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Constipation: What Drives it?

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Let me start this by saying, constipation is THE WORST.

Constipation makes you feel sluggish, tired, heavier than you actually are (hello water retention), and is overall extremely frustrating to experience. Especially if you don’t know what to do to fix it.

As someone who has struggled with constipation for periods of time throughout my life, and worked with hundreds of clients who are chronically constipated, I know exactly how much it impacts your daily life.

But the good news is, because of my own experience with constipation and through helping others to overcome it, I would now say I am an expert in helping people to poop.

Understanding what drives your constipation and how it first started is the key when it comes to finding relief. The problem with most medical interventions is that they focus on relieving the symptom only through using laxatives, which can actually make the situation worse when used long-term.

What you really need to be doing to find relief from your constipation is to work out two things:

  • When it first started (the initial trigger) - this gives important clues for what the 'root cause' may be.

  • What is continuing to drive it on a daily basis (ongoing triggers).

Common initial triggers for constipation include:

  • A prolonged stressor in your life that causes ongoing anxiety.

  • Starting a new medication.

  • A significant change in daily routine.

  • Hormonal fluctuations.

  • Significant change in diet.

  • An event that led to pelvic floor dysfunction (childbirth, pregnancy are common).

  • Surgery.

  • Onset of disease that is associated with constipation (thyroid disease and endometriosis are common).

Next, even though your initial trigger provides a lot of information around what your constipation root cause is, we want to consider ongoing triggers that contribute to you remaining constipated. This is very important, because even after the initial trigger and onset, there’s usually other factors that continue to drive it. This is what I refer to as the ‘constipation cycle’.

For example: a person may develop constipation after undergoing surgery and then taking pain medication post surgery. Surgery often leads to constipation because anesthesia stops intestinal motility for a period of time, and exercise/movement is usually reduced during recovery. Pain medications of the opiate variety are then frequently prescribed post surgery, which cause further constipation. While some people may return to normal bowel movements once they have recovered, for others this situation can lead to chronic constipation. This happens because the initial onset of constipation causes them to feel heavy, sluggish and bloated. Food intake then drops as an attempt to feel less full and reduce the perceived weight gain. Daily movement and exercise is reduced because it is difficult to find the energy for it when you’re undereating, feel bloated, uncomfortable and your pants no longer fit.

Undereating and lack of movement causes constipation to stick around even after you have recovered from the initial trigger. You may then start blaming food and restrict diet further, which unfortunately continues to drive the constipation cycle.

Even though it can be incredibly frustrating to hear advice like “eat more fiber”, “do more exercise”, and “drink more water”, especially if you have already cut out food groups in an attempt to improve your health and digestion, undereating is a massive contributing factor to ongoing constipation. If you’re not getting enough calories in on a daily basis, you will be unintentionally reducing fiber, water intake (because we do get a lot of fluid from food), and making it harder to have the energy to move your body and recover from exercise.

For most people with constipation, it is essential to work on both the initial trigger and ongoing triggers that have developed as a result.

  • If your constipation started from childbirth, work with a pelvic floor specialist AND addressing diet and lifestyle factors.

  • If your constipation started after a big stressor, work on regulating your nervous system AND addressing diet and lifestyle factors.

  • If your constipation started during perimenopause, work on balancing your hormones AND addressing diet and lifestyle factors.

You get the point. The biggest mistake I see when trying to overcome constipation is focusing on one single cause, when in most cases there are many factors to address.

If you’re absolutely sick of trying to find solutions for your constipation, and want to get back to feeling in control of your body, enjoying all foods and having energy to exercise, my 12 week 1:1 program will help you to do exactly that. Work with me to uncover your root causes, and ongoing triggers and become the pooping machine you were destined to be.

Start by booking a free introductory consultation here.

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