7 Things You Should Never Do When You’re Constipated (2023)

We all have those days when it's so tough to have a bowel movement that even the throes of childbirth look like a cakewalk. In fact, it happens more often than you think: According to the Women's Health Foundation, more than 4 million Americans suffer from frequent constipation. And as luck would have it, women are three times more likely to get blocked up than men. Some doctors speculate it's because our colons are slightly longer, adding more twists and turns—and potential roadblocks—to our digestive tracts.

But while the bloating and abdominal pain associated with a gridlocked gut may be common, the symptoms aren't something you should simply flush down the drain. "Very severe constipation is not only very uncomfortable, but it can also lead to blockage of your colon (obstipation), which then may require more invasive treatment than laxatives alone," says Lee Ann Chen, M.D., a gastroenterologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. Translation: The last thing you want to do when there's a kink in your pipes is partake in anything that might plug you up even more. To help move things along when you just can't go, make it a point to avoid these poop-blocking behaviors:

If you want your inner plumbing to flow smoothly, you have to feed it the right type of food. It's no secret that processed foods are high in fat, which slows down digestion and contributes to constipation. But, according to Toyia James-Stevenson, M.D., a gastroenterologist at Indiana University Health, they're also loaded with fructans—carbohydrates that improve the shelf life of packaged foods but destroy our natural digestive processes. That's because our intestines don't have the enzymes that are necessary to properly break them down. "Fructans are found in several common foods like breads, pastas, and crackers," she says, "and they have been linked to causing GI symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas."

Rather than cracking open a bag of who-knows-what's-in-these chips, set your sights on gastro-friendly grub that's high in fiber and comes straight from the earth. These include fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, brown rice, wheat, and oats. "I tell my patients to aim for 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day," says Theodore Sy, M.D., board-certified gastroenterologist at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, Calif. "Fiber can sometimes cause bloating and gas, so it is wise to slowly increase the amount in your diet until you reach the recommended amount."

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While you might need an early-morning coffee fix or a nightly wine-and-dine for your sanity, swigging excess caffeine and alcohol could rob your body of the hydration it needs to have a proper bowel movement. "Drinking alcohol inhibits anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), and in doing this it causes diuresis, or urination," says Bhavesh Shah, M.D., medical director of interventional gastroenterology at Memorial Medical Center in Long Beach. "More diuresis can lead to dehydration, which can make the symptoms of constipation worse. Likewise, caffeine is a stimulant that can cause the opposite effect of diarrhea in some individuals."

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Water might not exactly be a beverage that'll turn your mood around on a dime, but it's the best thing to pour in your glass when you're feeling stopped up. "Adequate daily fluid intake is essential, and the average healthy woman should try to consume at least 91 ounces of water daily," says James-Stevenson. If you like to have options in terms of flavor, prune juice is the go-to alternative to the clear stuff for constipation relief.

This easy water bottle hack will help you stay properly hydrated every single day:

Trying to pass gas through an already backed-up colon isn't exactly a thrill ride. Actually, it can be downright painful. And since milky products are notorious for making you feel bloated when they're consumed, you'll avoid a whole lot of discomfort if you just say no to dairy when you're having trouble going No. 2. "These symptoms are due to deficiency of the enzyme lactase in the gut needed to break down [the lactose in] dairy into simple sugars that are absorbed by the small intestines," says James-Stevenson. "Dairy products that are high in lactose include cow's milk, ice cream, creams, and processed cheeses (like American and cottage cheese)."

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For those of us who can't get by without our Greek yogurt, the good news is that not all dairy has to be off-limits: "Good alternatives with lower amounts of lactose include lactose-free milk; sherbets; 'hard' cheeses, like Swiss, parmesan and blue; and yogurt," says James-Stevenson.

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If you've ever gotten the runs while running, you know that exercise has a regulating effect on the body. Inactivity does the complete opposite: "A low level of physical activity is a major risk factor for constipation," says James-Stevenson. "This is likely related to decreased gut movement and less blood flow to the gut." So if your pooping schedule isn't quite up to par, skipping out on your fitness routine isn't going to make your situation any better.

