If you follow a typical Western diet, you are probably consuming much more sodium than you should be. High sodium levels can pose numerous risks to your health, such as increasing your blood pressure. While consuming too much of it may not directly lead to constipation, many processed foods contain large amounts of sodium, and these can cause your bowels to become sluggish. Talk to your doctor about your sodium levels and bowel concerns.
Function and Intake of Sodium
Sodium helps your body maintain its balance of fluids, and it also influences the proper functioning of your muscles, including those in your digestive tract. Most healthy adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, which is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of salt. If you use the salt shaker liberally or eat a lot of processed foods, it's likely you are getting much more than the recommended dietary allowance. Certain groups of people, such as those with diabetes or high blood pressure, should not get more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day.
Sodium is naturally in a variety of foods, such as milk, beets and celery, and these are not likely to cause constipation. However, it is also added to processed foods like bacon, sausage and ham, as well as fast foods like burgers and fries. These foods are high in sodium and also tend to be greasy and high in fat, making them more likely to cause constipation. If your diet consists primarily of processed, sodium-laden foods, you may experience frequent constipation or other digestive problems.
If you suspect your diet is causing your constipation, or if you are consuming too much sodium, talk to your doctor about making changes to your eating habits. For example, choose fresh foods over processed ones, which can both cut down on the amount of sodium you get and help promote regular bowel movements. Try to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet as well, as these are naturally low in sodium, and the fiber they contain can help relieve constipation.
Never alter your diet without first discussing the changes with a licensed health care provider. If you have certain medical conditions or increased risk factors for diseases associated with high sodium levels, your doctor may suggest you cut your intake even further than 1,500 milligrams. She can also give you more dietary tips on how to reduce your sodium consumption. Additionally, let her know if you are experiencing constipation, particularly if it is recent or has lasted for more than three days.