Habits That Cause Constipation and How You Can Prevent It

If you've ever been constipated, you know that it’s uncomfortable. But making a few changes to your daily life can relieve the problem, even keep it away for good.

See how your habits measure up.

You don’t move enough. If you don't exercise or you spend a lot of time just sitting, you can get constipated. It can be a problem for people who have to stay in bed a lot or just can't move much because of a health problem.

The answer: Try to exercise every day. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout. It's just important that you move on a regular basis. Even a 15-minute walk can help.

You don’t get enough fiber. It keeps more water and bulk in your intestines. That makes stools softer and easier to pass. But if you don’t have enough in your diet, you can get constipated.

The answer: Add lots of high-fiber foods to your meal plans, including fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole-grain breads and cereals. But add it in slowly. If you start eating too much all at once, that can cause constipation.

You don’t drink enough. Fluids, especially water, keep everything moving in your digestive tract.

The answer: You don't have to focus on drinking a certain number of glasses of water a day. Instead, keep a bottle of water with you and remember to drink from it all day. Juice is OK, too, but watch other drinks. Fluids that have caffeine -- like coffee and soft drinks -- may make you dehydrated and make your constipation worse. And milk can make some people constipated.

You don’t go when you need to. If you ignore the urge to poop, you may eventually stop feeling the need to have one. Maybe you don't go because you're busy or you don't want to use a bathroom outside your home. But doing this a lot can lead to constipation.

The answer: No matter where you are, use the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge to go.

You don’t stick to a bathroom routine. The longer stool stays in your intestines, the harder it gets. And that makes it harder to pass.

The answer: Try to have a bowel movement at the same time every day. It could help you to be more regular. Eating helps waste move through your colon. So you might try going to the bathroom 15-45 minutes after breakfast. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time so you don't feel rushed.

Your medicines are to blame. Some drugs that you take for other conditions can cause constipation. This can include antacids, narcotics, antidepressants, and drugs that treat high blood pressure.

The answer: Don't stop taking any medication without talking to your doctor. Instead, try other habits to ease constipation. Drink plenty of water, move 15-20 minutes twice a day, and eat plenty of fiber-rich foods. Ask your doctor if you should take a laxative or other medicine to help ease your constipation.

You use laxatives too much. Laxatives can help with constipation every once in a while. But if you rely on them, your bowels may start to depend on them to function. When you use them for a long time, it can actually make constipation worse.

The answer: Think before you reach for a laxative. First, try drinking water, adding more fiber to your diet, and exercising. If those don't work, talk to your doctor. She may suggest trying a laxative for a little while if lifestyle changes aren't helping.

WebMD Article | Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 13, 2017

SOURCES:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Symptoms and Causes of Constipation,” “Eating, Diet, and Nutrition for Constipation,” “Definition and Facts for Constipation.”

New York State Department of Health: "All About Calcium Supplements."

University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute: "Instructions for Starting Oral Iron Supplements."

Arnaud, M. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, December 2003.

UNC Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders: “Stress and the Gut.”

Mayo Clinic: “Constipation: Causes.”

@2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.