"Exercise increases blood flow to the vital organs of the body, including the digestive tract, and increases your metabolism," says Shah. Any type of exercise is helpful in combatting constipation—including walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga, and more—so pick your favorite and go nuts.(The Slim, Sexy, Strong Workout DVD is the fast, flexible workout you've been waiting for!)

"Iron and calcium supplements can cause constipation, as they can both slow down the contractions of the GI system," says Joann Kwah, M.D., attending gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. But proceed with caution: These vitamins are typically recommended by doctors if you have a specific deficiency. So if you have a medical condition that requires you to take them and the side effects are kicking you right in the gut, you can always ask your physician for alternative options (like eating more of these foods high in iron).

"It may be that you need a laxative to help you tolerate these side effects, or perhaps the dose or formulation of these supplements can be adjusted to improve their tolerability," says Chen. "Sometimes minor lifestyle changes are sufficient to overcome the constipation. Each case is different." If you're taking the supplements simply as a preventive measure and not for a medical reason, then it should be safe to ease up on your dosage. But when in doubt, always talk to your doc first.

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If you're taking over-the-counter painkillers on the daily and the struggle of going to the bathroom is oh-so real, then you might want to take a second look at what's in your medicine cabinet. "Several medications can contribute to constipation, including over-the-counter and prescription NSAID pain relievers such as ibuprofen and naproxen," says James-Stevenson.

This one's an easy fix: Discontinuing meds like Motrin and Aleve and making the switch to acetaminophen should help unclog your pipes. But again, always consult with your doctor before making any big decisions—especially if you're on a strict course of medication prescribed by your doctor for a preexisting condition.

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Pharmacy shelves are packed to the gills with different types of laxatives. At first glance, they might seem like the magic wand you need to make your poop-less bathroom visits disappear. But not all of these meds are created equal, and depending on them too much for relief can do more harm than good. "Your body can get used to relying on stimulant laxatives, like Dulcolax and Senna, in order to have a bowel movement if these types of laxatives are used on a long-term basis, as your colon can lose the ability to contract on its own," says Shah. This is just one of a host of side effects associated with prolonged laxative use, which include electrolyte imbalances, seizures, heart arrhythmias, muscle aches, and more.

To be on the safe side, follow the dosing instructions on the box, and don't use any type of laxative for more than a week or two without telling your doctor first. They might recommend that you take a different type of laxative (like an osmotic laxative, such as Miralax) or fiber-bulking agents (like Metamucil or Citrucel) instead. According to James-Stevenson, these are "considered safe for short- and long-term treatment of constipation symptoms." Regular probiotic use can safely stave off difficult dumps, too. (Here are the best probioticsfor your health.)

If altering your diet or activity isn't solving your poop problems at the end of the day, don't wave it off: "A change in your bowel habits can sometimes be a sign of something more ominous occurring with your health, such as colorectal cancer," says Chen. "If you notice a consistent change, inform your doctor."

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FAQs

How do you poop when severely constipated? ›

Take these steps:
  1. Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day, unless your doctor told you to limit fluids for another reason.
  2. Try warm liquids, especially in the morning.
  3. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet.
  4. Eat prunes and bran cereal.
  5. Exercise most days of the week. ...
  6. Don't ignore the urge to poop.
15 Nov 2021

How should you sleep when constipated? ›

Place a firm pillow between your knees and hug one to support your spine. While you sleep on your left side at night, gravity can help take waste on a trip through the ascending colon, then into the transverse colon, and finally dump it into the descending colon — encouraging a trip to the bathroom in the morning.

What should I eat for dinner if constipated? ›

Fiber
  • whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, and bran flake cereals.
  • legumes, such as lentils, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, and chickpeas.
  • fruits, such as berries, apples with the skin on, oranges, and pears.
  • vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, green peas, and collard greens.

What soup is best for constipation? ›

Beef broth, chicken broth, vegetable broth, or broth-based soups are other great food to help constipation.

What stuff makes you constipated? ›

Fried or fast foods

Fast food snacks like chips, cookies, chocolate, and ice cream may also replace more fiber-rich snack options, such as fruits and vegetables in a person's diet. This can further increase the likelihood of constipation by reducing the total amount of fiber consumed per day ( 13 ).

Should I force when constipated? ›

Don't Force Poop Out

When you're feeling constipated, you may be compelled to “force” your stools out. However, this can cause you to strain the architecture of your pelvic floor, including blood vessels, nerves and muscles, which can cause hemorrhoids and have a damaging effect on your long-term bowel habits.

How long is too long to be constipated? ›

Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become difficult to pass. It happens most often due to changes in diet or routine, or due to inadequate intake of fiber. You should call your doctor if you have severe pain, blood in your stools, or constipation that lasts longer than three weeks.

How long should you wait to go to the hospital if you're constipated? ›

If your constipation is severe or accompanied by diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, or if you can't have a bowel movement after trying all natural laxatives, it's time to see your physician. If you are unable to have a bowel movement in one week (six days), it's time to seek help from a doctor.

Does constipation cause you to pee alot? ›

Constipation

Sometimes constipation causes urinary frequency. If you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week, you may have constipation. This can cause the rectum to swell with stool and push on the bladder. The enlarged rectum leaves less room for the bladder to fill and creates an urge to pee more often.

Where do you feel pain when constipated? ›

Constipated patients may feel tightness in their abdomen, or a sharp, cramping pain deep in their gut. They may also feel full all the time—as if they've just eaten a large meal—even when they haven't eaten for several hours. Patients may also feel gassy, but passing gas does not relieve discomfort.

Does heat help you poop? ›

But heat can be mentally and physically relaxing. It may help relax your intestinal muscles so they function better. That can help with bowel movements. Be sure to use heat for short periods of time.

What food worsen constipation? ›

Worst Foods for Constipation
  • Dairy. 1/8. If you get constipated often, do yourself a favor and take a look at your diet. ...
  • Fast Or Prepared Foods. 2/8. Does your busy lifestyle have you eating on the go? ...
  • Fried Food. 3/8. ...
  • Eggs. 4/8. ...
  • Tender Meat. 5/8. ...
  • Cupcakes. 6/8. ...
  • White Bread. 7/8. ...
  • Alcohol. 8/8.
28 Jun 2022

Is soup good for constipation? ›

Clear soups may be particularly effective at easing constipation since warm liquids and foods are generally easier to digest.

Is cheese good for constipation? ›

Foods to Avoid When Constipated

Slattery cites cheese as a particular constipation culprit. “Really high-fat foods slow down digestion,” she says. “Fats are tricky to digest, and take a long time for the body to break down. Also, most high-fat foods are low in fiber and delay motility.”

Are crackers good for constipation? ›

* White bread: White flour is notorious for constipation. Avoid cakes, biscuits, white bread and crackers as these are low in fibre and high on starch. Instead, opt for whole grains.

What is best for constipation in the elderly? ›

Increasing dietary fiber intake to 25 to 30 g daily may improve symptoms of constipation. Encourage physical activity to improve bowel regularity. If nonpharmacologic approaches fail, recommend increased fiber intake and/or laxatives to increase bowel movement frequency and improve symptoms of constipation.

Is Jello good for constipation? ›

Limit binding foods such as apples, bananas, rice, cooked carrots, cheese, and gelatin such as fruit snacks and Jell-O®. Limit milk and dairy products (substitute with non-dairy and soy products) until constipation is gone.

What are the 10 most constipating foods? ›

15 Foods That Cause Constipation
  • Bananas.
  • Chewing gum.
  • Caffeine.
  • Gluten.
  • White rice.
  • Persimmon.
  • Red meat.
  • White bread.

