Constipation – 11 way to keep things moving
Overview of constipation
Irregularity is one of those things that no one likes to talk about. It’s personal and, well, a little embarrassing. But if you’re one of the millions of people who have been suffering from constipation, you know it can put a real damper on your day.
The first thing to realize when you’re talking about constipation is that “regularity” is a relative term.
Everyone has his or her own natural rhythm. Ask four people to define regularity, and you’re likely to get four different answers.
Normal bowel habits can span anywhere from three bowel movement a day to three a week.
“One of the most common forms of constipation is imaginary or misconceived constipation.”
It’s based on the idea that if you don’t have the “magical” one bowel movement a day, then something is wrong. Constipation has a lot to do with a person’s comfort level.
People who are constipated often strain a lot in the bathroom, produce unusually hard stools and feel gassy and bloated.
If you have fewer than three bowel movements a week or if you experience a marked change in your normal bowel patterns.
A sudden change in bowel habits merits a visit to your doctor to rule out any more serious underlying problems.
But for the occasional bout of constipation, here are some tips to put you back on track:
1. Get moving
Exercise seems not only to boost your fitness but to promote regularity as well. “The thinking is that lack of activity puts the bowel to rest.”
That may particularly explain why older people, who may be more sedentary, and those who are bedridden are more prone to becoming constipated.
“We encourage people to get up and be more active.” So gare up and get moving.
You don’t have to run a marathon; a simple walking workout doesn’t take much time and can be very beneficial.
When it comes to regularity, even a little exercise is better than none at all.
2. Raise your glass
Drinking an adequate amount of liquids may help to alleviate constipation or prevent it from happening in the first place.
The reason for this is simple. “If you dehydrate yourself or drink too little fluid, that will dry out your stool as well as make it hard to pass.
On the other hand, some people have the misconception that if they drink far more than you need, you can treat constipation.
But thats not a fack, the excess fluid will just get urinated out.
To achieve a balanced intake of liquids, a good rule of thumb is to drink eight cups of liquid a day.
(This rule of thumb doesn’t apply, however, if you have kidney or liver problem or any other medical condition that may require restricting your intake of fluid.)
Drink even more when it’s hot or when you’re exercising.
Experts suggested that athletes weigh themselves before and after a workout. Any weight lost during the activity reflects water loss.
To replace it, they should drink two cups of liquid for every lost pound of body weight.
For those who are constipated, all liquid is not created equal. Avoid drinking a lot of coffee or other caffeinated drinks.
Caffeine acts as a diuretic, taking fluid out of your body when you want to retain it. Sticks with water, seltzer, juice, or milk instead.
3. Don’t forget the urge
Often, because people are busy or have erratic schedules or because they don’t use public bathrooms, they suppress the urge to have a bowel movement.
“If they do this over a period of time, it can block the urge so it doesn’t come.” If at all possible, heed the call when you feel it.
4. Take advantage of an inborn reflex
As babies, we’re all born with a reflex to defecate a short time after we’re fed.
With socialization, we learn to control our bladders and bowels and we inhibit this reflex.
You should try to revive this reflex by choosing one mealtime a day and try to have a movement after it.
“Very often, people can program the colon to respond to that meal.” This works better with younger people than with the elderly.
5. Know your medications
A number of prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause constipation.
If you are currently taking any medication, you might want to ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it could be causing your constipation.
Among the drugs that can cause constipation are calcium-channel blocker taken for high blood pressure, beta-blocker, some antidepressants, narcotics and other pain medications, antihistamines (to a lesser degree), certain decongestants, and some antacids.
Antacids that contain calcium or aluminum are binding and can cause constipation.
When choosing an antacid, keep in mind that the name of most of those with aluminum starts with “a.”
Those that start with the letter “m” contain magnesium, which does not constipate. If you are unsure, check the label or ask your pharmacist.
6. Bulk up
Many times, adding fiber or roughage to your diet is all that’s needed to ensure regularity.
Fiber, the indigestible parts of plant foods, adds mass to the stool and stimulate the colon to push things along.
