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Constipation is a classic sign of hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid slows many bodily functions including digestive tract which leads to constipation, but luckily there are a few tips and tricks that can fix this problem.

Underactive thyroid gland comes with many consequences. It can affect your overall health, inclusive of bowels and the whole process of digestion. Stools that are hard to pass are a frequent problem related to an underactive thyroid. If you empty your bowels less than three times per week, it is considered that you have chronic constipation. Bowels that are not completely evacuated are considered as a part of this problem as well, as stated by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK).

As soon as you start treating your underactive thyroid with corresponding medications, problems with your bowels will decrease. Besides therapy, there are certain lifestyle changes that can do a lot to relieve your problems with constipation.

1. Choose the right therapy

Hormone replacement therapy with levothyroxine is probably the best known form of treatment when it comes to underactive thyroid gland, but it still doesn't work well for many people. There's only one hormone included in this treatment with levothyroxine and it's thyroxine, also known as T4. Our bodies should convert T4 into T3 hormone – triiodothyronine, which oftentimes fails to happen in hypothyroid patients. Some of them need both of these hormones as part of their hormone replacement therapy.

It can be months before your body starts reacting to hormone replacement therapy, but once when you and your physician find the optimal dose of levothyroxine, your problems with constipation should decrease significantly.

2. Include plenty of fiber to your diet

According to expert nutritionists, women between ages 19 to 50 should consume minimum 25 grams of fiber every day to maintain healthy bowels and prevent constipation. Men, on the other hand, should consume even more, at least 38 g.

Women above 50 should eat 21 g, and men of the same age at least 30 g of fiber on a daily basis. As with everything else that is healthy and good for us, most people don't consume the recommended daily amount of fiber.

There are two forms of fiber that can help regulate your digestion – soluble and insoluble type. They work in two different ways – soluble form of fiber makes sure that your excrement contains water so tit's bigger, softer and easily expelled. Insoluble fiber adds bulk and makes the poop run smoothly through the intestines. They're both equally important and responsible for the health of your bowels.

The easiest way to add more fiber to your diet is to eat fiber-rich foods such as:

  • Fruits and vegetables: apples, oranges, pears, carrots, squash, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli
  • Grains: whole-wheat everything, oatmeal, brown rice
  • Legumes: beans, peas, and lentils
  • Nuts and seeds: peanuts, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds
Just make sure to introduce high-fiber foods slowly to your diet because a sudden increase in fiber can cause gas and a few other forms of abdominal discomfort.

3. Water up!

If you are dehydrated, your colon is dehydrated as well, which leads to lumpy and often painful bowel movements. Drink plenty of water, at least eight 8-ounce glasses every day, which equals the amount of two liters. If you drink lots of water, your body won't have the need to withdraw it from the intestines, which will make the bowel movements easier and more regular.

4. Consume omega-3 rich foods

Consuming healthy oils such as omega-3 fish oil aids to our health in many ways, including gut health. Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids help to make bowel movements more frequent and easier to pass.

Fish like tuna, sardines, salmon, herring, and halibut are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Nutritional supplements of omega-3 also contain these two acids.

Olive oil and castor oil have amazing laxative power, but you have to be careful because they work fast. Also, you shouldn't take them just before bed.

5. Eat probiotics and fermented foods

It's been known for some time now that consuming probiotics can help you with constipation and many other digestive issues. It seems like they have no known aftereffects and are proven to be safe for everyday consumption.

A few research studies suggest that probiotic yogurts slow gut transit time by slightly more than 12 hours, and that they help to achieve at least one more bowel movement per week. Probiotics and fermented foods make stools looser and easier to expel. According to research, products with Bifidobacterium are the best when it comes to solving our digestive issues.

6. Don't exaggerate with dairy

Yogurt is beneficial because of the bacteria it contains that are good for our digestion, which isn't the case with most other dairy products. Dairy itself is fine, it rarely causes problems with emptying your bowels, but lactose can cause bloating and gas, and make your issues with constipation even worse.

In addition to this, products that contain a lot of cheese aren't good for you either. To keep your gut in a good shape, choose your dairy products wisely. Best options for people who struggle with constipation are yogurt and nonfat milk.

7. Cut back on red meat

When it comes to meat, it's recommended to eat more fish and poultry than red meat because it is known to contain a lot of fat. Foods that are higher in fat take longer to pass, which can affect an already bad shape of your intestines.

Red meat is low in fiber, and we established earlier that fiber adds bulk to waste matter which helps them move along. If you're often constipated, make sure to decrease the amount of red eat from your diet and choose more fish. Also, consume other fiber-rich foods such as peas and lentils.

8. Don't forget magnesium

It usually happens that foods containing fiber are also rich in magnesium – a mineral known for its constipation relieving properties. If someone needs bowel surgery, preparation for the procedure is done with the help of magnesium.

If you use hormone replacement therapy to treat your underactive thyroid, make sure to space out magnesium consumption at least four hours away from your hypothyroidism therapy. Most experts recommend consuming magnesium before bed.

9. Try exercising

Exercise decreases period needed for food to be digested and moved through the gut. If you want to get rid of constipation, it's recommended to try aerobic activities such as:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Biking
These exercises can increase blood flow to the entire body including the gut, which results in an increase in the number of enzymes responsible for gut health.

10. Try laxatives

Best way to treat constipation is via food that we eat. Good nutrition can fasten the time until your next bowel movement. If, for some reason, your constipation is persistent and it often seems like you can't win this battle, ask your physician to prescribe a laxative.

Doctors commonly prescribe natural laxatives such as Psyllium, as well as bisacodyl (Dulcolax), none of which have side-effects or bad interactions with other medications.

If you want to try laxatives, make sure to talk to your physician about other medications and supplements you might be using and possible interactions. Laxatives are safe to use for some time, but if you exaggerate, they are powerful enough to destroy the nerve cells of the colon and mess up muscles used while emptying your bowels. There's one more problem with laxatives – people often become dependent on them, and can't pass stools without them anymore.

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