Constipation is actually a very common problem. About 4 million Americans suffer from it. In Asia, 13-17% of the population who are constipated is an under estimation.

Constipation is defined as bowel movement for less than 3 times a week. Stools are hard, dry and small in size. Bowel movement that is difficult or painful, coupled with the feeling of bloating.

What cause constipation?

As undigested food moves through the large intestine or the colon, water is absorbed forming stool. Muscle contraction pushes the stool towards the rectum. By the time the stool reaches the rectum, it is solid and devoid of water.

Constipation occurs when muscle contraction is slow and sluggish, the stool remains in the colon for too long allowing all the water to be absorbed, making it hard.

1) Poor diet that is lacking in fiber

Most of us generally consume about 10-15 g of fiber a day. This is short of 20-35 g of fiber a day as recommended by the American Dietetic Association.

Fiber is made up of 2 types; soluble and insoluble. Fruits give soluble fiber that is dissolved in water forming soft gel-like structure in the colon. Vegetables give insoluble fiber that is passed through the colon unchanged. They give bulk to the stool and help to clean the colon wall as it pass through.

2) Lack of water

Water adds fluid to the stool making it softer and easier to pass through. On the other hand, alcohol and caffeine drinks dehydrate the body.

3) Physical activities

Physical activities aid in the movement of the stools in the colon. 6 out of 10 older people have constipation problem due to the general lack of physical activities.

4) Medication

Some medication can affect bowel movements:

5) Ignoring the urge to move bowel

When you ignore the urge to move your bowel, it will go away and you stop feeling the need. Stools remain in the colon will become harder as more water is absorbed.

Some people delay the bowel movement because they don’t want to use the toilet outside. Children postpone going to the toilet due to stressful toilet training or they don’t want to interrupt their play.

6) Diseases

Neurological disorder such Parkinson disease, metabolic syndrome such as diabetics, irritable bowel syndrome are diseases that can affect the bowel movement.

Constipation is not a disease but chronic constipation can lead to other health issues such as colon cancer. Therefore, it is important that we take steps to prevent it.

How can you prevent and relieve constipation?

1) Diet

Increase fiber intake to meet the recommended 20-35 g per day. Eat high fiber food such as beans, grains, fruits and vegetables. Reduce the intake of processed foods as fiber is mostly removed during processing.

Do note that in some cases, increasing fiber intake may cause in further discomfort if your intestinal transit time is slow. In this case, you should cut back on the fiber and observe.

2) Change to a healthy lifestyle

Be physically active every day. Walking for 30 minutes every day is easily incorporated into your daily schedule.

Drink plenty of water. The guideline is 30 ml for every kg of your body weight. Minimize alcohol and caffeine intake to reduce dehydration.

Give time in your day for bowel movement.

3) Laxatives

If you are mildly constipation, there is no need for laxatives. However for chronic constipation, take laxatives for a limited period of time but stop to retrain the sluggish bowel movement in the colon.

You can get natural laxatives from herbs such as Senna leaf.  See my earlier post Cleanse Your Digestive System Naturally.

Constipation affects most of us at some time or another. If you adopt a healthy lifestyle of high fiber, low fat diet with plenty of water and exercises, you should not have a problem with it.

What are your remedies for constipation? Share with me in the comment box below.

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