What's really making you feel constipated?

Doctors believe that nature’s call is experienced differently by each of us. However if you’re often constipated and waiting days for one bowel movement, it could be helpful to know the causes.

The Mayo Clinic describes constipation as having less than three bowel movements each week. When waste moves too slowly through our digestive tracts, it can become hard, dry and stubborn.

Chronic constipation occurs when this persists over a number of weeks. Straining in the bathroom can place our bowels under too much pressure, which isn’t healthy long-term.

“Some people experience chronic constipation that can interfere with their ability to go about their daily tasks”, the Mayo Clinic advises.

The most effective way to treat chronic constipation is to understand its underlying causes. Although, these triggers can vary from person to person.

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Blockages in your digestive tract:

The digestive tract runs from your mouth to anus, so it’s extremely delicate. However, blockages towards the end of our colon or rectum can lead to chronic constipation.

If your stools don’t move fluidly, you may have an obstruction or anal fissure. Increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains because fiber can improve your digestion.

In extreme cases, colon or rectal cancer can cause constipation. For this reason, it’s important to visit your doctor if constipation persists.

Problems with your nerves or hormones:

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When something is awry with our nerves or hormones, the digestive tract often shows it. If you’re chronically constipated, your nervous system or hormonal balances may need a check.

Anxiety can impact our “need to go”, but in more extreme cases so can Parkinson’s disease, Multiple sclerosis or even Stroke. Consult a GP if you’re worried about these nerve disorders.

Similarly, the hormones that affect fluid levels within our body can result in constipation. Having an overactive or underactive thyroid could be the real reason you’re feeling blocked up.

Regular exercise will ensure blood flows into your nervous system, delivering essential nutrients and invigoration. Exercise will also help you to regulate fluctuating hormones.

Weak pelvic floor muscles:

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Speaking of exercise, if you’re constipated it could be because your pelvic muscles have weakened. In fact, pelvic floor exercises are essential for maintaining regular bathroom habits.

The inability to relax your pelvic muscles and allow for a bowel movement is called “anismus”. When your pelvic muscles can’t contract properly it’s called “dyssynergia”.

The Mayo Clinic advises ‘training’ your pelvic floor muscles. “Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles at the right time during defecation can help you pass stool more easily”, it says.

As with all medical content on Starts At 60, this article is general in nature only. If you’re suffering from ongoing constipation, consult with your GP for personal treatment and advice. 

Do you live with chronic constipation? How to you maintain regular bathroom habits?