As a gut health specialist, I regularly talk to my clients about pooping. I ask how often they’re going and what shape it takes.
“On a scale of charcoal briquettes to Hershey’s syrup, what’s the consistency of your bowel movements?”
You’d be surprised how many clients aren’t having the optimal soft but solid #3 or #4 log at least once daily.
Constipation is when you have 3 bowel movements or less per week. Constipated stools are usually hard or dry, difficult to pass, or leave you feeling like some stool just won’t come out no matter how long or hard your try.
Constipation is common. According to this study, about 2 percent of Americans (that’s over 4 million people!) experience frequent constipation.
The 6 surprising causes of constipation are dysbiosis, dehydration, medications, lack of exercise, inadequate fiber, and simply not eating enough.
Causes of Constipation
- Not eating enough fiber
- Not eating enough
- Sedentary lifestyle
To help you have a better bathroom experience, below are my six favorite ways to get things moving.
Get enough dietary fiber
A major cause of constipation is inadequate fiber intake. Most Americans only get half the recommended daily amount: 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men.
It’s best to work with a Registered Dietitian to ensure you’re getting enough. It’s also important to increase your intake SLOWLY as your microbes will throw a party with large increases of fiber and cause GAS. Visit Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet to learn more.
Consume adequate calories.
Restrictive eating patterns signal “starvation” to the body. In response, the body slows down digestion to extract as many calories as possible, resulting in constipation. It’s also more difficult to eat adequate amounts of fiber when restricting calories.
Drink plenty of water
As you increase your fiber intake, it’s important to drink more water. Fiber is like a sponge, pulling water into the gut and softening your stool. When dehydrated, stools dry out and get harder to pass.
Be aware of constipating medications
All medications have side effects. Visit The Big 8 Constipation-Causing Medications to learn if the medication you’re taking might be backing you up.
You’ve got to “move it, move it” to move it
Long periods of sitting tends to put your muscles to sleep, including the smooth muscles that push food through your digestive tract. Standing up and walking around every 90 minutes or so can keep metabolism elevated, digestion active, and stool moving in the “out” direction. In other words, regularly moving your body helps the digestive system get moving, too!
Beware of methanogen overgrowth
Recent evidence indicates that certain gut microbes, called methanogens, produce methane gas. When overgrown to the point of dysbiosis, the abundance of methane gas slows peristalsis and results in constipation.
Note: at this time, DNA stool tests are only available through integrative dietitians and other functional medicine practitioners. Check out the Total Gut Health Program for more information.