But the good news is, there are some things you can do to help.
First, understand when you have constipation. Constipation results in infrequent bowel movements which are often hard and painful to pass. Most people should go to the bathroom at least once per day. Others go as many times as three times per day. Any less than once a day and your stomach is likely not working at it's best.
Constipation might sound like it's not a big deal and if it lasts only for a short while it probably isn't. But constant constipation can lead to a number of problems including bloating and unpleasant gas from bacteria build-up.
So what can you do to help:
1) Eat LOTS of fiber.
Fiber is the indigestible starches in food that help push things through. Most women need about 25g per day and men need closer to 38g per day to stay regular. Eat lots of high fiber grains including whole grain cereals, oatmeal and barley. A good intake of fruits, vegetables and beans can also go a long way.
2) Drink LOTS of water.
This is important to understand, but if you are eating lots of fiber and not drinking enough water, you will only make things worse. Imagine trying to push straw down a sink drain. Be sure to get AT LEAST 8 cups of fluid per day if not more.
3) Exercise often.
Exercise can help to move food through your body more effectively. If you sit around all day, food might have a harder time getting where it needs to go. Even a small 10 minute walk in the evening can provide some relief.
4) Try a stiz bath.
A sitz bath is when you fill a tub up to waist height with warm water. The warm water can help relax the bowel. Sit in the bath for at least 15 minutes to help.
5) Be mindful of dairy products and fatty foods.
Everyone is different, but fatty foods can slow down the transition of foods through the stomach. Try to pay attention to see if these foods are affecting you.
6) Try prunes and pears.
Both of these foods are high in fiber, but they also have a natural laxative affect which can help relieve constipation.
Important Question: Can I eat too much fiber?
The answer is yes. Everyone's tolerance for fiber is different. However too much fiber can lead to excessive gas, cramping, diarrhea, increased constipation, malabsorption or worst of all: A blockage. People tend to struggle to digest fiber properly if they increase their intake too quickly so be sure to increase your intake gradually over a few weeks and be sure not to go crazy with how much you take in.
If you are still having trouble after trying these tips, be sure to visit your doctor or local dietitian for more help. Laxatives and stool softeners may provide temporary relief, but becoming dependent on these products can lead to even more problems.