5 Reasons You're Not Pooping
This is kind of gross, but hey, we're close friends, right? So I feel confident that you won't be horrified when I tell you that every time I fly, I get constipated. Like, profoundly constipated. I don't remember exactly when it began, but I know it got serious a few years ago: I was on a trip to L.A., and three days into enjoying the temperate weather and reasonably priced avocados when I realized that the last time I had pooped, it had been in my bathroom in New York. Now hyper-aware of my stopped-up bowels, I was unable to enjoy any classic Hollywood tourism activities, such as mistaking everyone (including toddlers and stray cats) for celebrities; instead, all I could think of was the poop that could not get out. What was wrong with me? Why was this happening? What god had I displeased? Did west coast living disagree with me so intensely that my body was rebelling? Was it because of all the complimentary nut-free cookies I had housed on the plane ride over?
On the sixth day of my vacation, I finally pooped, and was legitimately happier and more excited than I had been during my college graduation ceremony. As I celebrated my newly-evacuated bowels, I learned that, while it is never a good idea to go too crazy on complimentary nut-free cookies just because your in-flight TV broke, the actual act of flying around on an airplane was what had constipated me. I also learned that airplane travel is but one of the many normal situations and things that can cause our butts to become extremely unhappy. So come along with me, won't you, and discover some of the reasons you're having such a hard time pooping? It'll be magical and informative! Like children's educational television from Britain. Only about dropping a deuce!
1. You're Not Eating Enough Fiber
Makes sense to start with the basics, right? Fiber — a substance which can be found in most fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and whole grain breads — helps you poop. So if your attack of Infinite Toilet Sadness came after a week where you forsook all things green and leafy in favor one dollar pizza three times a day, every day, well, there's your answer, champ. DOESN'T SEEM LIKE SUCH A BRILLIANT BUDGETING PLAN NOW, DOES IT?
The good news: you can solve your problem pretty easily by just eating some fiber. The bad news: eating fiber won't solve your problem, uh, immediately. But if you make a point of mixing in some fiberous foods with whatever form of snackery you generally prefer, you can help prevent this sad situation from reoccurring.
So how much fiber do you have to eat to make the trains run on time, as it were? According to Everyday Health, "The national fiber recommendations are 30 to 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women." What the hell does 25 grams of fiber a day look like? Could be a cup of quinoa and two cups of raspberries — Lisa Nelson at Health Central has a great piece that can help you turn those abstract fiber recommendations into actual foods you can insert into your snack-hole. But remember to also consume plenty of liquids, too; if you eat a ton of fiber but forget to stay hydrated, you can actually still get constipated, even though you ate broccoli. God's cruelest joke, surely.
2. You Recently Flew On A Plane
OK, so you eat plenty of fiber, but you're still walking around with what appears to be concrete in your bowels. What else could be up? (aside from you lying about your regular fiber intake, which I assume you're doing —hey, no judgment, that would also be my first instinct if some random internet stranger rolled up to me and was just like "Why is your butthole so sad?")
But, sure, for the sake of argument, let's say you're the mayor of Fibertown and you still can't poop. Have you just flown or otherwise gone on a trip? For a variety of reasons, OUR BOWELS HATE VACATIONS, and will often ruin them by refusing to let us experience the sweet release of easy defecation.
Why? Some people attribute vacation constipation to diet changes while traveling — and yes, it's true, your vacation diet will often be different from what you eat at home, whether its due to a new local cuisine, or just eating out every meal. But as Dr. Jennifer Svahn, a vascular surgeon at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, told Yahoo! Style, sitting on planes for extended periods of time causes your digestion and metabolism to slow, as well as your metabolic rate. Changes in routine — like those that happen when you're, say, flying across the country and a few different time zones — can also stop up the works.
What can you do? Try making sure that you get up periodically on your plane ride and walk around the cabin, stay hydrated — oh, and don't consider a vacation an excuse to subsist exclusively on gas station taquitos (yes, I know its spring break. Doesn't change anything).
3. Your Thryoid Is Slow
If you're constipated despite eating lots of fiber, and you refuse to even look at a plane, let alone ride one, you are probably very keen on making sense of your predicament. To which I say: are you also by any chance also experiencing fatigue, joint pain, dry skin, depression, memory problems, or inexplicable weight gain? Then you could quite possibly be suffering from hypothyrodisim, a condition in which your thyroid — a gland that excretes hormones into your body — is functioning too slowly, leading to the common symptoms listed above, as well as some unusual ones (not to brag, but I happen to suffer from hypothyroidism, which I discovered because the area in the front of my neck where the thyroid is located began bulging out so weirdly that my therapist commented on it. Yes, I lead an extremely glamorous life).
Luckily, malfunctioning thyroids can be easily treated with medication, which will have you pooping like a champ — and also, like, feeling less depressed and exhausted and dry-skinned — in no time.
4. You Were Taking Prescription Painkillers
I don't remember having my wisdom teeth removed at all, even though it involved a multi-hour surgery. I do, however, remember the poop that followed a day or two later. You may be saying, "What's wrong with you? Who remembers a specific poop?" The answers are: 1. lots of things, but few of them are applicable to this specific article; 2. I remember it vividly because I have never in my life had a poop as painful and unpleasant as this poop. My struggle to get it out tested the limits of both my sphincter and my mind, as I feverishly tried to remember what I had eaten that had done this to me. I thought all that apple sauce would come out as easy as it went in, you know?
What I didn't know then is that prescription painkillers — the kind you get following surgery — slow the digestive tract to a virtual stop, meaning that any poop that is in there will also dry out, which makes it harder to get out when the day finally comes. If you're going to be having surgery and will be prescribed painkillers, you may want to chat with your doctor about whether you should also pick up a stool softener at the pharmacy — I know that sounds embarrassing, but trust me, your doctor spends all day dealing with like bloody cysts and broken legs and people who stuck toy cars into their intimate orifices and now can't figure out how to get them out. Talking about stool softeners with you will probably be the most relaxing thing they get to do all day!
5. You Keep Holding Your Poop
Yeah, not pooping actually makes it harder to poop. Isn't it ironic, Alanis? (Irony lives, even in your bowels). According to Men's Health, "When the last part of your intestines fills up with stool, they send a message to the brain that it’s time to go to the bathroom. If you don’t send the stool out, the gut continues to draw fluid out of it for as long as it remains there. That makes the stool harder and dryer, which can make it more difficult to pass."
So if you're the kind of person who is prone to "holding it" for whatever reason — you hate to poop at your S.O.'s house; you're afraid your coworkers will think you're gross; you prefer to wait until all nine of your roommates are out at their hot yoga classes or Tinder dates or whatever the hell they do all night — try to make your peace with the situation and just go. In some ways you're actually lucky, because your constipation has a simple cause and an even simpler solution. So grab your phone and tell all your roommates that for the sake of your health, they're going to have to straighten their hair in the living room for the next 10 or so minutes.
Images: Emma Lord/ Bustle; Giphy