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans. Meats, chicken, fish, and fats come up empty-handed in the fiber category.
The current recommendations for daily dietary fiber are 20 to 35 grams. “Most people are between 10 and 15 grams.” So there’s plenty of room for improvement.
Fiber supplements may be helpful, but most doctors and dietitians agree that it’s preferable to get your fiber from food.
7. Add fiber slowly
People assimilate high-fiber foods into their diet more easily if they do it gradually.
You need to add one high-fiber food at a time, start with small amounts, and wait a couple of days before adding something else so you don’t throw your system into chaos.
And you must drink adequate amount of liquid with fiber.
8. Eat at least five serving of fruits and vegetables daily
Select a variety of fruits and vegetables, some that are high in fiber and others that aren’t so high.
Potatoes (white and sweet), apples, berries, apricots, peaches, pears, oranges, prunes, corn, peas, carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower are all good choices.
9. Eat 6 to 11 serving of grain products daily.
That’s in addition to the five serving of fruits and vegetables just mentioned. Grain products include cereal, bread, and starchy vegetables (such as corn, green peas, potatoes, and lima beans).
Check the label on cereal boxes; anyone with more than five or six grams of fiber per serving qualifies as high fiber.
If you don’t like any so-called “high fiber” cereals, line up the boxes of cereal that you would be willing to eat and pick the one with the most fiber.
Read the label when choosing bread as well. “Just because a loaf of bread is brown doesn’t mean it has a lot of fiber in it.
Find a bread that has at least two grams of fiber per slice. Watch the portion size too, when looking for high fiber food.
“Sometimes they will give you a very large size that’s unrealistic for one serving.
10. Bring home the beans
Dried beans and legumes, whether pinto, red, lima, navy, or garbanzo are excellent sources of fiber.
Many people don’t like them because of the gassiness they may cause. Cooking beans properly can ease this problem considerably.
Technique for cooking less “explosive” dried beans: Soak the beans overnight, then dump the water out.
Pour new water in, and cooking the bean for 30 minutes. Throw that water out, put in new water, and cook for another 30 minutes. Drain the water out, put new water in, and finish cooking.
11. Cut back on refined foods
You can bump up your fiber intake by switching from refined food to less-refined foods whenever possible.
Switch from a highly processed cereal to a whole-grain cereal, move from heavily cooked vegetables, and choose whole-grain products over products made with white flavor.
A glass of orange juice, for instance, provides 0.1 grams of fiber, while eating an orange gives you 2.9 grams.
And while a serving of potato chips has only 0.6 grams of fiber, a serving of popcorn supplies 2.5 grams.
“As soon as you start juicing something or straining it or taking the pulp out, you’re taking out fiber.”
Laxative seems like an easy solution for constipation woes, but they can cause many more problems than they solve.
Indeed, these tablets, gums power, suppositories, and liquids can be habit forming and produce substantial side effects if used incorrectly.
Laxative work in different ways, and “each one has it’s problem.”
Some lubricate, others soften the stool, some draw water into the bowel, and still, others are bulk-forming.
One real danger is that people can become dependent on them, needing an everinreasing amount to do the job.
Eventually, some types of laxative can damage the nerve cells of the colon until the person can’t evacuate anymore.
Some laxatives inhibit the absorption or effectiveness of drugs. Those with a mineral-oil base can prevent the absorption of vitamins A, D, K, and E.
Still, others can damage and inflame the lining of the intestine. “I think laxative ought to be avoided if at all possible and only used under a doctor’s care.”
In long run, you’ll be much better off to depend on exercise, adequate fluid intake, and a high-fiber diet to keep you regular.
When to see the doctor for the constipation woes
Constipation can be a symptom of a more serious problem, such as an underactive thyroid, irritable bowel syndrome, or cancer.
See your doctor it you have any of these symptoms:
- A major change in your bowel pattern.
- Constipation lasting for several weeks or longer.
- Blood in your stool.
- Severe pain during bowel movements.
- Unusual stomach distention.