There's no universal norm when it comes to how often you should poop — there's only what's normal for you. For some, going three times a day is a typical frequency, and for others, going every other day sounds about right.
So, how do you know if you're constipated?
Constipation is technically defined as going fewer than three times a week, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But it's more important to pay attention to how far you're straying from your normal poop pattern.
Aside from how often you're going (or not going), other signs of constipation include:
- Dry, hard stools
- Straining and pain when you try to go
- Feeling like you haven't completely emptied your bowels after using the bathroom
Needless to say, it can feel pretty awful when you're backed up. The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to prevent this from happening in the first place like drinking enough fluids, working out regularly and getting adequate fiber.
But, if you're already constipated, there are things you'll want to avoid in your diet, including specific drinks, to keep things from getting worse.
Here are a few drinks to avoid if you're constipated.
Booze can lead to constipation in a number of ways. The most obvious reason is that alcohol is dehydrating. But did you know that drinking too much can actually slow your digestive tract, which can result in constipation, too?
There's another way alcohol can lead to being backed-up. "Drinking can alter your gut bugs or your gut microbiome and these shifts might be associated with constipation, explains gut health expert Amanda Sauceda, RDN, CLT.
Moderate drinking is associated with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, aka SIBO, according to a March 2014 study in Digestive Diseases and Sciences. "And one of the most common symptoms of SIBO is chronic constipation," Sauceda says.
2. Detox Teas
They promise a slim tummy and, sure, sipping on detox teas may cause you to go number two initially, leaving you feeling lighter and less bloated — but if you're drinking them daily, they could have the opposite effect after more than just a couple of weeks.
Weight loss teas and other "skinny beverages" often include an ingredient called senna, which is a laxative. Overusing laxatives, even for just a few weeks, can make you dependent on them. So, when you do stop sipping the tea, you may struggle with constipation, per the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Milk is a big offender for some when it comes to messing with your gut. About 65 percent of us are lactose intolerant, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Lactose intolerance means you're unable to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products such as milk.
Initially, drinking milk or other dairy foods when you are lactose intolerant can lead to diarrhea and, in some cases, nausea and/or vomiting. This is the opposite of constipation, but these symptoms can lead to dehydration, which can then lead to constipation.
Another reason dairy can result in constipation is that it can be high in fat. Fat takes longer to digest, which just slows down an already backed-up system.
4. Protein Smoothies
Smoothies can be great for preventing or relieving constipation, but only if they're loaded with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. If you're adding protein to the mix by way of whey protein, you'll want to pay attention to your poop frequency.
"If your protein drink is dairy-based (most protein powders are made of whey, which is a dairy-based) you might notice some constipation," warns Sauceda. "The most common reason you will see constipation with whey protein powders is because of the lactose and many people have lactose intolerance."
If you find your protein drink is plugging you up, try a vegan protein powder that is made with a plant-based protein source like pea, brown rice, pumpkin seeds or hemp seeds.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Constipation"
- Digestive Diseases and Sciences: "The Impact of Alcohol Consumption and Cholecystectomy on Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Senna"
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Lactose Intolerance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Nutrition and Healthy Eating"