Constipation is a condition when you are having hard, dry bowel movements or stool passing fewer than three times a week. Bowel habits are different from person to person. Some people go three times a day while others go three times a week. Constipation may occur due to many reasons that include, changes in diet, eating less fiber, dehydration, less physical activity, gastrointestinal disorders, etc. It is one of the most common digestive problems found in many people. Various home remedies can help in relieving constipation but when it becomes serious, you need proper medication.
What is constipation?
It is the condition in which you face problems in your bowel movements. It is because of the blockage in the large intestines. When you have three or fewer bowel movements a week may lead to constipation.
Symptoms of constipation
Some common symptoms of constipation include;
- When you have fewer than three bowel movements a week
- Hard, dry, or lumpy stools
- Pain or difficulty in passing stools
- A feeling of not having enough stool passed
- Discomfort in the stomach
Most symptoms become are very serious in which you need proper medical advice that includes;
- Intense or constant abdominal pain
- Blood in your stool
- A feeling that gas is trapped
Why does constipation occur?
The colon of your body helps in passing the residual food through your digestive system. It then creates stool. If stool remains in the colon for a long time, it is difficult for it to pass. Poor diet is one of the major causes of constipation. Adequate water and dietary fibers help in softening the stool so that it can easily pass.
The common causes of constipation include –
- Low fiber diet – If you intake a fiber-rich diet you may have fewer chances of constipation. This is because fiber helps to get regular bowel movements. It is the effect if you take fiber with proper hydration. You can include high-fiber foods in your diet like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes. And avoid low-fiber foods that include; cheese, meat, eggs, white bread, chips, etc.
- Physical inactivity – Less physical exercise can also lead to constipation. Some studies show that physically active people are more likely to have less risk of constipation than those who are physically inactive. If you spend a lot of days or weeks in a bed you may have a high possibility of constipation.
- Travel or other change in routine – traveling or changes in routine also causes constipation because of the change in environment.
- Certain medications – including pain killers, antacids, etc. also give the risk of constipation due to the substances present in them.
- Irritable bowel syndrome – people who have difficulty in the functioning of intestines such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have a higher risk of constipation than those who do not have that condition. The person who has IBS can face abdominal pain, bloating, consistency of stool, etc.
- Older age – most of the time age factor is one of the causes of constipation. Because in old age people have a bad digestive system through which they experience constipation.
Tips to avoid constipation
You need to take care of your diet, which helps you to avoid medications for constipation. Some natural remedies are there for you. You need to take a proper diet to relieve constipation.
- Diet rich in veggies – you need to take approx. 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables in your daily meal. Make some veg sandwiches, and add salads to your meal instead of fries. Keep a handy fruit bowl and add chopped nuts to your oatmeal or cereals.
- Go for grains – eat whole-grain bread, whole wheat pasta, and brown rice instead of white bread, white rice, and regular pasta. You need to eat snacks like popcorn instead of chips. You can also eat whole oats, and multigrain cereals but make sure to choose the low level of fat and sugar.
- Bulk up on beans – eat beans or legumes instead of meat at least once or twice per week. You can also add some beans to your salads and take bean soups and broths in the main courses.
- Gradually add fiber – you need to add fiber slowly to your diet. Because if you take large amounts of fibers it makes you feel bloated and gassy. You can take time to adjust fibers to your body.
- Fiber supplements – if you are unable to get enough fiber to your diet, consider a fiber supplement. These supplements are called bulk-forming laxatives. They are safe but make sure to talk with your doctor before use.
- Stay hydrated – water is important for relieving constipation. Water makes your stool soft so that it can pass easily. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
- Try coffee – caffeinated drinks and alcohol are dehydrated drinks. But some studies show that a cup of coffee or tea in the morning can help you poop easily.
- Watch your FODMAOs – some carbohydrates cause constipation. These carbohydrates are known as “FODMAPs” which include dairy, apple, broccoli, wheat, and lentils. You can cut these from your diet but make sure to cut them carefully. As these also give you nutrients that are beneficial for your health.
You can also do some other things to relieve constipation which include;
- Regular exercise – exercise can help food to move quickly from your colon. That is why try to do exercise daily for about 20 minutes or 3 days a week.
- Adjust your toilet posture – change your positions, it is easy to poop if you squat, raise your legs, or lean back.
- Check your medicines – sometimes many prescription drugs can cause constipation. Therefore, ask your doctor before use.
- Massage – massaging helps in bowel movement. That is why massage your abdomen in several ways.
- Prebiotics and probiotics – most of the time constipation occurs due to the imbalance in the bacteria present in your intestines. Therefore, certain prebiotic foods like bananas, and oatmeal, and probiotics, like yogurt helps you to provide bacterial balance.
Treatment for constipation
Usually, constipation can be treated without the need for a prescription. You can resolve it by changing your lifestyle such as getting regular exercise, eating more fiber, drinking water, etc.
But if it cannot be treated by these changes then you should see a doctor for that. They give a better prescription for it. Some of the treatments prescribed by the doctors are:
You must use it only when lifestyle changes cannot help you to get rid of constipation.
Some of the laxatives and stool softeners that help you to relieve constipation include;
- Fiber supplements – these are known as bulk-forming laxatives such as FiberCon. You can take it with plenty of water.
- Stimulants – these help in contracting the intestinal muscles rhythmically. An example of a stimulant is Senokot.
- Lubricants – lubricants help in moving out the stool through the colon smoothly. Mineral oil is one example.
- Stool softeners – Colace and Surfak are the two softeners that help the stool to get moisturized.
- Osmotics – saline laxative is a type of osmotic that gets water to the colon to hydrate the stool for easy movement.
Constipation caused by the blockage or narrow passage of your intestines can be treated by surgery. Surgery is the last option if your colon does not work properly. In which the section of your colon may be removed.
How is it diagnosed?
Constipation can be diagnosed by various tests that include;
- Marker study – this test is used to see how food is moving through your colon. In this test, you swallow a pill containing tiny markers in it and these are shown on an X-ray. This test helps to identify how food is moving and how well your intestines are working.
- Anorectal manometry – this test helps to evaluate the function of the anal sphincter muscle. In this test, a thin tube with a balloon tip will be inserted into your anus. The tube inflates the balloon and slowly pulls it out. This test measures your anal sphincter muscle’s strength and also sees whether your muscles are contracting properly or not.
- Colonoscopy – a type of test in which your colon will be examined by using a colonoscope. It is a tube having a camera and light source on it. Before using this test, you will be on a liquid diet only for 1 to 3 days.
Thus, we can say that constipation is a type of condition that can be found for many reasons. You can be easily relieved from it if you take a proper diet. But when it is perceived more, you need to take it to a doctor and they will give you a proper prescription.
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