Gastrointestinal Health Issues: Constipation and Diarrhea

Any form of digestive upset can be uncomfortable and disruptive, but there’s no need to let conditions like constipation and diarrhea prevent you from living your best life.

With careful management of both the symptoms and root causes, including certain gastrointestinal health conditions that can alter your bowel movements, you can get constipation and diarrhea under control. This means you can spend less time in the bathroom and more time doing the things you love.


Both constipation and diarrhea involve irregularities in bowel movements. Constipation refers to bowel movements that come infrequently and are more difficult. It is often painful to have a bowel movement when you are constipated, as stools harden after about three days.

In addition to less frequent bowel movements, constipation can also include symptoms such as bloating and stomach cramping. You may be more likely to develop hemorrhoids if you strain when attempting to have a bowel movement, which can cause additional pain when sitting.

Causes of Constipation

Causes of constipation can range from minor gastrointestinal issues that interfere with regular digestion to chronic conditions that need regular treatment and lifestyle adjustments to manage. Most episodes of constipation aren’t anything to worry about and simply improve with time, but determining the cause of the condition can help you find relief faster and prevent future cases.

Dietary Changes

The vast majority of instances of constipation come from changes to your diet that your body doesn’t manage well. Any kind of significant change can cause digestive issues, but constipation occurs more often if you consume a lot of cheese and other dairy products, neglect your water or fiber intake, or greatly increase or reduce the amount of food you’re eating.

You can alleviate constipation by making an effort to eat the right kinds and amounts of foods. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to add fiber to your diet, cut back on dairy, keep yourself hydrated, and enjoy healthy-sized portions for your height and weight.


Strong painkillers are known to cause temporary constipation. Other medications that have been linked to the condition include iron pills, antidepressants, and antacids. Laxatives are often used to relieve constipation, but overusing these can exacerbate constipation.

Gastrointestinal Conditions

Types of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis often cause constipation and other digestive issues. People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often have issues with both constipation and diarrhea.

Lack of Physical Activity

Dietary upset can come from something as simple as slacking on your body’s physical exercise needs. Make sure you’re moving around throughout the day and try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a few times per week.

Relieving Constipation

There are many medications and home remedies that are meant to provide constipation relief.

Many people use laxatives or include high-fiber foods in their diets like bran and prune juice. Water and warm liquids can alleviate constipation, as can regular exercise.

If your constipation comes from a long-term gastrointestinal issue, talk to your doctor about options for treating the root cause.


Diarrhea is a fairly common condition where bowel movements are frequent with watery or loose stools. This is usually a temporary condition that may appear infrequently throughout the year due to changes in your diet or overall wellness, though some people with underlying gastric issues may experience it more often.

Diarrhea usually isn’t serious and tends to go away on its own after a day or two, but it can sometimes result in dehydration. Make sure to drink frequent small amounts of fluids over the day to keep your body replenished.

Causes of Diarrhea

Diarrhea is a natural part of your body’s response to various illnesses. It may occur when you’re sick with a viral illness, if you eat something you’re allergic to, if you have another health condition associated with digestive issues, or if you were previously constipated.

Other causes are minor conditions, but it’s important to take care of your body as you recover.

Diarrhea Treatments

Drink frequent small amounts of water and get lots of rest when you have diarrhea. You may want to drink beverages with electrolytes, tea, or even chicken broth to soothe your stomach.

Medications like Pepto-Bismol that contain bismuth subsalicylate can alleviate symptoms as well.

Addressing Underlying Issues of Chronic Conditions

Chronic cases of constipation and diarrhea could indicate an underlying gastrointestinal health issue that should be evaluated.

Gastrointestinal Treatment

You can create a more permanent solution to chronic diarrhea or constipation by treating underlying digestive issues. Pay close attention to controlling conditions like IBS and Crohn’s disease through medication, exercise, and a healthy diet.

Final Thoughts

Constipation and diarrhea are generally not considered serious conditions, but if they occur frequently, they may point to more worrying health concerns. If you notice that you have either of these conditions on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to get tested for common causes that often are related to gastrointestinal health.

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