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A pain in the butt when losing weight!

The most common side effect I encounter with patients in my weight loss clinic is constipation.

Constipation can be caused by many factors. I will discuss those here and give you trouble shooting tips to prevent and treat constipation.

What causes constipation and why does it often become worse when trying to lose weight?

Increased protein intake

Significantly increasing the amount of protein in your diet can assist you in losing weight. Our bodies naturally avoid using protein as fuel. Protein is saved for healing tissue, growing, building and maintaining muscle mass, and is the basic building block for all things in our body.

However, a lot of protein can be challenging to our gastrointestinal tract. Especially if this is a big change in what we have traditionally consumed.

Protein also lacks fiber which is found mainly in plant based foods. Therefore, and increase in protein can decrease the amount of fiber we are getting, leading to changes in our bowel patterns.

Less in, Less out

It only makes sense that when we eat less food, we produce less poo.

That was blunt, but true.

If your regular bowel schedule is twice daily then you will most likely go less if you reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories/day or more.

Not enough water

Water, water, water.

It is so important to successful weight loss and so beneficial for our health. Our gut health included.

When food passes through our large intestine/colon, water is absorbed creating the stool consistency we expect. When we are not drinking enough water, it results in harder/firmer stool that is much more difficult to pass.

Everyone should be drinking at least 60 ounces of water a day.

Not enough fiber

In addition to absorbing water from the food we eat, our large intestine pushes that food through using what we call peristalsis. This is a squeezing action much like a snake moving food through it's body. Muscles in our large intestine squeeze (peristalsis) when food stretches the colon.

When we do not eat enough fiber or roughage, the bulk of our stool is significantly decreased. This decrease in bulk fails to properly trigger the squeezing mechanism (peristalsis) of our large intestine leading to food staying in our gut longer and making it more difficult to pass.

Delayed gastric emptying

Many medications can slow down the transit of food through our GI tract by keeping food in our stomachs longer. This leads to less bowel movements but also bloating and discomfort.

Delayed gastric emptying can be a preexisting condition that is only worsened when we take certain medications.

The foods we eat can also contribute to how quickly we digest.

Having diabetes can make one prone to this condition. It is also referred to as gastroparesis.

History of IBS-Constipation

Some of us battle constipation daily and will find it becomes more difficult when we change our diet, start new medications, increase protein, or decrease the intake of fiber.

How do we prevent and/or treat constipation when losing weight?

  1. Stay hydrated. As mentioned earlier, get at least 60 ounces of water a day. More is better. If water is not your favorite form of liquid, make it more palatable by adding flavor. And remember, often when we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. By drinking more water, you eat less.

  2. Get plenty of fiber. Fiber is found in fruits and vegetables. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into every meal will insure you get enough fiber. Avoiding a lot of processed food will help as well. If roughage is not your thing, you can supplement fiber. Many of my patients have had success with fiber gummies.

  3. If you are prone to constipation, starting a daily stool softener can help. Staying ahead of constipation is much easier than trying to resolve it. There are many new prescription medications for constipation. If your over the counter regimen is not working, ask your healthcare provider about these.

  4. Keep a food journal so that you may identify foods that trigger your constipation.

  5. If you have a history of gastroparesis, avoid medications that can worsen this condition. With gastroparesis or delayed gastric emptying, eating smaller more frequent meals can help. There is less to digest at one time and the food will move through your system much easier.

I hope this helped. If there are other issues you want answers to or any topic related to weight loss you want to know more about, leave me a message and I will cover that for you.



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