dairy products and eggs, or rich desserts and sugary sweets may cause constipation.
Stress is impacting our bodies in various ways, including triggering constipation. Whether you’re experiencing stress at work, fighting against deadlines or going through a tough personal period of time, it can all impact heavily on your digestive system. Factors like emotional stress may exacerbate the pain and have a constipating influence on the bowel habits2.
Lack of activity
Moving your body is important to keep things active inside, If not you can get constipated. It can get difficult to stay active when you’re taking care of your family, have an absorbing job, if you are stuck at home. Especially long periods in bed due to illness or following surgery may cause constipation.
How does your lifestyle impact your body and engage occasional constipation?
Constipation symptoms could be a sign that your body is lacking some elements to fully function. Here are the bodily impacts of an inadequate diet or lifestyle:
Eating too fat and too high-caloric food can cause constipation because this type of food usually does not have enough fiber in it. Fiber keeps more water and bulk in your intestines. That makes stools softer and easier to pass. And if you don’t have enough in your diet, you can get constipated.
It is no secret that we often go through stressful periods of time. So do our bellies. Your gastrointestinal tract is a nervous system organ (just like the brain), and it can be affected by situational or chronic stress. When we’re feeling stressed, we are more subject to lack of sleep, less physical activity or just fall out of our normal rhythm. Our bodies go through routines, changing them might trigger constipation symptoms.
A few tricks to move things along
There is no secret: to help yourself feel better, the first step is to change a few things in your daily life. But don’t worry! You don’t need to change your habits all at once; step by step, see how your body reacts to the few changes you make.
1. Get a high-fiber diet
A high-fiber diet helps you normalize bowel movements to help prevent and treat constipation, because it increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it3.
Adults should get at least 25 grams of fiber a day. Good sources of fiber are fruits (berries, apples, oranges, prunes...), vegetables (carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes...), nuts (almonds, peanuts, pecans...), whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, wheat bread...) and legumes (lentils, black beans, soybeans...) could help4.
2. Get some exercise
Physical activity can make daily life better. So get more active, exercise most days of the week. — and start feeling better right away! Everyone has their own workout routine, but most of all you need to know what kind of exercise will make you feel better. Always listen to your body; from walking to yoga or stretching. If you’re not sure about the right dose of activity or if you do not already exercise, consult your Healthcare professional.
Not convinced? Physical activity also improves mood, focus, sleep and helps feel more energized, calm and confident, etc.5
3. Set up your own poop routine
In an ideal world, your bowel movement should be accorded with your body internal clock. Everyone is different, so sometimes it needs a little training. Start setting up your poop routine by setting aside regular times to get in the bathroom, after breakfast or dinner. Don’t ignore the urge to poop, doing this a lot can lead to constipation.
4. Take control on your stress
Stressful times can have a clear impact on our digestive systems. Simply taking the time to relax can help you feel better. Unwind with your favorite music, take the time for a healthy activity… In short: take care of yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you start talking about constipation, the same questions often pop up.
Lifestyle factors such as stress and other psychological triggers may be responsible for the onset of constipation. Science has shown that stress disorders and constipation often occur together. Studies show a slower rate of motility (speed of transit of food) through the colon in patients who have anxiety (feeling of unease or worry). But it is not known if anxiety appears first and causes constipation or vice-versa. A theory put forward to explain the link between stress and constipation involves the enteric nervous system and gut-brain axis6.
This enteric nervous system (ENS) or ‘second brain’ describes the nerves lining the digestive tract. These nerves consisting of millions of neurons control the digestion of food. In states of stress and anxiety, disruption to the ENS-brain connection reduces motility (speed of transit of food) through the gastrointestinal tract, leading to constipation. This represents a malfunctioning of the ‘gut-brain axis’, which connects the gut to the brain7.
Disruptions in these systems of the gut-brain axis are thought to occur in stress and anxiety. For example, anxiety may act to restrict the function of smooth muscle to cause constipation. Alternatively, stresses not coped well with may be ‘internalized’ and lead to changes in gut-brain signalling. These examples show how stress and anxiety reduce the speed of transit of food through the digestive system, and cause constipation. Problems with the gut-brain axis may also be linked with irritable bowel syndrome8.
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- Basilisco G, Coletta M. Chronic constipation: a critical review. Dig Liver Dis. 2013 Nov;45(11):886-93.
- Soares RL. Irritable bowel syndrome: a clinical review. World J Gastroenterol. 2014 Sep 14;20(34):12144-60. http://dx.doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v20.i34.12144
- MayoClinic 2019 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (NIH) – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Constipation. 2018 https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation/eating-diet-nutrition
- ODPHP (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of disease prevention and health promotion). Health Care Providers: Talk to your patients about physical activity, 2018 https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/PAG_MYW_FactSheet_HCP_508c.pdfhttps://health.gov/sites/default/files/2021-02/PAG_MYW_FactSheet_HCP_508c.pdf
- Jessurun JG, van Harten PN, Egberts TC, Pijl YJ, Wilting I, Tenback DE. The Relation between Psychiatric Diagnoses and Constipation in Hospitalized Patients: A Cross-Sectional Study. Psychiatry J. 2016;2016:2459693.
- Mindsethealth - Anxiety and Constipation - Can Stress Cause Constipation? 2019 https://www.mindsethealth.com/matter/anxiety-and-constipation
- Furness JB. The enteric nervous system and neurogastroenterology. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Mar 6;9(5):286-94. http://www.uzhelth.org/docs/second-student-mobility/furness%202012.pdf