Lazy bowel syndrome, also called sluggish bowel and slow gut, is a condition with symptoms of constipation and painful bowel movements. Some people use “lazy bowel syndrome” particularly to describe the way your intestines behave after the frequent use of laxatives. When you have this condition, your colon is slow to move waste through your body’s digestive tract.
Lazy bowel syndrome can be chronic, with symptoms that flare up regularly and then dissipate. But lifestyle changes and dietary modifications may reverse the symptoms.
There are cases of lazy bowel syndrome that require the oversight and diagnosis of a doctor. Keep reading to find out more about lazy bowel and sluggish bowel movements, and when to see a doctor.
What causes this?
Every time you eat, your nerves send a signal to your digestive tract to initiate a sequence of activities.
The muscles in your digestive system move food forward in a wavelength motion called “peristalsis.” But this motion can be blocked, slower than it should be, or not a strong enough contraction to move food forward.
Bowel-related reflexes can become weaker or less effective due to:
- reliance on laxatives
- restricted eating patterns
- eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia
- use of narcotics
- irritable bowel syndrome
There may be other reasons for weaker muscles as well. Sometimes the cause is even as simple as not having enough fiber in your diet.
Depending on the cause of your slow bowel movements, your treatments may vary. Here are some solutions you can try to encourage more frequent and easier-to-pass bowel movements.
Delayed or slower bowel movements can be caused by a lack of fiber in your diet. A diet that emphasizes natural, unprocessed fruit and vegetables should kick-start your digestion and make you more regular. Examples include:
- almonds and almond milk
- prunes, figs, apples, and bananas
- cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and bok choy
- flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds
Also consider adding two to four extra glasses of water to your daily routine.
Limiting dairy, which can be difficult to digest, and cutting out bleached, processed, and heavily preserved baked goods may also help. Ice cream, potato chips, and frozen meals have little to no fiber and should be avoided.
Cutting back on coffee, which dehydrates the digestive system, could also be a way to balance out your bowel movements.
Artificial laxatives can make lazy bowel symptoms worse or even cause the condition. But there are natural laxatives you can try to kick your digestion back into gear.
Adding three to four cups of green tea to your daily routine may act to improve your digestion.
Using agar wood leaves as a gentle, natural laxative is less likely to cause the side effect of some other chemical laxatives. Here’s 20 other natural laxatives you might want to try.
Taking probiotic supplements has been shown to improve the transit time and regularity of bowel movements. Currently, more research is still needed to determine what the best strain of probiotics is for constipation treatment.
Eating probiotic foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt, is another way to consume live strains of probiotic bacteria.
Light exercise can direct your blood to circulate through your abdomen. For some people, this gets the system going. Consistent exercise may impact your lazy bowel symptoms by keeping your digestive system turned “on” and engaged. Some yoga poses may even help relieve constipation.
Adjust bathroom behaviors
There are products on the market claiming that changing your posture during a bowel movement can improve the consistency and ease of using the bathroom. Anecdotally, this seems to work for some people.
If you’ve experienced lazy bowel symptoms, it might be worth it to check out one of these products, which change the angle of your legs to more of a “squat” than a seated position during trips to the toilet. Here’s our take on whether the Squatty Potty really works.
If your constipation issues consistently return, even with changes in diet and lifestyle, you need to speak to your doctor. On rare occasions, lazy bowel can signify a more serious health condition. You should also call your doctor if:
- you have severe abdominal pain that’s not relieved by passing stool
- you have diarrhea that’s accompanied with a high fever (over 101 degrees), chills, vomiting, or dizzy spells
- you have diarrhea or constipation that lasts for more than two weeks