People struggle to overcome constipation every now and then. It is a common complaint affecting 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 3 children. Constipation is when a person is not passing stools regularly, or has difficulty in passing stool or cannot completely empty the bowel. In this article, we discuss diet and lifestyle changes to overcome constipation.
Occasional constipation is not a serious condition and it resolves on its own but chronic constipation for several weeks or longer significantly affects the quality of life, and it should be evaluated by a doctor. One of the main culprits is the faulty diet suiting the busy but sedentary lifestyle.
COMMON LIFESTYLE FACTORS THAT CAUSES CONSTIPATION
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Changes in the daily routine, starting office after a vacation or school reopening.
- Not adding enough fiber to the daily meals.
- Not drinking enough water.
- Old age.
- Certain medications as Iron supplements, anti-depressants
It could be due to underlying medical condition, such as Hypothyroid or depression
It is also common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes in the body, which is usually very well managed by proper diet modification.
LIFESTYLE CHOICES TO OVERCOME CONSTIPATION- THE DO’S & DON’T’S OF CONSTIPATION
HIGH FIBER DIET GRADUALLY:
Add plenty of fiber in your diet, like 5- 6 servings of fruits, vegetables. Add cereals for breakfast rather than fried eggs. But a sudden increase in dietary fiber can cause bloating, the key is to start slowly & gradually introduce more fiber to our intestines.
DRINK PLENTY OF WATER:
Keep yourself well hydrated, as water softens the stool & it moves easily down the bowel.
STAY AS ACTIVE AS POSSIBLE:
Physical activity speeds up the muscular activity in the intestine.
STICK TO A DAILY ROUTINE:
Do not ignore the urge to go to the toilet, don’t try to hold the stool for long as it hardens and can worsen constipation.
AVOID STRESSFUL SITUATIONS:
The brain and intestine are synched up more than we realize, stressful situations can either cause diarrhea or constipation. Stress can cause irregular spasms in the intestines, sometimes accumulating the stool in one place and can lead to constipation.
HAVE FOODS RICH IN MAGNESIUM:
Almond, dark leafy vegetables, cashews, black beans, banana & salmon are excellent sources of Magnesium.
Avoid having too much cheese & milk, reduce the intake if you suffer from constipation often.
Fried food is full of fat, not easy to digest.
READY TO EAT FAST FOOD:
Fast food is low in fiber, it slows down the digestion, causing stool to harden.
Do not strike eggs completely off the menu, as eggs are low in their fiber content, try eggs with veggies or salad.
REFINED SUGAR AS IN PASTRIES, COOKIES:
Should be avoided completely as refined sugar is very low in fiber.
Substitute it with a multigrain or whole wheat variant especially for breakfast.
Caffeine worsens constipation
Lack of physical exercise and sitting for long hours can slow down the digestion process.
- Blood in stools.
- Extreme pain with each bowel movement.
- If constipation persists for more than 2 weeks.
- The swollen vein in the anus also known as piles/Hemorrhoids: Straining to have a bowel movement may cause swelling in the veins, which can bleed too if not taken care of.
- Tear in the anus also known as fissure: It is very painful and forms a vicious cycle. Since the condition is so painful that people avoid emptying the bowel, which further hardens the stool, and worsens constipation.
- Prolapse: Chronic straining at the toilet seat can cause a small amount of rectum to stretch and protrude out.
- Dietary changes remain the treatment of choice to overcome constipation as its safe, effective and gives long-lasting relief.
- Bulking agents: These add more volume to the stool as they draw more water into the intestine making the stool softer and easy to evacuate. It is not good to opt for laxatives straight away as it is habit-forming, though it can offer a quick relief in symptoms, it is not good for the intestines in the long run. If constipation still persists, it’s time to go to a doctor for further evaluation.
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