If you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve experienced what it feels like to be backed up. The abdominal discomfort, physiological distress, and the urge to let go of what’s been holding you back. Yes, that’s constipation for you. However, that’s not all it brings with it. Have you ever noticed that leaks are more common when you’re stopped up? Or that it’s more difficult to poop when you’re on incontinence drugs?
Let’s get down to how and why constipation and bladder leaks are connected. When you know better, you do-do better. Too soon?
Clogged Pipes: What’s Up With Constipation?
The official definition of constipation is having fewer than three stools per week, but it’s common to hear people describe it in other ways too. Sometimes it looks like straining on the toilet until you’re red in the face. Other times it’s emptying your pipes but feeling like there’s still something left. Either way, both scenarios are common and uncomfortable.
Common Signs and Symptoms
Constipation doesn’t always look like the face you make when you’re straining to open a jar that’s sealed too tight. It might include other signs and symptoms like:
- The feeling that there’s a blockage in your rectum
- Stomach aches and cramps
- Little to no appetite
Another sign of constipation that probably won’t make the official list is if you have to ask yourself: “what can I do to make myself poop?” If you’ve been experiencing two or more of these symptoms over a three month period, then you may have chronic constipation.
Causes of Constipation
Occasional constipation is normal. In fact, about 20 million Americans suffer from infrequent, small and painful-to-produce poo. And since you’re a woman, then your chances are even higher. Thank you, double X chromosomes.
There are a lot of reasons why we find ourselves backed-up, but the most common culprit is the colon absorbing too much water from food while its in your intestine. When your color leaves you high and dry like this, it slows down the process of food moving through the digestive tract and results in dry, hard, and painful poop.
Many people deal with constipation because of lifestyle choices. If you’re not very active, don’t consume enough fiber, or don’t go to the bathroom when you get the urge, then you’re bound to get backed up.
Additional lifestyle choices that cause constipation are:
- Not drinking enough water
- Changes to your routine – going to bed later, traveling, etc.
- Metabolic changes – aging slows down your metabolism
- Certain medications – antidepressants, narcotics, diuretics, etc.
- Drinking milk
- Diseases – cancer, lupus, and Parkinson’s disease
- Taking laxatives too often
The reason why we ladies are more likely to succumb to constipation is due to our wonderful hormones, estrogen and progesterone. When our hormone levels drop, it impacts our GI tract in the following ways:
- Less estrogen increases the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol increases the amount of time needed to break down food. The result? Harder poop.
- Less progesterone impacts how our colon works and makes waste sit in the colon longer. As a result, it drys out and creates hard stool.
- Low levels of estrogen results in weakened pelvic floor muscles. A weakened pelvic floor may have problems relaxing, which makes it difficult to poop.
Women are more likely to experience hormone depletion during pregnancy, right before their period, and during menopause. So, we can expect to experience gastrointestinal problems, like constipation, at the same time.
How Constipation Causes Leaks
Now that you know how hormones lead to constipation, it’s time to unravel how it can lead to leaks. It’s literally like one door closes (the poop chute) and another one opens (pee hole). Here’s why. As you know, straining is a common sign that you’re dealing with constipation, however straining can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. This can cause stress incontinence, which is when normal activities, like sneezing and coughing, leads to leaks.
Bladder leakage can also become an issue when your intestines are full and pressing against the bladder. This pressure could give you the sense that you have to go even if your bladder isn’t full (also known as urge incontinence).
On the flip side, having problems with bladder leakage could also lead to gastrointestinal complications. Medications that are often used to help with leakage list constipation as one of the major side effects.
So constipation and leaks are really just one giant entangled web.
Treating Constipation, Lessening Leaks
There’s a lot you can do to make constipation a less frequent occurrence, even with hormones being a factor. Try integrating these small changes:
- Up your water intake
- Exercise regularly, but not too much as it can increase leaks
- Add high fiber foods to your diet
- Go poop when you feel it coming down
- Do pelvic floor exercises, like Kegels
- Take a laxative
- Use products designed for bladder leakage (Lily Bird can help)
- See your doctor
If you leave constipation untreated, it can lead to tears in the skin, hemorrhoids, or rectal prolapse. None of those are a good time.
When your pipes just ain’t acting right, then it’s time to take action. Take back control and don’t be afraid to seek treatment. I promise it’ll feel like you’ve taken a load off your shoulders…and other places. And if you need a little extra help with bladder leaks, Lily Bird’s got you covered with great products delivered discreetly to your door.
Do your leaks increase when you’re constipated? Tell us about it in the comments. And if you need a little extra help with leaks, Lily Bird’s got you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas, delivered straight to your door. Tell your bladder who’s boss and start your trial today.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH