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Do Steroids Cause Constipation? (7 Things You Should Know)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

A few of my fitness colleagues, who were on the juice while they were young, recently shared with me how steroids have affected their bowel movements and caused constipation.

While steroids can be used to treat inflammation and hasten muscle mass growth, they can lead to a host of health issues with long-term use. So, to determine whether constipation is one of the common negative effects, I dived into available literature and consulted a gastroenterologist.

Let's begin.

Quick Summary

  • Steroid use can lead to physiological changes in the body, including hormonal imbalances, leading to irregular bowel movements and constipation symptoms.
  • You can minimize the negative effects of steroids by taking them at the recommended dosage and duration.
  • Unlike anabolic steroids, natural alternatives can help you achieve your fitness goals faster without causing any legal repercussions or unnecessary adverse effects.

Can Steroids Cause Constipation?

An athlete suffering from constipation outside

Yes, steroids can cause constipation, among many other health issues. In most cases, constipation is caused by taking too much and/or for too long.

Additionally, there’s research that suggests that even legally prescribed steroids taken as instructed by the doctor may still cause many problems in the body [1].

In fact, a study done in rats showed that taking prednisone for short-term use caused a slowing of intestinal transit.

This has been linked to poor bowel movements and constipation [2].

How Do They Cause Constipation?

An athlete with constipation holding his stomach in

Steroids, like other medications, may cause constipation by disrupting the body's normal hormone levels [3].

Several bodily functions are affected by these changes, including the following:

Digestion

According to research, steroid use can increase bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in the body, which can negatively affect digestion [4].

When cholesterol levels are too high, stones can form in your gallbladder.

In this case, gallstones can block the passage of a substance called bile, which helps your stomach and intestines break down fat in the body and absorb nutrients.

Without enough bile, your digestive system cannot function properly, and fat may not be digested effectively [5]. This can cause indigestion, irregular bowel movements, and constipation.

Bowel Habits

Steroids can also cause fluid retention, which can lead to the accumulation of water around specific organs, including the abdomen [6].

Having excess fluid around your stomach can increase abdominal pressure, which impedes digestive muscle movements [7]. When there is less movement in the stomach and intestinal muscles, the gastrointestinal contents move slowly, making it difficult for the body to empty the colon.

Irregular bowel movements can cause waste products to accumulate in your colon, resulting in pain while defecating or feeling constipated.

Stool Transit Time

A doctor pointing a magnifying glass to a small scale model of intestines

Steroid use has also been shown to impair nervous system function, resulting in slowed colonic muscle contractions and preventing waste from moving out of the body [8].

Research suggests that the movement of chyme, or the partially undigested food in the colon, is aided by colonic contractions and mass movements.

During food processing and forming waste, the colon, or large intestine, absorbs water through its walls [9].

If the muscle contractions are slow, the transit of the stool is delayed, and the process is prolonged, allowing most of the water to be absorbed.

This results in stools being too hard, which causes constipation.

Anabolic steroids may also cause adverse health effects in addition to physiological changes that cause constipation.

Other Potential Side Effects

A doctor holding up a clipboard while holding a pen

Using steroids is bad for you because it can increase the risk of chronic diseases, especially when they are taken in doses that are 10 to 100 times higher than prescribed by a doctor.

Furthermore, taking steroids without medical or therapeutic purpose for extended periods of time can increase the risk of heart problems, skin thinning, bleeding, and inflammation.

Additionally, misuse and abuse can lead to gender-specific issues like baldness and shrinking testicles in men and irregular menstruation in women [10].

“Use of anabolic steroids for bodybuilding will cause the testes to shut down their testosterone production. This could be permanent, even after discontinuation of these drugs.”

-  Ghandi Saadeh, MD, Endocrinology Specialist

To avoid these adverse effects, there are natural alternatives to anabolic steroids with almost no side effects. If symptoms such as constipation continue to bother you, try the following simple remedies.

What You Can Do to Prevent Constipation

A doctor passing constipation meds to a patient

Taking prescribed steroids can still cause constipation, but there are ways you can manage it.

Follow A Soft Food Diet

A soft diet consisting of good sources of soluble fiber that is easy to eat and digest can help you manage your constipation symptoms.

Among these foods are oatmeal and cream-of-wheat, whole wheat bread and pasta, sweet potatoes, and bananas.

