What is constipation?
Constipation is a condition of the digestive system where an individual has hard feces that are difficult to expel. In most cases, this occurs because the colon has absorbed too much water from the food that is in the colon.If fecal material sits in the colon, the harder the stool becomes and the more difficult it is to pass. This condition is known as constipation. It's considered a symptom of various health issues, rather than a disease in and of itself. "Normal" bowel habits differ between people. Some people may pass stool three times a day, while others may only have a bowel movement three times a week. You're considered constipated if you have fewer than three bowel movements in a week. After this point, your stool may harden and become difficult or even painful to pass.While constipated, you may strain to pass stool or feel that you are unable to completely empty your bowels.
The main symptoms of constipation are increased difficulty and straining when passing stools.Passing fewer stools than usual can be a sign of constipation.
Other symptoms include:
- Stomach ache
- Stomach cramps
- Feeling bloated and nauseous
- Losing appetite
Causes of Constipation
A wide range of factors can lead to constipation, including:
- Lack of fiber in the diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Low fluid intake
- Certain medications (such as antidepressants, painkillers, certain antacids and iron supplements calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure and heart disease)Frequently taking laxatives or using enemas
- Changes in your life or daily routines, such as travelling
- Poor bowel habits (ignoring the urge to go)
- GI tract problems or disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, tumors or other obstructions, celiac disease, and colon polyps
- Various medical conditions and diseases, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes, hypothyroidism, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and nerve damage
Relief from Constipation
You can adapt following lifestyle and dietary practices to get relieved from constipation:
1. Drink more water
Being dehydrated regularly can make you become constipated. To prevent this, it's important to drink enough water and stay hydrated .However, don't start drinking more carbonated drinks like sugary soda, as they're a bad choice for your health and may make your constipation worse
2. Eat more fiber, especially soluble, non-fermentable fiber
People who are constipated are often told to increase their fiber intake .This is because increasing fiber intake is thought to increase the bulk and consistency of bowel movements, making them easier to passIn fact, one recent review found that 77% of people with chronic constipation benefited from supplementing with fiber. This is because the type of dietary fiber that you add to your diet is important.There are many different dietary fibers, but in general, they fall into two categories:
This is because insoluble fiber can make the problem worse in some people with a functional bowel problem, such as IBS or chronic idiopathic constipation. Some fermentable soluble fibers may also be ineffective at treating constipation, as they are fermented by bacteria in the gut and lose their water-holding capacity. The best choice for a fiber supplement when constipated is a non-fermentable soluble fiber, such as psyllium. To prevent constipation, you should aim to consume a mix of soluble and insoluble fibers. The total recommended fiber intake per day is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.
3. Exercise more
Exercise helps constipation by lowering the time it takes food to move through the large intestine. This limits the amount of water your body absorbs from the stool. Hard, dry stools are harder to pass. Plus, aerobic exercise speeds up your breathing and heart rate. This helps to stimulate the natural squeezing (or contractions) of muscles in your intestines. Intestinal muscles that squeeze better will help move stools out quickly. Simply getting up and moving can help constipation. A regular walking plan -- even 10 to 15 minutes several times a day -- can help the body and digestive system work at their best. If you are already fit, you might choose aerobic exercise: running, jogging, swimming, or swing dancing, for example. All of these exercises can help keep the digestive tract healthy. Stretching may also help ease constipation, and yoga may, too.
4. Drink coffee, especially caffeinated coffee
Coffee lovers can rejoice that the bitter-tasting substances in their cup of coffee can actually stimulate the digestive tract and provide constipation relief. Decaffeinated coffee can help bowels, but it won't do so at the same rate as caffeinated coffee. In fact, one study found that caffeinated coffee can stimulate your gut in the same way that a meal can. Coffee may also contain small amounts of soluble fibers that help prevent constipation by improving the balance of your gut bacteria.
5. Don’t ignore the urge to poop
Overall, women get constipated more often than men. That’s especially true during pregnancy, when hormonal changes can easily disrupt your digestive system. Add the pressure a growing baby puts on your plumbing, and it’s no surprise you have trouble going to the bathroom. These problems are also common after childbirth. But the urge can sometimes come at the most inopportune moments. Perhaps you’re in the middle of an important client meeting, on a hot date, or in an airplane and have a fear of letting it out in the sky (totally reasonable fear, by the way). So you do what any rational adult would do:You hold it in until you can go a little bit later. It can’t be that bad, can it? Simply, poop is a combination of waste material and bacteria, as a result of your body’s digestive process. After you eat, it takes your body a little less than 53 hours for it to do its thing and push that sandwich from your mouth through your digestive tract and out the other end (fun fact: the food spends roughly 40 of those hours just in your large intestine, a.k.a. your colon). When the digested food finally reaches the end, the rectal walls are stretched, and that sends a complex signal to the brain that it’s “go-time.”
6. Include Prunes in Diet
Dried plums, known as prunes, are widely used as a natural remedy for constipation. They contain high amounts of fiber, with 2 grams of fiber per 1-ounce (28-gram) serving, or about three prunes. The insoluble fiber in prunes, known as cellulose, increases the amount of water in the stool, which adds bulk. Meanwhile, the soluble fiber in prunes is fermented in the colon to produce short-chain fatty acids, which also increase stool weight .In addition, prunes contain sorbitol. This sugar alcohol is not absorbed well by the body, causing water to be pulled into the colon and leading to a laxative effect in a small number of people.Finally, prunes also contain phenolic compounds that stimulate beneficial gut bacteria. This has been hypothesized to contribute to their laxative effect.You can enjoy prunes on their own or in salads, cereals, oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies and savory stews.
7. Relaxation Techniques to Reduce Toilet Straining
What type of relaxation technique could you use? One is visualization. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in a calm and beautiful scene such as at the beach, in a garden, or in a forest. Open up all of your senses to imagine what you would be seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching.Deep breathing exercises are another relaxation technique. Muscle relaxation exercises, tensing and releasing groups of muscles from head to toe, are yet another technique. You can alternate these three types of relaxation exercise or choose just one or two.For best results, practice your relaxation techniques two to three times a day in a quiet, comfortable place, and then use the techniques to help keep you relaxed while you are sitting on the toilet. Remember that the best time to encourage a bowel movement is in the morning when intestinal contractions are likely to be at their peak.Enjoy a fairly large breakfast, preferably with some fatty foods, to stimulate the gastrocolic reflex. Then make time for a relaxing visit to the toilet. Refrain from straining, and use your relaxation skills to help you to stay calm. Try to visualize the muscles in your intestines contracting in a calm rhythm to comfortably move the stool along.