Constipation is a condition where a person has bowel movements that is less frequent than normal or when his stool is small, hard, and difficult or painful to pass. Constipation is one of the most common digestive ailment afflicting Americas.
Constipation is generally defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. The number of bowel movements a day or a week is different from person to person. Some people think they are constipated if they do not have a bowel movement every day. But it’s quite normal for some people to have bowel movements one or more times a day and other people to have bowel movements no more than three times a week. Constipation is not defined by the number of times that a person has a bowel movement during a giving time but rather the regularity of the bowel movements.
Besides irregular bowel movements, other symptoms of constipation include bad breath, feeling constant fullness in the belly, loss of appetite, headaches and dizziness, and lower back pain. Constipation often causes other diseases and illnesses due to the back up of toxic waste products in the body. Instead of being discharged during bowel movements, the toxins in the waste remain in the body too long and are re-absorbed by the body, leading to a number of ailments.
The high incident of constipation is often blamed on the traditional Western diet that is common to most people. This diet is often high in fats and processed foods containing flour, sugar and additives, and low in vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Lack of exercise, not drinking enough water, drinking excessive amounts of coffee or tea, and stress and poor sleeping habits can also contribute to irregular bowel movements.
Although constipation can happen to anyone, it appears to more frequently afflict women and people over the age of 65. Women who are pregnant or who have just given child birth and anyone who just had surgery are at a higher risk of experiencing constipation.
As we age, our bodies slows down and produces less of the digestive juices it normally needs to process the foods we eat and is a leading cause of constipation in older people. Reduced physical activity is also thought to be one of the reasons constipation is common in older people.
Taking pain killers and being affected by some physical condition such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries will also put people at a higher risk for developing constipation.
While there are many different medications on the market that offer temporary relief by inducing bowel movements, too much reliance on medication can have negative effect on you body such as dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps, hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
If you are thinking of using over-the-counter medications to get rid of your constipation, make sure that you really are constipated before taking these constipation medications. Luckily, there are natural remedies for constipation that do not involve over-the-counter or prescription laxatives and will not damage your health in any way. In fact, using these natural ways to relieve constipation may also improve your overall health.
As with most natural remedies, a natural cure for constipation involves a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes. One of the easiest cures for your constipation that will get immediate results is to increase your fluid intake. If you don’t get enough fluids into your body, the body becomes dehydrated and it will try to recover and absorb as much excess water in the stool as possible for use to maintain the function of varies organs.
The dry stool is what makes bowel movements difficult and less frequent. Keeping adequately hydrated by drinking water or getting moisture from the foods you eat will keep your stools soft and help with your bowel movements.
You should drink at least six to eight glasses of liquid a day, depending on you how active you are and the climate where you live. While almost any fluid will do the trick the best fluid one is plain water. Fluids that contain caffeine will actually do more to dehydrate you and in turn worsen your constipation. Alcohol is another drink that dehydrates the body. A note of caution: Don’t drink too much plain water at one time without also replacing your body’s electrolytes.
Most people that eat a traditional Western diet do not get enough fiber in their foods. The American Dietetic Association recommends at minimum of 20 to 35 gram of daily fiber a day for adults. It’s not difficult to get the recommended fiber serving size of 35 gram of fiber per day.
For example, one half cup of green peas has about 5 grams of fiber; one small apple supplies about 3 grams of fiber; and a bowl of bran cereal will give you up to 13 grams of fiber. Cooked dried beans, prunes, figs, raisins, popcorn, oatmeal and nuts are also good sources of fiber.
If your diet is currently low in dietary fiber, don’t increase your fiber intake too quickly or you may experience flatulence, bloating and other side effects. Instead, slowly add one or two high fiber foods each day. Then, every three or four days, add another high fiber food, and so on, until you get the recommended 35 grams of fiber per day.
Another natural cure for constipation is exercise. Any form of regular exercise will help to relief constipation because the continued movement of your body helps to improve the peristalsis, or the rhythmic contraction of muscles to propel contents in the lower intestines. While any form of exercise is beneficial, walking appears to be the most effective and is especially helpful for pregnant women who experience constipation as their babies continue to grow.
Not answering the call of nature to go to the bathroom to have a bowel movement can lead to progressive constipation. People who constantly ignore the urge to have a bowel movement may eventually stop feeling the need to have one, which can lead to constipation. On the reverse side, we can also train ourselves to go to the bathroom by following a regular schedule of going to the bathroom whether or not we feel the need. Our bodies have a gastric reflux which is triggered approximately 20 minutes after each meal, especially heavy meals. You can pick a meal, any meal, and every day, wait between 20 or 30 minutes after the meal to go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet for at least 10 minutes. It won’t be long before your body begins to respond to the training and you will have regular bowel movements 20 minutes after your chosen meal.
If you don’t find these dietary and lifestyle changes working for you, you may consider adding a little help. Eat a healthy helping of sunflower seeds every day will help to increase the fiber and will help move the stool along. Eating extra helpings of whole wheat bread, brand, and oatmeal, horseradish with your meals, dried figs and plums are also great for alleviating constipation.
Some people may also find that they suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction caused by a weakness of the muscles in the pelvis surrounding the anus and rectum which do not allow the bowels to empty appropriately. However, because this group of muscles is voluntarily controlled to some extent, biofeedback therapy has shown some success in training people to control the muscles to function normally and improving the ability to have a bowel movement. For example, in a small study group of 54 constipation sufferers using biofeedback therapy for six months, 43 have shown to benefited more from biofeedback than from the use of laxatives. The benefits appeared to last for at least two years.
Constipation can lead to other complications such as hemorrhoids, caused by straining to have a bowel movement, or anal fissures or tears around the anus, caused by hard stool stretching the sphincter muscle. The hemorrhoids or anal fissures are not only painful but can also aggravate your constipation by narrowing the anal opening and restricting the amount of stool that can be passed. Straining to expel the stool can also raise your blood pressure and lower your heart rate, which can cause you to black out or faint, and fall off the toilet. This is especially dangerous for elderly people as they are more easily injured from falls.
Most people with mild constipation do not need the help of laxatives or other medication, and should benefit from the natural remedies mentioned above. However, if these methods are not helpful in relieving your constipation, you should immediately seek the care and advice of your doctor or health care provider to deal with the problems associated with hemorrhoids and anal fissures, and also to rule out any other underlying illness that you may have.