It is best to avoid red meat when you are constipated as it takes longer to digest and may aggravate the problem.

Increase Hydration

Drinking more liquids, in addition to eating soft foods, can help to speed up the movement of digestive contents, flush them out of the system, and prevent constipation.

Research shows that Increased water content in your body will make your stools softer and stimulate your bowel movements [11].

Track down water intake throughout the day, or carry a water bottle with you wherever you go to ensure you get enough.

Get Your Body Moving

A healthy male jogging outside

If you have constipation, you should increase your physical activity by going for walks and doing body stretches before or after a workout regularly.

Regular exercise has been shown to increase metabolism, which causes digestive muscle contractions to be faster, allowing you to move your bowels more regularly [12].

Giving yourself 15 minutes of morning stretches and 15 minutes of an afternoon walk can give you 30 minutes of exercise to help with constipation.

How to Use Steroids Safely

The use of steroids for bodybuilding frequently leads to misuse and abuse, with some seeking faster results at the expense of overall health.

If you must use them, keeping the dose to an absolute minimum, taking regular breaks, and knowing which type you use can potentially lower the health risks.

That said, natural alternatives to anabolic steroids are always available on the market.

You may attain comparable results over a longer period but without the side effects commonly associated with using steroids.

What Is Considered Long-Term Steroid Use?

A doctor looking at a medical clipboard

According to research, extending steroid use longer than three months is considered long-term and can result in serious side effects [13].

Long-term use of steroids typically results in a poor immune system.

The same is true if you exceed the recommended dosage of the drug used to treat a condition [14].

Continuing to use steroids at high doses after the initial physiological responses have subsided, as in the case of constipation and immune system impairment, can lead to more serious side effects that may require medical intervention.

When to Seek Professional Medical Advice

If serious adverse effects persist, consulting with a doctor is the best course of action.

Men who take regular doses of anabolic steroids may experience side effects such as acne, hair loss, and breast enlargement, which may not require immediate medical attention.

But in the event of serious conditions such as severe allergic reactions, bone thinning, and infections caused by impaired immune function, it is crucial to seek professional medical advice as soon as possible.

FAQs

Is Prednisone the Same as Steroids?

Prednisone is not the same as steroids used by bodybuilders.

Prednisone belongs to a group of drugs called corticosteroids, which are medications used to treat patients with inflammatory conditions [15].

In reference to sports, steroids are used as performance enhancers.

They are called anabolics, often illegally used to hasten muscle mass gains and weight loss.

Can Steroids Change Your Normal Bowel Movements?

Like other medications used to treat inflammation, steroids can change your normal bowel movements because they can make the body retain water.

Excess bodily fluids may slow the movement of gastrointestinal contents, making stools hard to pass and causing less frequent bowel movements.

Do Steroids Make You Gassy?

Steroids can make you gassy because they disrupt your body's normal production of cortisol and anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which are responsible for water balance in the body [16].

This causes fluid retention, which affects digestion and causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, and flatulence.

How Long Does It Take To Get Steroids Out of Your Body?

It may take several days to two weeks to flush steroids from your system.

This means there is no definite time frame for how long the drug remains in your system. It depends on how much and what other medications you've taken.

So, Can Steroids Cause Constipation?

Yes, all steroids can cause side effects that range from mild to severe.

Even if you only use them for a short time and take the recommended dose, there is always the possibility of an adverse reaction.

The good news is that there are alternatives to steroids that won't cause a negative effect, even if used long-term.

I advise my clients to take these natural alternatives to boost testosterone levels naturally.

Our testing data showed that these top-grade legal steroids enabled our clients to achieve fast and safe muscle mass growth by helping them train better without affecting their bowel movements.


References:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/246373#side-effects
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5625752/
  3. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/what-are-side-effects-anabolic-steroid-misuse
  4. https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/ijsem/international-journal-of-sports-and-exercise-medicine-ijsem-4-109.php
  5. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/gallstones
  6. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/steroids
  7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321869
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5994209/
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/immunology-and-microbiology/colon-motility
  10. https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugfacts/anabolic-steroids
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/
  12. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00026/full
  13. https://www.todaysgeriatricmedicine.com/archive/0714p8.shtml
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16529682/
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK534809/
  16. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/186235
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