We’ve all likely experienced constipation at some point in our lives. But if you experience both constipation and urinary incontinence regularly, it’s possible that one is contributing to the other.
WHAT IS CONSTIPATION?
Constipation is a condition in which you go too long without having a bowel movement. While this happens to almost everyone at some point and isn’t life-threatening, it’s definitely uncomfortable.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CONSTIPATION?
One of the most obvious signs of constipation is having too few bowel movements. This may be different for everyone – some people empty their bowels several times a day and some may only go a few times each week. What you should look for is any abnormalities in your own schedule. Typically, going longer than 3 days without having a bowel movement is too long, as your stool gets harder and more difficult to pass in that time.
OTHER CONSTIPATION SYMPTOMS INCLUDE
- Finding it difficult to have a bowel movement (straining)
- Pain during a bowel movement
- Hard, dry, or small stools
- Feeling that you haven’t been able to completely empty your bowels
- A feeling of fullness, even after you’ve had a bowel movement
- Excessive gas
WHAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION?
Constipation can have many causes:
- Your diet. Any change to your diet may lead to constipation. Not drinking enough water makes constipation more likely since it makes your stools dryer and harder to pass. Additionally, not eating enough fiber (which adds bulk to your stool, and softens it, making it easier to pass) or eating too much dairy, sugary foods, or high-fat meat can all make you constipated.
- Your activity level. A little exercise each day helps everything – even your bowels!
- Holding it in. Ignoring the urge to go can damage the nerves in the rectum, making them unable to respond appropriately when they need to.
- Certain medications. Pain drugs, antidepressants, iron pills, or antacids that contain calcium or aluminum can
- Relying too much on laxatives. While occasional laxative use can help with constipation, using them for too long can cause dependency, and can actually make constipation worse.
- Certain medical conditions.
- Eating disorders
- Colon Cancer
- Neurological condition (Parkinson’s Disease, MS, or a spinal cord injury)
CAN CONSTIPATION CAUSE INCONTINENCE?
If you suffer from bladder leaks, you may notice that they get worse when you are constipated. That’s because when you are constipated, your colon becomes enlarged and places more pressure on your bladder. This in turn can make you feel like you have to go more urgently and more often, and may lead to more bladder leaks.
WHAT CAN I DO TO GET RELIEF FROM CONSTIPATION?
If you’re currently suffering from constipation, try these remedies:
- Drink more water (unless advised not to by your doctor). Warm liquids can help too, since they stimulate the bowel by widening blood vessels in your digestive system and increasing the blood flow and GI activity.
- Adjust your diet. Certain foods are known to help aid in constipation. Prunes are a tried and true remedy for constipation. You can also try adding probiotics, such as keifer and yogurt, or sauerkraut to your diet. Other foods, such as broccoli, clear soups, beans, wheat bran, grapes, and apples or pears may also help.
- Add some exercise to your day. Moving your body helps to get your bowels moving too.
- If you have to go, don’t ignore it. Holding it in can cause damage to the nerves in your rectum, making your problem worse over time.
HOW CAN YOU AVOID CONSTIPATION?
There are many lifestyle changes you can make to prevent constipation from happening in the first place.
- Eat a balanced diet. Make sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables each day and incorporate beans and whole grains which can help bulk up and soften your stools, making them easier to pass.
- Drink plenty of water. Not only does it help you stay hydrated, but water also helps make the stool softer and pass more smoothly.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol can be very dehydrating and should be avoided if you struggle with constipation.
- Move your body every day. Exercise speeds up the time it takes for your food to pass through your intestines by increasing your blood flow.
- Don’t ignore the urge to go. Holding it in not only backs you up but, as we mentioned previously, over time it can actually damage the nerves in the rectum, making your problem worse over time.
- Watch your pooping posture. Squatting is the most effective way to empty your bowels. Unfortunately, modern toilets are not designed for proper pooping posture. Using a stool helps, as it allows you to sit with your knees higher than your hips.