The morning greets you with a rock and roll in your stomach. Maybe it’s all that fast food you devoured yesterday after a night out. Or the fact that you spent the last few days in bed, bingeing your favorite shows.
We’ve all experienced constipation. It’s one of the most frequent digestive problems and for most people, an acute one that goes away quickly. Although it’s not a life-threatening condition, once it’s out, a day gets that much brighter. But if it happens more often or turns into a chronic condition, it can be a real pain in your bottom in the most literal way.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation affects almost 2.5 million U.S. citizens, and the statistics are pretty similar in many developed countries around the world. However, although widespread, it is still very hard to define. According to some diagnostic criteria, functional constipation means you have persistent difficult, irregular, or incomplete defecation. That means you are constipated if you do not pass stool regularly. But you may also have this problem if you feel pain or discomfort while doing it, no matter how often.
Since constipation symptoms vary from one case to another, it is very hard to detect the reason why it happens. In other words, if it is not a symptom of some underlying condition, constipation is a functional disorder with unknown causes. Also, if it is not accompanied by bleeding, fever, weight loss, and anemia, it is likely to go away at some point and not cause any severe health problems.
That being said, there are certain situations when constipation is a result of a blockage in the intestines. In this case, a person suffering the obstruction will need immediate medical or surgical intervention. Therefore, to avoid complications and address the issue properly, you should look for both obvious and latent symptoms of constipation.
Signs and Symptoms
When it comes to constipation statistics, they show that most people relieve themselves at least three times a week. If you go fewer times, you might be constipated. However, it’s not only about frequency. It’s also about quality, consistency, required effort, and accompanying discomfort.
People have different bowel habits. Some go with one weekly bowel movement without trouble. Others feel uncomfortable even when discharging on a daily basis. If your feces are too hard and dry or if you have trouble or experience pain while defecating, you might have a problem.
Some people have a feeling of incomplete evacuation or rectal blockage. Even after they relieve themselves, they feel bloated or full. Also, constipation is usually followed by abdominal pain or cramps, and sometimes, it can cause nausea and loss of appetite. Any of these can be an indication that something is wrong with your digestive performance.
What Causes Constipation?
Signs and symptoms can vary. Thus, it is better if we try to understand how our bowels work and what causes constipation. The main job of your colon is to absorb water from food residues as it passes through the digestive tract. This is how your poop is created. If the food moves too slowly, the colon will take up more water, and the feces will become harder. And the more time it spends in, the harder it becomes to evacuate it.
There are various reasons, habits, or medical conditions that can cause constipation. We have listed some of them.
Underlying Medical and Physical Conditions
Constipation can be a side-effect of diseases like Parkinson’s or diabetes. Also, it can be a result of colon or rectum-related problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal obstruction, or diverticulosis.
Some studies show that around 50 percent of people with constipation have pelvic floor dysfunction. The condition includes impaired pelvic and abdominal muscles, which can cause both incontinence and constipation.
Hormonal and Psychological Problems
Constipation can also happen due to any condition that leads to slower colon muscle contraction. These conditions are sometimes related to hormonal disbalance or changes. For example, pregnant women or people with hypothyroid gland can experience slower bowel movement.
Also, bowel problems are sometimes related to mental conditions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression.
Side Effects of Medication
Taking certain medications, especially some pain killers, antidepressants, diuretics, iron supplements, or high calcium antacids, can lead to constipation. You should also be extra careful with laxatives. Although they soften the stool and facilitate discharge, they can also have adverse effects.
Diet, Lifestyle, and Habits
Constipation is often a result of your daily routine. If you spend days sitting on it, your rear problem will, so to speak, backfire on you.
A common opinion is that lack of water and low-fiber diet can lead to slower bowel movement and dry stools. It can also happen due to a change in your regular routine. So if you don’t eat enough cereals, fruit, and vegetables, avoid exercise, or tend to ignore or delay the impulse to relieve yourself, you can end up with a problem.
