10 FAQs about Occasional Constipation

10 FAQs about Occasional Constipation

Going “Number Two” is one of our core natural instincts … so if you struggle with occasional constipation, you know how uncomfortable, frustrating, and downright unsatisfying it can feel.

Luckily, a couple of key simple changes can make all the difference in keeping your gastrointestinal system healthy and your bowel movements regular. Read on for answers to all your most pressing constipation questions – and for ideas on how to find constipation relief.

10 Questions and Answers About Occasional Constipation

1. What causes constipation?

Occasional constipation can stem from a variety of diet and lifestyle factors. Some common issues that can impact your ability to go on the regular include:1

  • Low dietary fiber - Dietary fiber from plant-based foods is crucial for maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system and regular bowel movements.
  • Low physical activity - Keeping active and moving regularly is also important to help you move your bowels.
  • Not enough water intake - Dehydration can lead to small, hard stools that are difficult to pass.
  • Certain medications - Certain medications and supplements (like iron pills, for example) can lead to occasional constipation.
  • Abnormal bathroom schedules - An irregular bathroom schedule, or ignoring your urge to go, might make it harder to poop regularly.
  • Hormonal changes - Some hormonal fluctuations might also impact your bowel movements. A key example of this is pregnancy-related constipation.

2. How do I know if I’m dealing with occasional constipation?

When it comes to pooping, since everyone has a different poop schedule and idea of what is normal for them, it is understandable we might not always know where we individually stand. If your bowel habits have been the same for 10 years, then they are probably “normal” to you. However, health experts generally agree that constipation is defined as experiencing fewer than three bowel movements per week.1 Again, this can vary from person to person – it’s more important to keep track of your own version of “regular” so that you can identify any unusual changes.

So how do you know if you may be experiencing constipation? Constipation symptoms include having fewer bowel movements than 3 a week as the experts say, but an occasional constipation experience for you could also be more than 3 bowel movements in a week but less than your regular bathroom routine. You might also find yourself “straining” while using the bathroom, or that you are left feeling distinctly unsatisfied after going, like you haven’t fully evacuated your bowels.

You might also find that the texture of your bowel movements has changed. They might be hard, dry, lumpy, and harder to pass.

3. What’s happening in your body when you’re constipated?

Under normal circumstances, the food that you eat moves through your digestive system from your mouth all the way through to your stomach and intestines, which absorb essential nutrients and get rid of the nonessentials and that which we can’t digest as waste. This waste ends up in your large intestine, which also reabsorbs liquids, forming your stool. Eventually, you get rid of all this waste by pooping.2

But if you’re constipated, your stools become harder to pass, interfering with your ability to poop regularly. This could be due to dehydration, which leaves your stools small and hard in your colon rather than becoming rehydrated in your colon. Your stools might also be lacking in bulk, which could be due to a lack of dietary fiber. Or you might experience slow “gut motility,” in which the transit of your stool through your colon is unusually slow. You may also experience some other side effects like bloating and digestive discomfort because of the waste “trapped” inside of your colon.3

4. What helps with constipation?

So, what can you do to deal with occasional constipation? As it turns out, quite a bit!

Constipation relief may be found with just a few simple lifestyle interventions including:

  • Increasing physical activity - More movement is always a good thing, including occasional constipation. A 2019 meta-review of nine different trials found that exercise interventions with aerobic activities like walking is helpful in promoting regularity.4
  • Changing up your diet - Probably unsurprisingly, the foods that you eat can have a huge impact on your poop quality. Eating more foods with dietary fiber can make a big difference in your gut health (more on this in a bit!).
  • Taking fiber supplements - One easy way to incorporate more fiber into your diet if you struggle to meet the daily recommended fiber content in your diet is to take a fiber supplement like Metamucil Fiber Powders and Metamucil Fiber Capsules, which contain psyllium husk for fiber.
  • Hydrating - Getting enough water is essential for keeping your stools soft and hydrated, which ultimately makes them easier to pass. Drink plenty of water if you get occasional constipation to keep your gastrointestinal system happy.
  • Changing your position - Something as simple as changing your position on the toilet can help you move your bowels more easily! For example, some people find that having their feet elevated on a stool or other sturdy platform rather than flat on the floor helps.

5. How does fiber help with constipation?

Dietary fiber is a kind of carbohydrate that can be found in many plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber, which is also sometimes called “roughage,” isn’t digestible by your body – instead, it passes through your gastrointestinal system and plays several beneficial roles along the way. Some types of fiber serve as food for our microbiome which can break them down. Other kinds of fiber give your gastrointestinal system a boost by adding bulk to your stools, drawing water into your intestines, improving gut motility, and ultimately making it easier to do your Number Twos.5

Unfortunately, recent studies have found fewer than 10% of American adults are getting enough fiber in their diets.6 Adding a daily fiber supplement like Metamucil Fiber Powders to your diet is a great way to increase your intake of this essential dietary component while helping you get relief from occasional constipation. These Fiber Powders contain Psyllium Husk, a type of fiber that forms a “gel” that traps and removes waste in your system.*

6. How long does constipation last?

Just as everyone has a different “normal” when it comes to poop frequency, there’s also no one set answer on how long constipation should last. It can also vary depending on what you to do relieve your occasional constipation. For example, if you use Metamucil Fiber Powders as supplements for occasional irregularity, you can generally expect a bowel movement in 12 to 72 hours. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about your occasional constipation or if your constipation lasts longer than 7 days.

7. What is safe to take for constipation while pregnant?

Pregnancy is bound to be one of the most exciting phases in your life, but the resulting hormonal changes can also lead to uncomfortable symptoms including constipation.7 Fiber supplements like Metamucil Fiber Powders are an option for many pregnant women with occasional constipation. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure it's right for you.

8. How do you prevent constipation?

Maintaining a healthy diet, exercise routine, and regular schedule are all critical for keeping your bowel movements regular. If you find that you are dealing with occasional bouts of constipation, some things you could do to prevent it include:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids to stay well-hydrated
  • Keeping a regular bathroom schedule in which, you set aside an unrushed period of the day for eliminating
  • Keeping up your physical activity and incorporating plenty of movement every day
  • Don’t ignore your urge to go, which can make it harder for your body to recognize those signs over time
  • Eating a balanced diet with plenty of dietary fiber and whole foods

9. What foods are good for constipation?

Some great foods for constipation include foods that contain insoluble fiber, or “roughage,” which helps promote bowel movements. Examples of foods that are good sources of insoluble fiber include:8

  • Whole grains
  • Cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

10. When should you see a doctor about constipation?

Occasional constipation can happen to almost anyone, and it generally isn’t a cause for concern. However, if your constipation is chronic, or lasts longer than 7 days, check in with your healthcare provider. If you have any concerns about your constipation, check in with your healthcare provider.

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