Meet the doctors
We asked real doctors about real home remedies for fast constipation relief. In this article we have compiled their responses so that you can better understand the causes of constipation, how to prevent the problem, what you can do for relief and when to seek medical attention.
- Kristin Struble, MD, FAAP
- Talar Tejirian, MD, FACS
- Dr. Keesha Ewers
- Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
- Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
- Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT of Healthline
What are the primary causes of constipation?
Dairy. Cow’s milk and dairy products are largely responsible for our constipation epidemic. Contrary to popular belief, our bones won’t crumble without them. In fact, there are studies showing excluding them makes our bones stronger.
Medications are a big contributor as well: aluminum-containing antacids, high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, anti-seizure medication, opioids like codeine and morphine, antihistamines like Claritan and Zyrtec, iron supplements, anti-nausea medications, just to name a few.
There are many different causes of constipation. The most common cause is dietary, specifically not having enough fiber intake. However there are many other causes and contributing factors such as thyroid problems, diabetes, certain medications, increasing age and not getting enough exercise.
It is less common, but still possible to have a physical problem involving the intestines, the anal and rectal area, or the muscles that control pooping. Adding to this are the incorrect bathroom habits that have become part of our culture that contribute to the countless people that suffer from constipation.
Hormones in pregnant, menopausal and postpartum women as well as poor diet and behaviors. Incorrect defecation posture and positioning can also contribute. ~Marianne Ryan PT, OCS
Unbalanced Diet: Dairy, refined and processed foods, fried foods and others that cause occasional constipation, when consumed excessively, can lead to chronic constipation. Medications: Certain medications may cause chronic constipation. Be sure to read the side effects on labels. Inactivity and Lack of Exercise: Staying active and fit is one of the best ways to prevent and relieve occasional constipation. Altered Bowel Habits: Holding in bowel movements or just ignoring the urge to go is one of the most common causes of occasional constipation. Rarely holding it in won’t cause any long-term problems, but doing so frequently may be creating a bit of a traffic jam in your intestinal tract.
Stress: If you don’t find a way to reduce your daily stress you may end up experiencing constipation. We all encounter stress throughout our day and react to it differently. Get the stress relief you need before it becomes a compounded problem.
Constipation can have any number of root causes. A primary cause of constipation is a diet consisting of foods high in fat and sugar. This type of diet deprives the intestines of dietary fiber that helps promote bowel movements. Other dietary causes of constipation include not drinking enough fluids, or eating large amounts of dairy products. Disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anal fissures or hemorrhoids, intestinal obstructions, and pelvic floor problems can also cause constipation. It can also be caused by a variety of medicines, such as pain medication, anti-depressives, and antacids.
Poor bathroom habits are another cause. It’s important to go poop when you first have the urge. Delaying it causes more fluids (and salts) to be absorbed out of the stool in the lower intestine, so it just gets harder. Most people get constipated if they get too busy to go to the bathroom, especially kids.
There seems to be a general consensus among our doctors about the causes of constipation. We can sum up these causes as being related to the following:
- Poop posture
When should I seek medical attention?
Make sure the medical intervention is with a functional medicine provider, otherwise you will just get a prescription for a laxative. Seek medical attention if:
- you have not passed a bowel movement in over three days
- there is blood in your stool
- you are having other symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and gas.
People, especially older adults, often believe they are constipated when they aren’t. Bowel habits do change with age. The normal range for bowel movements can be from three times per day to three times per week. If you believe you have chronic constipation, consult your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Call your doctor if:
- constipation is new for you
- constipation has persisted more than three weeks and you’re going three times a week or less
- your stool is hard and difficult to pass
- you’re losing weight without trying
- you have severe pain with defecating
- you have blood in your stool
See your doctor to rule out more serious conditions like colorectal cancer or colon inertia. Your doctor may suggest medication to help overcome occasional constipation. ~Healthline
Even though many people’s constipation is not a sign of an underlying problem, sometimes it can be. Therefore it is important to see your doctor with all your health concerns. You should never be embarrassed to discuss constipation, problems pooping, or booty problems with your doctor. Seeing a physician knowledgeable with these problems to discuss your symptoms and get a good exam is invaluable. There are some symptoms that may require additional investigating or testing. These symptoms include a change in your bowel habits (such as thinning stool, constipation, diarrhea) , blood in the stool, any problems in the anal area such as pain, bleeding, itching or a mass, no improvement in constipation with fiber and water, weight loss, or abdominal pain. Basically, anything that is a new or different problem needs to be discussed with your doctor. Additionally, if your doctor gives you a treatment plan that doesn’t work, then you need to report back and let her or him know. ~Dr. Tejirian
All of these are urgent reasons to visit a health care professional:
- if you or your family member have large stools (common clue: often large enough to clog the toilet)
- if consistently straining to go, if with wiping blood is seen on the toilet paper or in poop
- if stool consistently becomes pencil-shaped or watery diarrhea
- if the stool turns black or white
- if unintentional weight loss occurs
- if chronic abdominal pain is affecting ones quality of life
If you experience severe abdominal pain, especially if it intense enough to make you doubled over, with 10/10 pain, especially if associated with vomiting (green vomit in particular) seek emergent medical attention. ~Dr. Struble
If you are occasionally struggling to poop, try some of these home remedies. If your constipation problems are more severe and associated with intense pain or if you see blood or strange colors in your stools, it’s probably time to seek medical attention.
They say the best defense is a strong offense. Preventing constipation is always easier than treating it. But if you find yourself in the painful clutches of constipation, try some of these home remedies for fast relief. Doctor’s orders.
DISCLAIMER: As always, seek the advice of your own qualified physician or other healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding symptoms or a medical condition.
We want to say thank you to our contributing doctors and medical professionals for this article. Learn more about each one below!
Dr. Keesha Ewers is board certified in functional medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, as well as being a doctor of sexology, psychotherapist, and founder of the Academy for Integrative Medicine where she offers a certification course for those passionate about and wanting to become Integrative Medicine Health Coaches.
Talar Tejirian, MD, FACS is a board-certified surgeon and integrative proctologist. She is also the founder of BootyMD, a non-profit health education organization.
As the fastest growing consumer health information site — with 65 million monthly visits — Healthline’s mission is to be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of health and well-being. Healthline provides expert content along with genuine caring to support, guide, and inspire you toward the best possible health outcomes for you and your family. Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT was our contributing medical expert.
MARIANNE RYAN PT, OCS is a physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Marianne Ryan Physical Therapy in New York City and award-winning author of Baby Bod – Turn Flab to Fab in 12 Weeks Flat.
Dr. Edward F. Group III founded Global Healing Center in 1998 which earned recognition as one of the largest natural and organic health resources in the world. Dr. Group is a veteran of the United States Army and has attended both Harvard and MIT business schools. He is a best-selling author and a frequent guest on radio and television programs, documentary films, and in major publications.