Yes, cold weather can cause constipation. But not how you may think.
Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t really a lot of direct evidence linking cold weather to an increased risk of constipation. However, people do tend to experience significant lifestyle changes during the colder months, such as less exercise and different dietary habits. These factors are more likely to contribute to constipation than the temperature itself.
Let’s dive into the relationship between cold weather and constipation.
What Is Constipation?
Constipation is a condition characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stools.
According to Mayo Clinic, symptoms of constipation include hard or dry stools, straining when using the bathroom, or fewer than three stools per week. Several factors contribute to constipation, including poor diet, dehydration, physical activity, medications, and underlying health conditions.
Why You Get Constipated When It’s Cold
As noted, it’s likely more your lifestyle in the winter months than the cold temperatures. When it’s cold, we naturally tend to drink less water (even though the air is dryer), exercise less, and shift our diet. All of these can contribute to poor winter gut health and issues with constipation.
Statistically, you exercise less during the cold months and lead a more sedentary lifestyle. Since exercise is key to promoting good gut health and bowel movements, this lack of physical activity may lead to issues with constipation.
Less daylight hours and the winter weather can make it difficult to get outside or drive to and from the gym, both physically and mentally. A survey from the National Recreation and Park Association showed that 58 percent of people are less active during the winter.
When activity levels decrease, the risk of constipation may rise. Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce symptoms of constipation and help stimulate bowel movements.
Winter often brings about changes in dietary habits, with people consuming more rich, fatty comfort foods.
Between holiday travel, holiday gatherings, and wanting comfort foods, we tend to indulge in more processed junk foods and fast food. Many of us also eat more out of boredom when we’re stuck inside due to bad road conditions and unfavorable weather.
According to Gastroenterology of Greater Orlando, less natural fiber and all the extra fat, sugar, and processed chemicals can impact your digestive system, leading to issues such as constipation.
It's essential to stay adequately hydrated, regardless of the season, to maintain optimal digestive health. Cold weather can lead to dehydration, as many of us don’t feel as thirsty when we’re cold and less active.
Dehydration is a known factor in constipation, as it can result in harder and more difficult-to-pass stools.
Winter can be a stressful time for many of us. With your brain and gut being closely linked, that additional stress can impact digestion and lead to issues with constipation.
While it may be billed as “the most wonderful time of the year,” winter brings added stressors like slippery roads, busy holiday and travel plans, cold and flu season, school cancellations due to snow, and work deadlines.
With all those extra things weighing on us, it’s no wonder that our gut gets a bit thrown out of whack.
Tips for Preventing Constipation in Cold Weather
Now that we understand how cold weather can impact gut health let’s look at some of the ways you can support your digestion and reduce constipation this winter.
Drink plenty of water to ensure adequate hydration throughout the winter season. The general guideline is to drink 92 to 124 ounces of water a day. However, that can vary depending on your gender, health, activity levels, and more.
Here are some tips for staying hydrated in the cold winter months:
- Warm it up. Warm water with a few squeezes of lemon and some honey can help make you feel warm and cozy in winter months — especially if you’re dealing with cold and flu symptoms. Non-caffeinated herbal teas are also a good option.
- Infuse your water: Add natural flavors to your water by infusing it with fruits, vegetables, or herbs. This can make drinking water more enjoyable.
- Hydration App: Use a smartphone app designed to remind you to drink water regularly and track your ongoing water intake.
- Keep a bottle handy. Have a reusable water bottle you can refill and take with you on the go easily. You’ll likely drink more if you don’t have to get up or think about it.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
Consuming a balanced diet is crucial for overall health, and it plays a significant role in preventing constipation. Including fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods in your daily meals is a key component of maintaining a healthy digestive system.
These healthy foods help build up a diverse microbiome, improving overall health and preventing digestive issues such as constipation.
According to Mayo Clinic, fiber adds bulk to your stool, making it softer and easier to pass through the digestive tract.
Soft, well-formed stools are less likely to cause constipation as they move more smoothly through the intestines. High-fiber foods also help stimulate bowel movements and promote regular contractions of the intestines.
Good, high-fiber food sources that help with constipation include:
- Whole grains
A sedentary lifestyle, especially common during colder months, can contribute to constipation. Stay active to promote healthy bowel movements and reduce constipation issues.
Physical activity helps stimulate the natural contractions of the intestines, promoting the movement of stool through the digestive tract. It also helps build muscles to make bowel movements easier.
Exercise is also a natural way to relieve stress that can lead to digestive problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week. If you’re dealing with constipation, some yoga stretches and brisk walks could be great exercise options.
Try Somaya Life
If your body could use a little extra boost in the winter months and beyond, Somaya Life is a great option to supplement your daily diet and healthy routines.
Somaya Life goes beyond a probiotic with 10 Smart StrainsTM of good bacteria that were chosen to help boost gut health and support overall wellness.
Somaya Life comes in a convenient capsule form, making it easy to take with or without food. And unlike a lot of probiotics and gut health supplements on the market, it's egg-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and non-GMO with minimal added ingredients.
Learn more and add Somaya Life into your daily routine today. Your gut will thank you.
Prevent Constipation All Winter Long
While cold weather itself may not directly cause constipation, the associated changes in lifestyle, including reduced physical activity and dietary modifications, can contribute to this common digestive issue.
By staying mindful of these factors and adopting healthy habits, individuals can maintain optimal digestive health throughout the winter months and beyond.