Infrequent bowel movements and excess body fat often go hand in hand, so it may seem logical to assume that they are related. But while there is often a correlation, neither condition causes the other. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, infrequent bowel movements, a condition commonly known as constipation, are a symptom typical of a poor diet. And a poor diet is typically responsible for unwanted weight gain.
The National Institutes of Health defines constipation as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. Constipation is often associated with hard, dry stools that are difficult and sometimes painful to pass. If you have to strain or bear down for longer than 10 minutes to pass stools, you are constipated. Hard stools can lead to tearing of anal membranes and can cause hemorrhoids. The NIH lists inadequate water consumption, low dietary fiber and lack of physical activity as the primary causes of constipation.
Inadequate intake of dietary fiber slows your digestion. Fiber works to cleanse the colon, binding solid waste with water and moving it through your digestive tract and out of your body. According to resources at Colorado State University Extension, dietary fiber is the portion of plants that is not digested in the intestinal tract. Refined grains like white rice and white flour have had the fiber removed. To ease constipation, the University of Washington Women's Health Care Center recommends increasing your fiber intake to at least 20 to 35 g daily. Examples of high-fiber foods are beans, wheat bran and fruit.
Not drinking enough water on a daily basis can lead to dehydration. Water helps food move through your digestive tract and binds to fiber to form soft stools that pass through your system easily, requiring little or no strain as they leave your body. The University of Washington Women's Health Center recommends you drink a minimum of eight glasses of water or herbal tea daily and that you avoid juices and caffeinated drinks. It also recommends drinking several cups of warm-to-hot water or herbal tea in the morning to stimulate bowel movement.
Weight Gain and Constipation
The lifestyle practices that cause constipation are also linked to weight gain. Physical inactivity, dehydration and overconsumption of low-fiber refined and processed foods are behaviors that slow your metabolism and lead to increased body fat. Improving your diet and increasing your physical activity are healthy strategies for controlling both constipation and weight gain. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes or more of daily moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, and two weekly sessions of resistance training for all of your major muscle groups.