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Women's Health

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Habits That May Cause Constipation


"People don't really understand the symptoms of dehydration," says Faten Aberra, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "It can be as simple as fatigue -- not necessarily this dying thirst to have water. It can be very subtle."

What you can do: You don't necessarily have to drink 6 glasses of water a day to prevent constipation, Aberra says. The key is to drink enough so you don't feel thirsty. You can also tell you're getting enough fluids if your urine is clear or light yellow. And it doesn't have to be water, juice is fine as long as you keep an eye on how many calories you take in, she says. Aberra also suggests limiting alcohol and caffeine because they can cause you to lose fluid through urination.

4. Junk Food and Your Digestive Health

When you eat junk food, you spend your calorie capital on foods that are low in fiber and nutrients and high in fat and sugar. And all that fat and too little fiber can cause digestive woes. "We know that fat tends to slow the gut down, because the gut is trying its best to get all the calories it can from fat," says Locke.

What you can do: You don't have to give up favorite foods -- the trick is to come up with healthy substitutes. Instead of ordering pizza out, make your own with a store-bought whole-wheat crust topped by low-fat cheese and plenty of veggies. Replace the fast-food burger and fries with roasted sweet potato fries and turkey or black bean burgers on a whole-wheat bun.

5. OTC Supplements: A Surprising Cause of Constipation

Did you know that OTC supplements can affect your digestive health? Iron and calcium are the top two culprits according to Aberra.

What you can do: Eating balanced, healthy meals helps you get all the vitamins and minerals you need from food. However, that may not be enough for people with anemia or for women looking to prevent bone loss. To counter the constipating effect of iron or calcium supplements, Aberra suggests a workaround. Try adding things to your diet that make you more prone to having bowel movements, such as prune juice and high-fiber foods.

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