You’d think the embarrassment surrounding the concept of constipation—the stigma of being a little stopped up—would be the biggest annoyance relating to this problem. (After all, it’s not like the common cold, where you casually mention the pains, symptoms and side effects to everyone from your coworkers to grocery store cashiers and strangers on public transportation. And who doesn’t drop their voice to a whisper when asking a pharmacist to direct them to the laxative aisle or clear their Internet history immediately after searching “constipation cures”?) However, the reality of the matter is that constipation and sometimes more specifically, traveler's constipation, isn’t simply an embarrassing issue for many people; it’s also one that comes along with plenty of unpleasant side effects. So the bottom line? Avoid constipation at all costs—or be forced to deal with the following worst side effects of constipation.
Constipation Side Effect #1: Bloating
While being pregnant is fabulous, simply looking pregnant definitely isn’t. Unfortunately, one of the annoying side effects of constipation is bloating—potentially dooming you to days spent in your stretchy pants. So basically, if you don’t want obnoxious strangers stroking your stomach and inquiring about your due date, it’s best to not only use contraception, but avoid constipation as well. (For more unfortunate facts about bloating, check out this Shape article, in which Good to Go co-founder, Ed Levine, M.D., talks about the problems of having a “food baby.”)
Constipation Side Effect #2: Flatulence
For some people, constipation also causes flatulence and worse smelling gas. The internal discomfort of constipation is stressful enough—couple that with foul smells and not only will you be in pain, but so will the people around you. Because if constipation wasn’t an unfortunate enough issue in and of itself, let’s add a gnarly flatulence to the list!
Constipation Side Effect #3: #Painful Cramping
If you've made it all the way to this blog post, you've probably experienced one of the most common side effects of constipation: painful cramping. So not only do infrequent bowl movements cause cause your stomach to protrude, but they cause it to hurt, too. Ouch.
Constipation Side Effect #4: Unpredictable Diarrhea from Ordinary Laxatives
Though this is a side effect of popular, common laxatives (aka the typical constipation problem solvers), the unpredictability of ordinary laxatives’ effect on your system—in which they can kick in at any time, in any place—can be a huge problem…with potentially disastrous results. After all, while you may not want to step out on the beach being bloated and constipated, you don’t want your bowels to pick that time to spontaneously erupt in your bikini bottoms, either.
Other Serious Constipation Side Effects
While vanity and discomfort alone should serve as enough incentive to avoid constipation at all costs, there are also some more serious side effects associated with the issue. Hemorrhoids, anal fissures and diverticulitis (an “outpouching of the lining of the colon”) are all complications that can arise from constipation. Appendicitis rates are higher in people with constipation and that “you are two to three times more likely to develop colon cancer if you are experiencing constipation enough to warrant using laxatives.” And, honestly, those are some pretty scary statistics.