07/25/2016 11:57 EDT | Updated 07/25/2016 11:59 EDT

Uncommon Causes Of Constipation That Easily Go Overlooked

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Woman sitting on edge of bathtub holding stomach

As a nutritionist, I know how important number two is, and I have focused on that area of my own health for decades. Just ask my closest friends. They still tease me about the time when I served beets at a dinner party and asked them to take note of when the beets stained their poo to assess "transit time." That's not weird, right? And there are many, many versions of "normal poop."

When my transit time started slowing down, I took it as a personal affront to figure out the odd causes of constipation. The "usual causes" did not apply to me as I already focus on all the usual prevention methods:

  • Enjoy a minimum of 25 grams of fibre every day from fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Drink lots of water
  • Maintain ample exercise
  • Consume fermented foods like sauerkraut, prebiotic and probiotic foods like yogurt
  • Avoid smoking, greasy foods, skipping meals and running out the door without my morning constitutional.

Seriously, it is true. Holding it in compounds the problem and recent research called The Bowel Health Poll showed that one in four Canadians avoid going at work. It also revealed that two-fifths of women won't go at the movies or in a restaurant. Um, hello, girls... when you gotta go, let's all agree to forgive the sounds and smells of being human. OK?

Here are the top three causes of constipation you'd never expect:

Get your thyroid checked

Weight gain, sluggishness and that general slowing down feeling isn't necessarily "just aging." When the hormones in the master gland, thyroid, aren't being made or used well, bowels can slow down as a result. As soon as I fixed this problem with diet and medication, the poopy problem went away.

Check medications and supplements

There are a host of items that can cause you to be backed up including antacids, calcium and iron supplements. If you need them, you need them, check with your doctor or naturopath to see if there are other work-arounds and if you have to take them be sure to manage the list of usual causes above.

Look carefully at key food culprits

Chocolate causes some people to go and others to not be able to. It could go either way, but if constipation is a problem look at your daily dark chocolate intake.

Cheese. We all know why a trip to Paris ends with a laxative requirement... it's the cheese. Too much dairy not only binds in the bowel, it can also block the uptake of iron. If you are taking iron supplements for low iron, you may want to look at excess dairy as a cause.

When some people go high-protein or paleo and omit or reduce carbs to help manage other health issues like blood sugar, they then complain that the protein is causing constipation. It may end up that it isn't actually the protein causing the back up, it is the low fibre. When you remove grains, you remove the key source of fibre, but there are other sources. Fresh fruits and vegetables not only contain significant fibre, they come with water content and plenty of nutrients and enzymes to help you digest.

In the end, (get it?) you really want to get your poop in a group and adjust all that you can with your diet and medication consumption first. If that doesn't work, try an over-the-counter medication that will give you predictable overnight relief. And, for goodness sake, talk about it, talk to your friends, talk to your partner, talk to your doctor to make sure you cover all the bases.

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