Can’t go? You’re not alone. About 20% of Americans have occasional constipation -- bowel movements less than three times a week. Or if they do poop, the output is hard, small, and painful to produce.
Sometimes, a medical disorder like irritable bowel syndrome can cause constipation. Those issues often need care and treatment from your doctor. But for many people, the problem will be short-term and easy to fix. To figure out what has you stopped up, ask yourself these questions:
Is it time...
Stress can upset your gut and make you tense your muscles. That can make your constipation worse. And your brain is on high alert during times of stress, so you’re more aware of belly upset.
Anything that causes chronic stress, including CIC, can affect your emotions and your well-being. That can put a strain on your relationships, too.
Experts also think that levels of serotonin, a chemical your body makes, play a role in the movement of your bowels, along with affecting your mood.
Tips to Manage Stress and Your Emotions
You can do some things to keep your emotions on a more even keel:
Add activity. Go for a walk, a swim, a bike ride ... any kind of movement that you enjoy. Exercise helps you release stress and feel better. It may also help with your bowel movements.
Connect and share. Talk to friends or family members about what's going on in your life. The stronger your social ties, the better.
Spark joy. Find activities that appeal to you, like gardening, walking in the park, or artwork. Make time for your hobbies. They’re a key part of a rewarding life.
Get mindful. Meditation, yoga, and prayer may help ease your stress. Meditation is something anyone can do by putting your attention on something (such as your breathing or a word that's meaningful for you) for a few minutes a couple of times a day. Your mind will wander. That's OK. Just gently return your attention to your breathing.
Know when to get help. If your quality of life or emotions are taking a hit, and lifestyle changes don’t help enough, tell your doctor. She’ll ask you some questions about how much or how you feel stressed, sad, or unable to enjoy your normal activities.
If your doctor thinks you might have anxiety or depression, she may refer you to a therapist. It's important to take care of your mind and emotions, as well as your body.