How Being Constipated Can Hurt Your Wellbeing

by Isadora Baum, CHC

When you're feeling constipated, it can take over your whole being, as there's often discomfort, pain, and bloating that can make us feel not so hot. So, when you're struggling to go regularly, it's worth knowing what to do when constipated in order to find relief and get things moving again, as explained by experts at WebMD.

As a certified health coach, I work with clients on feeling comfortable in their own skin, and that often means feeling literally comfortable in their abdominal regions. Feeling bloated and backed up can be a struggle, and it can certainly weigh you down during the day and perhaps interfere with your ability to walk, exercise, eat, and enjoy certain things that we look forward to. Due to added pounds of water retention and dulled mood, explains personal trainer and running coach Susie Lemmer, over email with Bustle, you can feel insecure. Personally, I know what it's like to feel bloated and fatigued, and being constipated can definitely do that easily. Whenever I feel as though my bowel movements are slowing down, I take immediate measures to get things going again. Here are 11 things to do when you're constipated, so that you can recover quickly and get back to feeling like your lighter, energized, and fit self (which is what we all want, right?).

1. Eat Fiber

In interview with Bustle, Dr. Charles Galanis, a Board Certified Surgeon in Chicago and Rob Dorfman, Research Fellow at Northwestern Division of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery explain that eating a diet high in fiber could be beneficial for regulating bowel movements and preventing constipation. These high fiber foods include whole grains, beans and legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Aim to up your fiber intake if you notice bowels slowing.

2. Exercise Regularly

Galanis and Dorfman tout "regular exercise" as being a great asset for reducing the likelihood of constipation and for keeping the bowels moving at a regular, steady rate. Working out helps increase movements within the body, and if you workout on a consistent basis, you'll be better able to manage a reliable, bowel movement schedule, they explain.

3. Drink H20

Galanis and Dorfman also believe that "adequate hydration" is a great way to reduce bloating during the day and to help prevent constipation and fatigue. Plus, if you're taking laxatives, "excessive diarrhea can cause dehydration." Galanis and Dorfman advise, "stay hydrated to make up for all of the fluids and electrolytes you are losing in your feces." Drinking fluids might make our bellies feel full initially, but it will go away once we hit the bathroom and actually help flush out toxins better, they explain. Throw in fruit or veggies for an extra flavor punch.

4. Take Osmotic Laxatives

"Osmotic laxatives include magnesium compounds (i.e. magnesium hydroxide aka milk of magnesia, magnesium citrate), lactulose, and polyethylene glycol (aka PEG)," say Galanis and Dorfman. "Osmotic laxatives are rapid acting non-absorbable or poorly absorbable substances that as a result draw water into the bowel, creating a high volume of liquid stool and subsequent bowel evacuation. PEG is another osmotic laxative. PEG is a non-absorbable sugar that likewise draws water into the bowel, and PEG is commonly used for colonic cleansing before GI endoscopic procedures," Galanis and Dorfman explain. Discuss with a physician if this sort of laxative is for you.

5. Take Lactulose

"Lactulose, along with sorbitol, is another non-absorbable sugar that serves as an osmotic laxative. It is important to note, however, that the bacteria that live in your colon eat up both lactulose and sorbitol, and this means that these laxatives can cause severe cramps and flatus," say Galanis and Dorfman. If you're sensitive to pain, such as cramping, it might be best to look elsewhere for relief, Galanis and Dorfman explain, so discuss with a physician for alternative remedies.

6. Take A Stool Softening Treatment

Galnis and Dorphin say, "Stool surfactant agents, such as docusate or glycerin suppository, are more or less stool softeners that work by causing penetration of stool by water and fats, making the stool ‘softer’ and easier to pass." Speak with a physician to see if these are right for you. "These agents can be administered orally or as an enema to prevent constipation. Docusate is commonly given to patients in the hospital to reduce straining," Galanis and Dorfman say.

7. Take A Stimulant Laxative

Galanis and Dorfman advise that "stimulant laxatives (aka cathartics) cause bowel movements by causing electrolyte and fluid secretion into the colon, as well as by directly stimulating gastrointestinal smooth muscle motility." As a point of reference, "senna is one such cathartic agent," Galanis and Dorfman say. However, they express caution, as "chronic use of senna is known to cause a brown pigmentation of the colon referred to as melanosis coli," Galanis and Dorfman explain.

8. Take Bulk-Forming Laxatives

According to Galanis and Dorfman, "there are bulk-forming laxatives (i.e. psyllium and polycarbophil), which are indigestible plant or synthetic fibers that absorb water and distend the colon to produce a bowel movement." Galanis and Dorfman caution against abdominal discomfort, as "like lactulose and sorbitol, bulk-forming laxatives can also lead to bloating and flatus, so watch out." If you have tummy troubles, you might want to choose a different remedy.

9. Take Fish & Castor Oil

Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH in Everyday Health, this article notes that fish and castor oil have been shown to have laxative effects and can help rid the body of constipation and painful bowel movements. As explained, fish oil can mitigate symptoms of Crohn's disease and IBS, while castor oil can ease chronic constipation. Speak with a physician before taking these supplements.

10. Stick To A Consistent Schedule

Medical experts at Healthline shared that keeping a consistent schedule, for work, waking and going to bed, working out, and eating meals, among other life aspects and habits, can help keep bowels regular and avoid risk of constipation. As explained, shifting patterns can mess with the body and encourage blockage, which is obviously not a pleasurable consequence.

11. Take Probiotics

On Cleveland Clinic's blog, Brooke Gurland, MD, a surgeon with the Department of Colorectal Surgery at Cleveland Clinic, explained that taking probiotics has been shown to help her patients better manage their bowel movements and decrease risk of constipation. Such probiotics are found in supplements and foods, such as Greek yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and miso, among others.

If you're having stomach troubles and can't seem to keep your bowels regular, it's worth noting these lifestyle adjustments and healing remedies in order to get back to normal and start feeling more like yourself. Being backed up sucks, so aiming to go consistently is great for your health. Just remember, everyone does it.

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