For most people, changing their diet and daily habits will help relieve digestive issues no matter what their cause is. However, this is also an individual thing. Poor diet does not necessarily cause constipation and vice versa — changing your habits will sometimes not save you from toilet torture.
Can Sex Toys Help?
Some studies suggest that using sex toys (particularly anally) can help with constipation.
For example, users online have reported getting an urge to go to the toilet soon after inserting butt plugs. So when they experienced constipation, they tried to initiate the act by using this particular toy. One user tried to explain the logic behind this by suggesting that the insertion of a foreign object activated the urge. However, it makes more sense that the lubricants performed their suppository-like miracle of facilitating the passage.
This positive side-effect of anal toys might not be circumstantial though. Butt plugs were originally designed and marketed as so-called rectal dilators. These were used to open and relax the anal sphincter and rectum to enable medical examination or relieve constipation. During the late nineteenth and the early twentieth century, stores in the United States sold anal dilators. These were marketed as therapeutic devices that supposedly treated a number of digestive problems. During the 1940s, however, the FDA condemned them as risky when used as indicated on the label.
However, these former constipation butt plugs became a thing in sex toys industry, addressing a somewhat different therapeutic effect. Whether they also cure constipation or not is a matter of individual experience and — let us be straightforward — rectal sensitivity.
It might sound as a detour, but one anecdote pops into mind when thinking about medical usage of sex aids. Recently, scientists have proven the beneficial effects of sex toys. Namely, they successfully treated tortoises suffering from constipation by massaging their tummies with dildos. How’s that for application diversity?
Usually, constipation will resolve itself without any specific medical treatment. But if changing your lifestyle and eating habits does not help, you should consult a doctor. They will ask you about your symptoms and medical history. Then, they will perform a basic physical examination to eliminate or detect any underlying condition. The doctor may also ask for additional physical and laboratory tests to find the exact source of your problem. One such test is a marker study, which examines how food moves through your intestines. The others, like enema x-rays and colonoscopy, are used to inspect your colon.
Based on the information, the doctor will suggest a fitting constipation treatment. Possible solutions include medications like laxatives and suppositories. If medication does not help, the doctor might prescribe enema or a therapy for slow muscles. Finally, if necessary, the doctor will remove the stool (or blockage) manually or surgically.
That being said, it is not advisable to use laxatives or suppositories without consulting with a physician. They can improve symptoms for a short time, but you should always use them according to the label instructions. The same goes for alternative remedies, such as acupuncture, massage, and herbs. Some studies have concluded that they can help in constipation treatment. However, since there isn’t enough evidence to confirm their benefits, you should always check with your doctor before trying things on your own.
Advice and Tips
The first constipation tip is to watch what you take in. A proper diet is the most important thing if you want to avoid this annoying problem. It means eating more fiber and drinking more fluid. But it also means quitting processed foods and cutting down on meat and dairy products. Although many people would claim that coffee is their laxative of choice, you should avoid caffeine and alcohol. For some people, they are dehydrating.
You should be careful with self-medicating, but there is no danger in trying some home remedies with no side-effects. For instance, you can try drinking a glass of warm liquid (preferably water) in the morning or eating prunes (dried plums), which have a beneficial effect on digestion. Many studies suggest that using probiotics can help in constipation treatment. You can take them as supplements or in beverages like yogurt and kefir.
Some even feel comfortable making use of anal douches or enemas to help get things flowing in the right direction. These simple devices allow you to "cleanse" your colon by flushing it out with water. Learn more about enemas here.
The second, equally important “constip,” is to move more. A general recommendation is to have a mild half-hour exercise at least five times a week. You’re free to choose whatever physical activity, but basically, you need to lift your butt to save it.
Finally, improve your toilet activity. Learn to relax and give yourself time. Do not delay if you need to go. If you’ve ever experienced constipation, you should know better than to avoid this kind of a booty call.