Chronic Constipation and Weight Gain

Chronic constipation and weight gain implications

The topic of chronic constipation and weight gain has proven to be a complicated issue. This is because individuals have different reactions to chronic constipation, but there are many factors that play a key role in this illness which that are thought to also contribute significantly to a person's weight.

What is constipation?

What is “normal” for the length of time between bowel movements differs from person to person. Some have them three times a day; others only once or twice a week.

However, it is generally considered to be too long if you go longer than three days without one because the feces or stool becomes harder, which makes it more difficult to pass and could lead to chronic constipation.

What are the symptoms of chronic constipation?

Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Few bowel movements
  • Small or hard stools
  • Straining to go
  • Belly pain
  • Swollen belly
  • Vomiting

What causes chronic constipation?

Some of the reasons behind this illness include:

  • Some medications including strong pain drugs, iron pills, narcotics, antidepressants
  • Antacid medicines containing aluminum or calcium
  • Overuse of laxatives
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Eating disorders
  • Colon cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's disease
  • Resisting the urge to have a bowel movement because of having hemorrhoids
  • Changes in your usual diet or activities
  • Eating too many dairy products
  • Not enough water or fiber in your diet
  • Not being active
  • Stress

Chronic constipation and weight gain

The link between chronic constipation and weight gain in some people could be down to gut flora. The bacteria in our digestive systems can possibly play a major role in our weight. A study showed that obese mice had different bacteria in their gastrointestinal tracts than lean mice. When the bacteria was swapped between the obese mice and the lean mice, the lean mice began to put on weight although they were eating the same things.

Further research has shown that some methane-producing bacteria cause the slowdown of the transit of food through the gut. When food moves more slowly, the body has more time to extract calories and nutrients, and that imbalance also makes stools hard and dry.

Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)

That is the gland which governs important mechanisms including metabolism. Metabolism governs all our chemical processes including the ability to produce energy and use up calories. An under-functioning thyroid can, therefore, contribute to weight gain and the inability to lose weight as well as allowing sluggish bowels.

What to do for chronic constipation?

  • Drink warm liquids, especially in the morning.
  • Drink two to four extra glasses of water a day, unless told otherwise by your doctor.
  • Eat bran cereal and prunes.
  • Add more fruits and vegetables.
  • Use a mild over-the-counter stool softener but not for more than two weeks, because, if you overdo it, the symptoms may get worse.

Can you prevent chronic constipation?

The best way to prevent chronic constipation is to eat a well-balanced diet. That includes plenty of fiber with good sources being vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole-grain cereal and bread. Fiber increases the softness and bulk of the bowel, making it easier to pass. Fiber also fills you up and increases satisfaction after a meal and hopefully will stop you from snacking later.

Drink 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water and other fluids every day unless your doctor says otherwise. Fiber and water work together to increase regularity and keep things moving. Increasing water intake is an easy way to improve the consistency of bowels. It can also help with weight loss as often hunger pangs can actually be a sign of dehydration. Have a large glass of water to stave off that hunger feeling for a while longer.

Some other tips include:

  • Avoid caffeine because it can be dehydrating.
  • Cut back on dairy products as they tend to be constipating.
  • Go to the bathroom whenever you feel the urge.

You should also exercise regularly for a minimum of 30 minutes a day and on most days of the week. Exercise tones, strengthens, and improves body muscle tone, and that includes the layers of muscle in the bowel that keeps things on the move. Walking, dancing, swimming, yoga and pilates are fantastic for relieving constipation, have the added benefit of boosting the metabolism, and improve weight loss.

When should I call my doctor?

Call your doctor's office immediately if you have sudden constipation with cramping and belly pain and you haven't been able to pass any stool or gas, there is blood in your stool, there is severe pain with the bowel movements, you are losing weight even though you are not dieting, or the constipation has lasted over two weeks.

Last Reviewed:
September 08, 2017
Last Updated:
October 04, 2017