Our lives have changed dramatically over the last few weeks. We’ve swapped suits for sweats. Office time for Zoom time. Outdoors for indoors. And we’ve also, quite possibly swapped a controlled amount of healthy eating for greater amounts of comfort food. On a scale of one to dramatic, our lives have undergone a pretty seismic shift. Which may also explain why some of us may also be experiencing quarantine constipation.
Whoever it was that described the human body as a perfectly honed machine probably wasn’t too far off — unfortunately, it also doesn’t take much to make this precision instrument go out of whack. One reason you could be suffering from pandemic poop has to do with the amount of exercise you are getting, particularly if you’re used to being active all the time.
Gastroenterologists say that because exercise equals movement in more ways than one, becoming sedentary also slows things down. “When we’re at home sitting around and not staying active or engaging in our usual routine, colonic motility (the process by which the colon sequentially contracts to propel feces along) decreases, causing constipation,” gastroenterologist Robert Lerrigo, MD, tells Health. In this context, constipation means going less than you did during non-pandemic times, or needing a bit more straining and effort to get the job done.
Stress can trigger gastrointestinal problems
Then there’s your diet. Sheltering in place also means your diet might have also changed, which can do bad things for your digestive system. Fresh produce, which has the fiber you need to get going, may not be as easy to come by, and you may be reaching for more refined carbs because they’re at hand, or because you may be indulging in comfort food (and there’s no better time for that than a pandemic). You could also be drinking more, which also triggers constipation (via HuffPost).
But The One Big Factor that can explain pandemic poop (which can also explain the snacking, the drinking, also sleepless nights) are stress and anxiety. Gastroenterologist Jean Marie Houghton, MD, tells HuffPost that stress also affects our gut in a big way, making it a likely culprit of cramps, diarrhea, and constipation.
If pandemic poop is making you even more stressed out, you might want to try an over-the-counter fiber supplement to ease the experience if constipation is what ails your gut, or Imodium if you’ve been finding yourself taking up semi-permanent residence on your toilet. But if you want to get to the heart of the stress, you might want to find a meditation app that will help you calm down — or an exercise program that will help you get moving again. Regardless, we’re sure you will find a way for you and your bowels to navigate the new normal.
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