Can't Poop? Here's Everything You Should Know About Constipation
All backed up?
Even if you can usually set your watch by your bathroom breaks, you're bound to have a slowdown once in a while. Here's how to defeat—and avoid—this common GI problem.
Watch the video: 7 Reasons You're All Backed Up
When the going gets tough
The term constipation refers to three issues. The first is infrequent bowel movements. "Normal" activity can range from three times a day to once every three days, says Anish Sheth, MD, a gastroenterologist in Princeton, N.J., and author of What's Your Poo Telling You? ($5; ). Being constipated can also mean that your stool is dry and hard, or that it's difficult to pass. So if your BMs are more spaced out than usual—whatever "usual" is for you—and especially if the backup is causing discomfort, then, yes, you're constipated.
Inside your plumbing
1. The food you eat enters your stomach, where it's ground into small particles.
2. The particles head to the small intestine, where enzymes break down fats and proteins so that theyalong with other nutrientscan be absorbed.
3. What's left (a liquid mix of fiber, bacteria, undigested fats and mucus from your digestive tract) moves to the large intestine, which pulls out water, making a more solid stool.
4. The stool passes into the rectum, at the end of your large intestine, where it becomes compacted.
5. Once your rectum reaches capacity, your brain gets a signal that it's time to go. When you're ready to push, the abdominal and rectal muscles tense while the sphincter muscles relax.
What's the deal?
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You're taking new meds
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How to get (and stay) regular
DO eat enough of the rough stuff
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DO drink lots of water
DON'T use laxatives
DO hit the gym
DON'T hold it in
DO try probiotics
DON'T check Facebook in the bathroom
RELATED: 13 Surprising Causes of Constipation
Is yours normal?
What's not: Red or black, which can indicate bloodthough black stools may also be caused by Pepto Bismol, and red can sometimes occur if you eat lots of beets, notes Gina Sam, MD. Whitish or yellow stools could be signs that your body isn't absorbing enough nutrients from food.
What's not: Small, hard rabbit pellets mean you're probably not getting enough fiber. A mushy or liquidy consistency is a sign of inflammation, which could be caused by certain medications, a food intolerance or allergy or an infection.
Watch the video: 3 Ways to Get More Fiber
What's not: A super-intense foul odor. "Most of the time, a very strong smell is due to a high-fat, high-sugar diet," says Dr. Sam, although it could also signal an infection.
What's not: Persistently thin, pencil-like stoolsespecially if they become skinnier over timecan indicate cancerous growths inside your colon, says Roshini Rajapaksa, MD.