What is the longest time someone has had constipation? ›

Next time you're reaching for the laxatives spare a thought for those with extreme constipation which can cause serious medical damage. In 2013, a 28-year-old woman from Chembur, India, had to have surgery to remove a “football-sized faecal mass” after 45 days without a bowel movement.

What are 3 signs of constipation? ›

What are the symptoms of constipation?
  • Difficult and painful bowel movements.
  • Bowel movements fewer than three times a week.
  • Feeling bloated or uncomfortable.
  • Feeling sluggish.
  • Abdominal pain.

What will Hospital do for constipation? ›

The physician will many times insert a tube to help decompress the bowel which also provides the patient with significant relief. All in all, it is imperative to learn and understand that the stool is waste matter.

What do hospitals use for constipation? ›

A number of prescription medications are available to treat chronic constipation. Lubiprostone (Amitiza), linaclotide (Linzess) and plecanatide (Trulance) work by drawing water into your intestines and speeding up the movement of stool.

What happens to bladder when constipated? ›

Constipation and Urology

Large amounts of stool in the colon can put pressure on the bladder which can cause the bladder to not fill as much as it should, or cause the bladder to contract when the bladder is not supposed to contract. This large amount of stool can also cause the bladder to not empty well.

Can you poop and pee at the same time? ›

When you do pass stool however, the relaxation of the stronger anal sphincter also decreases tension in the weaker urinary sphincter, allowing urine to pass at the same time. But this isn't always the case – it is possible, but difficult, to do one without doing the other.

Can constipation damage your bladder? ›

Constipation can affect bladder control and urinary continence. If you sometimes leak urine (wee) or feel that you need to frequently visit the toilet to pass urine, it could be that constipation is involved.

What should I drink first in the morning for digestion? ›

Ginger is a popular common cure of stomach woes, and for good reason. Sipping on ginger tea first thing in the morning can ease stomach discomfort , nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. To make ginger tea, add a few tablespoons of finely grated fresh ginger to a cup of boiling water and steep for five minutes.

Does Sprite help digestion? ›

Your digestion will improve.

A carbonated drink can help with all parts of the digestion process, from swallowing to relieving constipation.

What does severe constipation feel like? ›

Having lumpy, hard, dry stool that's difficult to pass. Straining to pass stool. Feeling like you still need to go after you have a bowel movement (like you haven't fully emptied your bowels) Feeling like there's a blockage in the intestines or rectum.

What position helps you to poop? ›

The Continence Foundation of Australia recommends: sitting with your knees higher than your hips (use a foot stool or other flat, stable object if necessary) lean forward and put your elbows on your knees. relax and bulge out your stomach.

Can sitting in warm water help constipation? ›

Sitz baths may ease constipation. Warm-water sitz baths increase blood flow to the anal tissues, which may help relieve constipation by relaxing the rectum. Promoting better bowel movements by using sitz baths can help you avoid developing tissue tears or hemorrhoids from straining to eliminate stool from the bowel.

Will hot tea make you poop? ›

Hot or iced black tea may have a mild enough laxative effect that it can help prevent constipation, but you can consume it daily without long-term health risks. Adding honey or molasses to your tea may enhance its laxative properties.

Should you push during constipation? ›

Avoid immediately trying to push the poop out. Give your body about 5 minutes to get things going. Having reading material nearby is one way to avoid impatience and the urge to strain.

How long should you sit on the toilet? ›

Most professionals recommend spending no more time on the toilet than it takes to pass a stool. Studies have shown that the average bowel movement takes 12 seconds. Sometimes it does take longer, however, so at maximum, you should not spend more than 10 minutes on the toilet.

Can you pee and poop at the same time? ›

When you do pass stool however, the relaxation of the stronger anal sphincter also decreases tension in the weaker urinary sphincter, allowing urine to pass at the same time. But this isn't always the case – it is possible, but difficult, to do one without doing the other.

Can constipation cause stroke? ›

This is probably why chronic constipation has been linked to a higher risk of strokes and other cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and cardiac arrests. Another reason why stroke often happens in the bathroom is due to the fact one is likely to slip and fall while bathing.

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