Constipation is a common issue that affects most people and pets from time-to-time. However, knowing that everyone has been in your shoes isn’t very helpful when you’re dealing with the negative side effects associated with this medical issue, including abdominal pain, nausea and bloating.
The good news is that there are ways to minimize the duration and suffering involved with constipation. You can also make a few simple lifestyle changes to prevent future issues.
The Association with Other Health Problems and Side Effects
When you get constipated, your digestive system slows down. Over time, you can develop a blockage that makes it impossible for waste to pass through your body. This can lead to problems that are much bigger than simply feeling uncomfortable.
Research  indicates that people who suffer from constipation have a higher risk of developing urologic disorders, hemorrhoids, fecal incontinence, anal fissures and colonic conditions. Another serious medical problem that can arise from constipation is a fecal impaction. This comes with additional side effects such as:
• Weight Loss
• Rapid Pulse
• Urinary Incontinence
• Rapid Breathing
Sadly, if a human or animal reaches the fecal impaction stage and doesn’t get medical assistance, they could actually die  from not having enough productive bowel movements. This is especially problematic for cats because they can become seriously impacted after only two or three days  of being constipated. Pet owners need to always remain aware of their animal’s bowel movements in order to prevent an untimely death.
Humans typically produce 1 ounce of fecal matter  daily for every 12 pounds of their weight. This means that someone who weighs 170 pounds can expect to pass .88 pounds of stool today. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and you’re probably never going to actually weigh your stool.
Most people are considered to be in the healthy bowel movement range if they eliminate fecal waste anywhere from once every three days to three times per day. The important thing is to know what’s normal for you and take action if anything changes.
There are several things that could be causing you to feel constipated. Some of the most common risk factors include:
• Not getting enough fiber
• Eating too many dairy products
• Overconsumption of caffeine or alcohol
• Eating foods high in sugar and fat
• Lack of exercise
• Sudden diet changes
• Certain prescription medications
• Irritable bowel syndrome
The Other Health Issues That Can Result in Constipation
If none of these risk factors appears to be the culprit, you could be suffering from another health issue that can lead to constipation. Here are a few additional things to keep an eye on:
People who have hypothyroidism are more prone to becoming constipated. If you have this condition, you need to take proactive steps to help prevent bathroom issues. Also, if you’re young and experience constipation frequently, talk to your doctor about whether or not it’s possible that you have undiagnosed hypothyroidism.
Excessive Chocolate Consumption
Studies have shown that chocolate may be the culprit  in some people’s constipation woes. If you frequently indulge in this sweet treat, you may want to try reducing your intake or eliminating it altogether to see if that helps you stop getting constipated.
Iron and Calcium Supplements
One of the reasons it’s recommended to consult with a doctor before starting any new supplements is that some of them may cause unexpected health problems. Calcium and iron supplements have been linked to constipation, so it’s best not to take them unless it’s actually necessary. Fortunately, those who must take these vitamins can use a stool softener to help balance things out.
Depression and Antidepressants
Antidepressants can occasionally cause constipation. If this happens to you, consult with your doctor about the possibility of adding a stool softener. Before you consider changing or eliminating your antidepressant because of constipation, be aware that depression can also have a negative impact on your bowel movements.
The Best Treatment
If you’re currently constipated, you need to take steps to correct the problem before it becomes worse. There are numerous options available, but please note that each may be more or less effective than usual for your body. Due to this, you may need to try a few different things before you get relief.
When you first begin to get constipated, you can put some gentle home remedies into action:
• Take a slow walk once a day
• Increase your intake of water
• Schedule enough bathroom time so that you don’t feel rushed
• Boost your consumption of fiber
• Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet
• Put your feet on a 6-inch stool while attempting a bowel movement
If these methods don’t work within a couple of days, you can turn to over-the-counter assistance:
• Use Metamucil, Citrucel or Perdiem
• Use a stool softener
• Try a laxative
Although constipation feels like a very private thing and may be embarrassing to talk about, you need to reach out for medical assistance if your best home remedy efforts fail to produce the desired results within one week. Stay alert for other issues that would make it necessary to visit a doctor even sooner, including blood in your stool, rectal pain and uncontrolled leakage.
Remember: if constipation goes on for too long, you could become impacted. From there, it’s possible to develop serious health complications, and you could even die.
Death from constipation is rare, but it happened to a 16-year-old British girl in 2013  . In another interesting example, Elvis Presley’s doctor has stated  that he believes chronic constipation was the true reason for the singer’s death.
One bout of constipation is more than enough to inspire most people to look for prevention methods. There are many simple lifestyle changes that will help.
The Mayo Clinic recommends exercising for 30 minutes per day to maintain a healthy body. You can incorporate a variety of physical activities, ranging from running to Tai Chi. Walking for 30 minutes daily is a great way to hit your fitness requirement.
Do you ever feel hungry for no good reason? The odds are high that your body is actually becoming dehydrated. Many people don’t get the minimum daily recommended amount of eight glasses of water per day, and this leads to issues such as constipation and headaches.
Studies have found  that women actually need at least 9 glasses per day, and men typically need 13. These numbers can also increase if you have a lot of physical activity.
Switch to a High-Fiber Diet
If you’re not getting enough fiber, you’re highly likely to end up dealing with multiple bouts of constipation. Good sources of fiber include vegetables, fruit, beans and whole grains.
Depending on your gender and age, you should be getting somewhere between 21 and 38 grams  of fiber daily. A simple guideline is to shoot for 14 grams of fiber within every 1,000 calories of food.
Reduce Stress and Anxiety
When you become overwhelmed with stress or anxiety, your body often reacts in a negative way. Constipation is one of the common side effects of high levels of anxiety and stress.
To reduce this risk factor, put aside some time each day to relieve stress by meditating, doing Tai Chi, reading, walking in a wooded setting, napping or partaking in another relaxing activity that you enjoy. It’s best to steer clear of screens and electronics during your relaxation time.
The Permanent Relief
Everyone will probably experience constipation at least once in their lives, but you don’t have to let it turn into a chronic problem. Instead, become proactive today by boosting your fiber intake, starting a daily exercise routine, increasing your fluid consumption and reducing your stress levels. Even if you have a busy lifestyle, you can de-stress in just 45 seconds  !
Featured photo credit: David Murphy/Flickr via flic.kr
|||^||USNews: Constipation May Lead to Other Problems|
|||^||WebMD: Gastrointestinal Complications (PDQ®): Supportive care – Patient Information [NCI] – Fecal Impaction|
|||^||PetMD: 8 Ways to Help Your Constipated Cat|
|||^||Quicker Rooter Plumbling And Heating: The Scoop on Poop in Calgary|
|||^||Health: 13 Surprising Causes of Constipation|
|||^||Mirror: Tragic teen who died from constipation after refusing to go to toilet was ‘not listened to by authorities’|
|||^||Fox News: EXCLUSIVE: Elvis Presley’s Doctor Claims He Died of an ‘Embarrassing’ Case of Chronic Constipation|
|||^||MayoClinic: Water: How much should you drink every day?|
|||^||Everyday Health: Fiber: How Much Is Too Much?|
|||^||Lifehack: 45-Second De-Stress Tips|