What to Do When You Can’t Poop

The 5-year-old in all of us dies laughing at the slightest mention of poop, but your toilet time may be a different story. Constipation can lead to more serious complications if left unchecked. The “normal” frequency of pooping varies greatly, but if you’re going fewer than three times a week, or if your usual pattern has changed recently, try some of these tricks to get those stubborn Browns to the Super Bowl again.


Do a diet audit

A high-fat, low-fiber diet is a surefire way to clog your drains, and we love our bacon-wrapped tater tots! It turns out that there are certain foods that make you poop, and ones that back you up (you’re welcome), so take note of what’s going in you if nothing’s coming out. High-fiber foods are notorious for their poop-producing powers, but everyone reacts to dietary changes differently, so be careful not to make things worse.

Check your hydration level

Drink more water: always the answer, right? Well... it kind of is. With constipation, all the fiber in the world isn’t going to help if there’s no fluid to push everything along. If anything, you’ll just end up with stomach pain and brick-like stools, and studies show that increasing water intake can significantly enhance fiber’s effects. If happy dumps aren’t enough reason to drink more water, nothing is.

Flickr/Christophe Verdier


Your brain and your gut are mortal frenemies, and your bowel movements are caught in the crossfire. When you’re stressed (even if you don’t know it), your brain can tell your gut to literally keep its shit together (constipation), or to drop it like it’s hot (diarrhea). Thankfully, you’ve got some say in the matter, and managing stress is one way to make sure you get the final word.

But don’t relax too much!

Note: relaxing doesn’t mean you should stop exercising. Sometimes you gotta shake that bottle to get the ketchup out! Along with increased fiber and hydration, exercise is the final piece in the “preached trio” of constipation relief. Moderate exercise has been shown to regulate pooping patterns as well as speed up the pooping process itself. 

Flickr/Kevin Zamani

Give in to your urges

You may think that home is the only safe place to sit on the throne. Your body would disagree. No matter where or when it might strike, the urge to go isn’t just a suggestion. It’s a strong recommendation. Holding it not only perpetuates constipation, but can lead to some pretty nasty health issues, including what would make for the worst superhero names of all time: megarectum and megacolon. Their superpowers? Turning poop into rocks and poisoning you from the inside.

Check your pills

Certain types of painkillers get their own special class of constipation, called opioid-induced constipation. So if your battle wounds are numb, but you haven’t pooped in four days, try some of the tips mentioned above to get things flowing (check with your doctor, of course).
Not to be outdone, certain supplements like iron and calcium are notorious for causing blockage. Magnesium is often supplemented to fight constipation, but long-term use should be monitored carefully to prevent toxicity. The good news is that most high-fiber foods are also high in safe levels of magnesium, so supplementation isn’t typically necessary with a high-fiber diet.

Flickr/Juhan Sonin

Break the laxative-addiction cycle

While absolutely necessary in some cases, laxatives are usually just codependent jerks. Your bowels come to depend on them, and all they provide in return is dangerous interference with regular body functions. Unless your doctor has prescribed a specific laxative, make sure this is the last guest invited to the party, not the first.

Get to the bottom of any underlying issues

If you’re doing absolutely everything right, but still can’t go, an underlying condition could be to blame. Diabetes and hypothyroidism are a few of the usual suspects, along with a host of other conditions affecting everything from your brain to your butt. Now, don’t freak yourself out and diagnose your constipation online. Your friendly neighborhood gastroenterologist would be happy to help.

Constipation is never fun, and can make you feel like there’s no hope. Follow these tips, and you should be seeing them again in no time.

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Nicholas Knock is a freelance writer for Thrillist, and he loves meeting the Browns every day. You can follow him on Twitter: @nickaknock.