constipation and weight gain

Is there a connection between constipation and weight gain?

July 18. 2022

When constipated, people usually feel bloated and heavy. After relieving themselves, they may notice that they have lost some weight. That is only momentary, as the weight loss equals the weight of the stool. But is constipation, and especially a longer-lasting one, connected to general weight gain? The short answer is – yes, constipation and weight gain are connected. However, it would be wrong to conclude that constipation directly causes weight gain. Instead, both of these symptoms are caused by third problems. So in this article, Chicago’s best weight loss expert explains what is usually causing the two symptoms and how they are connected.

What causes constipation?

Infrequent bowel movements, or constipation, is a relatively common occurrence amongst people who live on an average modern diet. It is characterized by hard, dry stools, which are very slow and sometimes painful to pass. If you have bowel movements less than three times per week, you are constipated. The three most important factors that cause this condition are insufficient water intake, insufficient fiber in the diet, and not enough physical activity. The insufficiency of fiber is especially common; fiber is an indigestible material that adds volume to the stool, softens it, and helps its removal. A diet based on highly processed foods with very few fresh vegetables is extremely low on fiber, hence a prevalence of constipation.

However, another often overlooked factor contributing to constipation is the imbalance in gut bacteria. Our gut microbiome consists of trillions of diverse bacteria, both good and bad ones. It is of vital importance to maintain balance amongst them. Adequate levels of beneficial bacteria help break down food and digest it properly, which leads to regular, easy bowel movements. However, if their composition is distorted due to a poor diet, levels of harmful bacteria may drastically rise. That causes food to be digested improperly, resulting in bloating, constipation, and also – rapid weight gain.

How does constipation affect weight gain?

The most common causes of constipation typically also lead to weight gain. If you don’t drink enough water, don’t exercise enough (or at all), and eat a poor diet, your metabolism will slow down. Having a slow metabolism means you burn fewer calories than you should, so you need to eat less in order to maintain your weight. In such a case, your regular food intake will likely prove excessive. Burning fewer calories means that more calories stay ”intact” and turn into body fat instead of being used for fuel, which results in weight gain.

On the other hand, a slow, lazy metabolism slows down the whole digestive process as well. Slow digestion means that your stomach takes more time to break down food and may not keep up with the food intake. It is essentially overloaded with work tasks that it can’t complete on time. Less work done means fewer bowel movements, and what naturally follows is constipation. That is especially true if your fiber intake is low. Fiber is indigestible, so your stomach doesn’t lose time processing it. Logically, a meal high in fiber is easy and quick to digest, as there is not too much material to be digested. On the other hand, a meal heavy on carbohydrates, for example, will take a while to be digested as there is plenty of material that has to be broken down and not enough that can be passed further.

Also, the other way around, constipation – which is essentially poor digestion – slows down your metabolism. If your body can’t process food fast enough, it will naturally also slow down the rate at which it burns calories. So, neither does weight gain cause constipation nor does constipation cause you to gain weight. Instead, they are both results of the same poor practices. Health is a holistic matter, and the various processes in the body are interconnected.

The importance of the gut microbiome

So what we discussed in the previous paragraph are the basics of how metabolism and digestion function. Now let’s dive deeper into the process of breaking food into nutrients. What happens in the gut? The trillions of bacteria in the gut perform a wide range of beneficial functions. They produce vitamins and aid the immune system in fighting infections and inflammation, but more importantly for this topic, they break down foods and produce chemicals that signal your brain that you are full. They may help you lose weight or cause you to gain weight; it all depends. All the foods you eat pass through the gut and come in contact with these bacteria. So if they are not balanced, none of the food you eat can be digested properly.

While we can’t digest fiber, some of our bacteria can. By doing so, they produce substances that stabilize insulin levels and help weight loss. Nourishing your gut microbiome through an adequate diet helps its diversification. According to various studies, the less diverse your gut microbiome is, the more likely you are to gain weight—an extremely non-diverse gut flora results in rapid weight gain. A diverse microbiome is like a team of people with different expertise. The more fields they cover, the more jobs they will be able to do successfully. A few years back, talking about bacteria causing weight gain would have sounded ridiculous, but today, our gut bacteria are finally getting the attention they deserve.

Our gut microbiome also produces numerous substances which impact gut mobility. If the microbiome is weak and unhealthy, not enough of these substances are produced, resulting in less frequent bowel movements, which is to say, constipation. One of those substances is serotonin, the so-called hormone of happiness. It is no wonder that long-term constipation so drastically affects people’s moods. Aside from simply being very unpleasant and frustrating, there is also a chemical component to that relationship.

The role of the thyroid gland

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, and it produces a hormone called thyroxine. This thyroid hormone plays several vital roles, one of which is regulating metabolism. So the thyroid gland can affect both constipation and weight gain. It is crucial that it works correctly and produces adequate thyroid hormone levels, neither too much nor too little. Besides a healthy diet, supplements can also help maintain a healthy and balanced thyroid.

Hypothyroidism – This condition occurs if the gland is underproducing thyroxine. Low thyroid hormone levels equal slow metabolism, which may result in rapid weight gain and constipation.

Hyperthyroidism – This occurs when the gland is overworking itself. If thyroid hormone levels are too high, that may cause a quick weight loss paired with several unpleasant symptoms. It is vital that your thyroid works correctly and that you lose weight by healthy means.

How to prevent constipation

It all comes down to healthy life choices. Not only will you free yourself from pain and discomfort, but by preventing constipation, you will also prevent many metabolic and digestive issues which could cause you to gain weight. It’s all connected, after all. Preventing constipation is not that difficult. There are several simple changes you should implement into your lifestyle and diet. We highly advise you to follow a well-organized meal plan.

Add more fiber to your diet

Not only does it helps relieve constipation, but eating enough fiber also protects you from other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, and ulcers. It will also help you lose weight. You will primarily find fiber in non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, chia seeds, and flaxseed. Speaking of fruits, you might also be interested in finding out is lychee good for weight loss.

Add probiotics to your diet

Probiotics help break down heavier foods that can otherwise be challenging to your digestive system. If you increase their consumption, you will also see the benefits of probiotics for belly fat loss. They can be found in yogurt, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut, pickles and miso.

Drink more water

Fiber is highly absorbent and can take up a lot of water. This soaked-up fiber makes the stool softer and easier to pass. In addition to that, fiber is proving to be highly beneficial for weight loss.

Exercise regularly

Physical activity is vital in boosting digestive functions. People are usually surprised to find out that after stepping up their exercise levels, they can easily digest foods that used to cause them problems before.

Time your meals

Having a certain level of regularity in your meal schedule helps your digestion. Of course, it’s not a big problem if you occasionally drop out of the pattern, but eating irregularly on a daily basis can be detrimental to your digestion.

Final thoughts

Constipation and weight gain are closely connected, as both are frequent symptoms of various health issues. Although you may get confused by the weight of the stool, measuring during and after constipation by itself, constipation will not cause you to either gain or lose weight. However, the same unhealthy life choices which make you constipated also cause you to gain weight. Not drinking enough water, not eating enough fiber, and not exercising enough all contribute to slowing down your metabolism and digestion. Although separate processes, those two are closely interconnected. Both are also influenced by the health of your gut microbiome, and especially by your thyroid gland. It is vitally important that the thyroid gland works optimally. If you’d like to find out more about preventing constipation, losing weight, or any related topic, schedule a call, and we will gladly answer any questions you have.

Nurse Walton

Author

Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

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