9 Myths About Constipation You Should Knowby Mandy Patterson Patient Expert
A lot of us deal with constipation — regardless of whether we have preexisting digestive health issues like irritable bowel syndrome or not. But when it comes to constipation and your bowel movements, how do you know what’s normal? Here, we bust the top myths about constipation to provide you with the facts.
Myth: You must have a bowel movement every day or you’re constipated
Fact: There is no strict definition for what constitutes a normal number of bowel movements. Everyone has a unique schedule for when they have a bowel movement. Some go twice a day, and other may only go three times a week. But if you notice an obvious change in your normal bowel habits, you might be experiencing constipation.
Myth: If you can release some stool, you’re not really constipated
Fact: You may still be able to have a bowel movement when you’re constipated. However, your stool won’t look the same, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Your stool will be harder and look similar to pebbles. It can also be very painful to pass stool, or you might find yourself straining to pass stool.
Myth: Not many people experience constipation
Fact: Constipation, including chronic constipation, is more common than people realize. Up to 42 million Americans experience constipation, making it one of the most prevalent gastrointestinal problems. Chronic constipation affects approximately 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population.
Myth: Eating a high-fiber diet will prevent constipation
Fact: A high-fiber diet doesn’t guarantee you will never experience constipation. It’s important to consume high-fiber foods to treat constipation, but a high-fiber diet won’t necessarily prevent it. There are many factors that can cause constipation, according to the NIH, such as certain medications, neurological disorders, and psychological issues.
Myth: Constipation will naturally work itself out
Fact: Most people need additional help to regulate their system to work out the kinks of constipation. While some people might work through constipation on their own, others must try a combination of medication, lifestyle, and diet changes.
Myth: Only older people experience constipation frequently
Fact: Constipation doesn’t discriminate based on age. People of all ages will experience constipation for a variety of reasons. While constipation does become more common as you get older, it can happen at any stage of your life.
Myth: Constipation isn’t a serious health issue
Fact: Constipation can be very serious. Untreated constipation can cause painful hemorrhoids and anal fissures. It can also greatly impact a person’s quality of life due to uncomfortable and persistent symptoms, such as fatigue, bloating, and abdominal discomfort. Additionally, it might also be a sign of other gastrointestinal complications that need to be treated.
Myth: Upping your water intake treats constipation
Fact: If anything, drinking more water will just make you have to urinate more. Drinking more water won’t flush out your bowels if you’re already constipated. Make sure that you’re drinking enough water, regardless of constipation, and are keeping yourself hydrated, says the NIH. If you’re drinking more water regularly, before constipation happens, you may be less likely to have the problem in the first place.
Myth: You don’t need any assistance to get over constipation
Fact: You should consult your doctor if you think you’re experiencing constipation. Your doctor can recommend the best over-the-counter treatments to help relieve your constipation and get you back to feeling normal.