Nothing feels crappier than constipation. But if you've been struggling to poop for several days, your digestive system definitely deserves some attention.
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There's no golden rule when it comes to ideal bowel movement frequency, but if your usual poop schedule is out of whack for several days, you may need to make some tweaks to your diet, exercise or calendar.
In an ideal world, we'd all be using the bathroom first thing in the morning, according to Tarek Hassanein, MD, FACG, a gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
Realistically, not everyone has the luxury of a daily, scheduled poop. But if you're accustomed to a consistent frequency and haven't experienced a bowel movement in five to seven days, you may need to take a trip to the doctor.
But before you begin to worry (or resort to over-the-counter laxatives), consider a few of these remedies.
You May Be Lacking Fiber and Fluids
If you haven't pooped in a few days and also aren't eating any vegetables, your body may be deficient in fiber.
Most Americans don't get close to enough fiber in their daily diet and that can slow down your motility, according to Dr. Hassanein.
Ideally, women should aim to get between 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should get about 30 to 38 grams per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Filling your meals and snacks with high-fiber foods, such as raspberries, pears, apples, green peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and whole grains can help you increase your daily fiber content.
But fiber alone won't do the trick, says Dr. Hassanein. You'll probably also need to increase your fluids in order to get your digestion moving again.
There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to the minimum daily water requirement. But if you're having trouble passing stool, it's safe to say you need to increase your fluid intake (both through water and fruits/vegetables).
Introducing some fiber supplements may also help promote movement, according to dietitian Leigh Renwick, RD.
Psyllium, guar gum or acacia are a few fiber supplements you can try to promote movement.
You Might Need to Sneak in More Movement
Another reason you may be experiencing some digestive irregularity is a lack of exercise.
Exercise can increase blood flow and can promote regular, healthy bowel movements, Dr. Hassanein says.
Generally, you should aim to get a minimum if 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity each week, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Daily cardio activity, such as walking or hiking, will not only encourage a daily poop but can also help you manage your weight.
However, more intense or exhaustive exercise, like long-distance endurance training, can be more taxing on your digestive system, Renwick says.
Long endurance training can reduce your body's gas production and nutrient absorption and, in some cases, may lead to abdominal pain or loose stool.
You Might Be Too Stressed
You set aside time for meetings, the gym and social engagements. And it's time to start putting poop on your calendar.
If you live a stressful or hectic day-to-day lifestyle, you may need to set aside time to use the bathroom and practice some relaxation techniques to promote movement, Renwick recommends.
Believe it or not, stress can give your digestive system some stage fright. Your nervous system controls various parts of the body, including your gastrointestinal system, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).
Practicing abdominal breathing is one way to improve your "brain-gut connection," according to the IFFGD.
To practice this technique, bring awareness to your breath, inhale deeply and exhale slowly for five counts. Continuing this process for 5 to 10 breaths can help promote relaxation.
Testing progressive muscle relaxation techniques is another method you can try to promote healthy digestion, according to the IFFGD.
Slowly contract your muscles in your forehead for three to four seconds and then release the muscle, noticing the difference in sensation. Then, slowly move down the body using the same technique.
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You Might Be Missing Certain Vitamins (or Taking Too Many)
If you haven't taken a trip to the bathroom in several days, deficiency in vitamin B12 may be the culprit.
Alongside weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss, vitamin B12 deficiency may cause constipation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Adult women and men should aim to get about 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day, per the NIH. Seafood like clams, trout, salmon and tuna are high in B12 and provide more than 100 percent of your daily recommended value per 3-ounce serving.
If you don't eat meat, though, consider a B12 supplement or adding fortified nutritional yeast to some of your meals.
In some cases, constipation may indicate a lack or excess of certain vitamins. For instance, taking too much vitamin D can be harmful.
Taking more than 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D can cause constipation, as well as nausea, vomiting or poor appetite, according to the Mayo Clinic.