While it’s certainly not always the case for everyone, weight gain and constipation are often two chronic issues that are experienced together for a lot of people. And while they’re often treated as two different problems that need to be tackled separately, they are often symptoms of the exact same underlying problem, getting in the way of your health, daily comfort and weight loss goals.
While it wouldn’t be accurate to say that constipation causes weight gain or vice versa, the way your body handles both weight management and bowel functions are expressions of how efficiently your digestive system is working overall. Cleaning, lubing and fueling your digestive machine regularly the right way is key to killing both of these pesky birds with one stone, firing up your metabolism, enhancing fat burning, reducing bloating issues and improving elimination functions all at the same time.
If you’re struggling with weight gain and constipation, addressing these 5 underlying factors could help to make things start flowing more smoothly for you once again.
1. You have too many uninvited guests in your gut.
Several studies have begun to make it clear that both constipation and weight gain could be the products of an imbalance in the gut flora populating your digestive tract.
One study revealed that when certain gut bacteria produce chemicals called short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) in the body, a process is activated that essentially tells your stomach and intestines that they have nothing to fear, food is plentiful. In consequence, digestive motility is increased and food moves through (and out) of the digestive system more quickly, allowing less time for calories to be absorbed. Ultimately, this leads to smooth elimination functions and less fat storage in the body. On the other end, when gut production of SCFA is low, digestion speed slows down, allowing more time for more calories to be absorbed from the consumed food, more water gets absorbed in the colon (making stool more dry and hard), elimination processes become sluggish, and weight gain is more likely. Find out more about how to nurture these healthy SCFA-producing bacteria in your gut here.
Other studies have shown that the presence of less-friendly bacteria in your gut lead to chronic food cravings, low energy, brain fog, and even feelings of depression. Obese individuals have been found to have different gut flora and less microbial diversity than leaner individuals, leading scientists to conclude that the bacteria that populate your digestive system play a very significant role both in weight management and bowel regularity.
Ensuring that your gut flora is in balance and that friendly bacteria are thriving is important for triggering weight loss and smooth elimination functions.
2. You’re Not Getting Enough Fiber
You already know that fiber makes you “go”. But research shows that it also does so much more. Fiber triggers some incredible effects in the body that simultaneously fuels the body’s fat-burning activities while putting the brakes on its fat-storing activities.
Firstly, fiber slows the rate at which food enters your blood stream. By slowing the rate of food absorption from the gut to the bloodstream, it reduces the amount of insulin – a hormone that stimulates hunger and fat-storage – that’s produced after a meal.
Fiber also lowers the calorie density of the food you eat. As fiber has almost no absorbable calories in it, it bulks up the weight of the food in your gut without adding calories to it. And as studies show that it is the weight of the foods you eat – NOT the number of calories in the food – that controls your body’s hunger signals, fiber is able to turn off your hunger and make you feel full and satisfied WITHOUT increasing calories.
And while fiber intake signals the brain that there is a lot of food in your gut and to stop eating, it also causes that food to move more slowly through your stomach and small intestine while increasing the levels of certain hormones in your gut that control appetite. So not only does fiber intake cause you to fill up on less calories, but it also fills you up for longer periods of time and helps to shut off cravings.
Certain types of fiber feed friendly gut flora that fuel fat burning and good health. Fiber also improves colon function, increasing the speed at which food exits your body through the digestive tract and treating constipation. This leads to more calories being eliminated from the body before they can become absorbed through the stool. This also helps to keep your blood sugar and cholesterol in an ideal balance, while helping to quickly eliminates toxins from your gut and to reduce your appetite. Try adding high fibre foods like apples, broccoli, flax seeds, spinach, whole grains, quinoa, and beans to your diet.
3. You don’t drink enough.
Water is necessary for every single function that goes on inside of you, and one of the most common (and most often overlooked) reasons for constipation, stubborn weight gain, digestive issues and other chronic health problems is simple because most people aren’t drinking enough of it.
People who suffer from constipation frequently complain that their bowel movements are dry, hard and very difficult to pass. Increasing your water intake is one of the simplest ways to improve the consistency of your bowel movements.
Increasing water intake can also have an incredible impact on your weight loss. A 2001 study showed that subjects who drank an 8 ounce glass of water before a meal felt satisfied from eating fewer calories than subjects who ate a meal without drinking water first, leading them to eat more calories. A 2003 study showed that people who drank 8 to 12 glasses of water daily burned calories at a higher rate than people who were not well hydrated, even while at rest. German researchers repeated the study on patients who were overweight or obese, and their test subjects began burning 24 percent more calories within just one hour of drinking water.
If you find plain water to be too boring or difficult to down, check out these 10 No-Calorie Tasty Twists on Plain Water
4. You need to move more.
Exercise not only improves your weight, strength, muscle tone and overall shape of your entire body, but it turns out that it’s also important for helping you “go”.
The proper movement of waste matter through your bowels requires peristalsis, which is rhythmic contractions of smooth muscles that line your intestinal wall. Exercise helps to stimulate and strengthen this process, leading to more regular and consistent bowel movements.
5. You may need your thyroid checked.
The thyroid is a gland that governs many important mechanisms and chemical processes in your body. When the thyroid isn’t working properly or is underactive, it can lead to concurrent symptoms like weight gain and sluggish bowels, as well as other symptoms like sensitivity to cold, dry skin, brittle hair and nails, fatigue, etc.
Hypothyroidism is a complicated condition that isn’t always picked up in standard blood tests. To test your thyroid, see your doctor and an integrative therapist.