Constipation is an acute or chronic condition in which bowel movements occur less frequently than usual or stools are hard, dry, painful or difficult to pass (Hunt et al., 2013). Constipation and functional bowel disorders are more common among those with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) (Cai et al., 2015). There are multiple known and unknown reasons why acid reflux and constipation often overlap.
One reason that acid reflux may cause constipation is that acid reflux medications can cause constipation (Cohen et al., 2015). Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and antacids that contain aluminum can contribute to constipation.
Food allergies can be another reason that acid reflux and constipation often go together. According to the Asian Pacific Journal of Allergy and Immunology (2013), cow milk allergy is responsible for approximately 40 percent of GERD cases and 70 percent of chronic constipation.
Delayed gastric emptying can cause both constipation and upper abdomen discomfort (Fernandes, 2013). The reasons that some have slower digestion are not always known.
Because constipation can cause or aggravate acid reflux, it is an important issue to address. You should call a doctor immediately if you or your child’s feces are blood-stained or if there is a sudden change in bowel habits. Otherwise, there are several at-home treatments that may provide some relief:
- Avoid cow milk.
- Include foods high in fiber in every meal (fruit, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and seeds).
- Eat yogurt containing probiotics or take a probiotic supplement.
- Drink plenty of water each day.
- Exercise 20 – 30 minutes each day.
- Manage your stress as much as possible with good time management and adequate sleep.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.