Your Bowel Movements and Your Thyroid: How Are They Related?
The entire animal kingdom has a few things in common, and one of them is poop.
Excrement is ubiquitous among almost every creature on the planet and beyond. Astronauts, when they are launched into space, bring their bodily wastes wherever they go. Neil Armstrong reportedly deposited four bags-worth of poop on the surface of the moon.
Going to the bathroom regularly is a normal part of life. Feces becomes fertilizer which nourishes the earth and allows plants to thrive. It also serves as a source of food for other species.
Moreover, it is essential for health because the process removes waste from the body. Excrement is mostly water with the remains of food you have eaten, but the small intestine did not digest the dead epithelial cells from your gastrointestinal tract.
So, what happens when you cannot poop?
What Is Normal and Abnormal
On average, a person will have to go to the bathroom to poop around 1.2 times every 24 hours. Some days, you may find yourself needing to eliminate stool more often, depending on what you have eaten that day. Some days, you might not have to do it at all.
Constipation is a health problem in which a person’s pattern of bowel movement changes to become less frequent. Technically, having no bowel movement for three days can be constipation, but how often one goes to the bathroom to poop varies from person to person. Some people only have bowel movements two times a week and be considered healthy. As long as it is a normal pattern for you, you are unlikely not constipated.
Aside from changes in bowel movements, constipation can cause another symptom: a stool that is very dry, hard, and difficult to pass. This occurs because the colon absorbs too much water from the waste, making the stool too dry, hard, and difficult to pass.
There are dozens of reasons why constipation happens. People who are older and less active are at a greater risk of experiencing it. Women, especially during pregnancy and after childbirth, are also likely constipated due to hormonal changes. In addition, factors such as diet, inactivity, stress, and changes in your daily routine can influence bowel movements.
Underlying Health Condition
But, sometimes, constipation is a symptom of an underlying health condition. Numerous illnesses can affect a person’s bowel movement.
Problems with the endocrine system, particularly hypothyroidism, are a common culprit behind constipation. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not release enough hormones to satisfy your body’s needs. This slows down processes in your body, including your bowel movement.
You develop hypothyroidism when your thyroid glands are damaged, usually by your own immune system. This is called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is inherited from a family member.
Treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is necessary to prevent hypothyroidism.
Having constipation does not necessarily mean that you have hypothyroidism, but hypothyroidism may cause constipation. Unless you address the underlying problem, which is hypothyroidism, you will experience constipation over and over again.
Once diagnosed, your doctor will prescribe you a thyroid hormone replacement pill that you must take every day. This will raise the thyroid hormone levels to normal and restore the regular processes that take place within your body, including your bowel movement.
Major Lifestyle Changes
Constipation, whether caused by hypothyroidism or other factors, requires you to make better lifestyle choices to find relief.
You will need to add more fiber into your diet by consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that women below the age of 51 get 25 to 28 grams of fiber daily. Meanwhile, men under the age of 51 should get 30 to 34 grams of fiber every day. Those who are older may need more, but they should consult their doctor for the proper nutrition.
However, do not go overboard with fiber. If you consume too much, you will end up experiencing bloating, gas, and constipation. Aim for a healthy amount.
Hydration is also necessary for regular bowel movement. If you are dehydrated, your stool will become dry and hardened. You have to drink the recommended eight glasses of water every day to ensure that your bowel movements are regular and easy to pass.
Moreover, get regular exercise. By increasing physical activity, you can relieve constipation because it helps move the stool through your colon.
Constipation is a very common experience, one that everyone will go through at least once. However, sometimes, it is a symptom of an underlying health problem such as hypothyroidism. With treatment as well as lifestyle changes, you can keep constipation at bay.