Most people can have constipation at some point of their life. It is a change of bowel movement in which becoming less frequent than usual and followed with other discomforts such as passing dry, hard stools or even you may need to strain when defecating. The good news it is treatable, even it may improve on its own. There are also ways to help relieve it more quickly!
How do you know if you have constipation?
Typically, constipation causes less frequent bowel movements. In general, having three bowel movements or fewer per week is categorized constipation. Other symptoms include:
- Passing lumpy, dry stools (harder than usual). These can be hard enough to make you strain when you defecate.
- Uncomfortable bloating feeling.
- Feeling of fullness even after bowel movement, or unable to completely empty bowel.
- You may also feel that there is a blockage in the rectum.
- Depending on the severity of the problem, you may even need to press your stomach with hands to help pass the stools.
If you experience some of these constipation’s discomfort symptoms for the last 3 months, it can be considered chronic (lost lasting). In some cases, constipation can also strike suddenly (acute, but infrequently).
Some people can have normal bowel movements only 3 times a week, while others can go everyday or even 2-3 times a day. The normal stools can vary, too. While near-runny, soft stools are usually considered normal – some people can also have firm stools, but without problem to pass them.
How do you get constipation?
You can get it for numerous different reasons since it can be attributed by many factors. But in general, you’re likely to have it if you:
- don’t drink adequate water (dehydration)
- don’t have adequate dietary fiber
- or if you have lack of physical activity (becoming a sedentary individual)
It is also more common in older adults and women, but it can affect anyone at any ages. Taking particular medications (such as sedative and some hypertension medicines) can also contribute to cause constipation.
In some cases, it is also caused by the following causes:
- Hormonal conditions, especially some that affect the balance of fluid in the body. These include pregnancy, thyroid problems (both overactive and underactive thyroid), and diabetes.
- Difficulty with your pelvic muscles or other muscles involved in elimination such as weakened pelvic muscles, dyssynergia, and anismus.
- Problem with nerves of bowel (colon and rectum). It is usually caused by neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune neuropathy, and spinal cord injury.
- Any conditions that cause blockages in the bowel such as bowel cancer or other cancers that lead to bowel obstruction, canal fissure, and bowel stricture.
Ways to relieve constipation quickly
In most cases, it is harmless and not serious. But sometimes the treatment is necessary, depending on the underlying cause and how severe it is!
The treatment usually begins with lifestyle changes, particularly with diet high in fiber and exercise. But if these changes are not enough to relieve the problem, medical intervention may be required.
What you eat does have an effect on your bowel movement. Even your dietary diet may be the most important thing you need to concern to cope with constipation. Adequate fiber from your diet plays a key role to raise the stool’s weight and quicken its passage through bowel.
To relieve your constipation, there may be specific amount of fiber recommended by your doctor you need to eat through diet. But in general, aim for at least 14 grams of fiber in your 1,000 calories!
And if you get used with low-fiber diet, don’t make a significant increase in dietary fiber in a short time. Instead, increase it gradually till your body gets used with the change. Eating lots of fiber when your gut is not ready may cause another problem, such as diarrhea.
What else? Here are other lifestyle measures of what you need to do (DOS) and what you need to avoid (DON’TS) to cope with constipation:
|Fresh fruits are loaded with fiber. Dried fruits are also not bad idea since they are so rich in fiber, and practical to eat. Apples, figs, bananas, raisins, prunes, and apricots are, for examples, good choices to help prevent and cure constipation quickly.||Processed foods are very poor in fiber. They are also high in bad properties such as trans-fat. Rely on them can worsen your constipation!|
|Keep hydrated, drink more water! Try to get at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. With fiber, adequate water in the gut and bowel is important to make your elimination more easily.||Heavy drinking of alcohol is another bad thing you need to avoid, since it can lead to dehydration.If necessary, temporarily avoid alcohol or drink only in moderation (not more than 2 drinks a day if you’re a man, not more than 1 drink a day if you’re a woman)! Likewise, too much caffeine is bad for constipation since it can also cause dehydration.|
|Load your plate with more fiber. Veggies, beans, bran and whole grains are also good source of fiber. They are rich in other essential nutrients, too – such as minerals, vitamins, and even antioxidants.||Rely on dairy products! Actually, dairy has nothing to do with constipation. But it may worsen bloating, one of discomfort constipation symptoms. It contains lactose that can produce more gas in the gut. However eating dairy products are not always bad idea. In fact they are rich in essential nutrients such as calcium. Just make sure to eat them in moderation, and it’s much better to go with low-sugar, low-fat dairy products.|
|Move more with regular exercise!|
|If you’re looking for more reason of why you need to have regular exercise, put preventing and relieving constipation into your list!,In fact, inactivity is one of key risk factors for this discomfort.More physical activity you do can help reduce the time it takes for food to move through colon, so thus this can help limit the amount of fluid /water absorbed from the stool. As a result, you’re less likely to have hard-dry stools. Exercise is also helpful to stimulate the contraction of your intestinal muscles. And this contraction is important to move your stools out quickly!To gain the most benefits of your exercise, do it regularly – and follow also the following checklists:
What is the best exercise to relieve constipation more quickly? Any exercise that makes you move more is good for your gut. Even simply getting up & moving, or 10-15 minutes regular walking regimen can help too. But if you’re already fit – swimming, jogging, brisk walking, or other aerobic exercises are excellent choices.And again the most important thing, do your exercise regularly!
|Another thing you need to remember, never ignore the urge for bowel movement – go to the bathroom when the urge comes, don’t wait! If necessary, take adequate time in the bathroom to have a bowel movement without feeling rushed!|
Some probiotics may help, too
You might familiar with some of the following names; Lactobacillus, Sacchromyces boulardi, and Bifidobacterium. They are probiotics – what actually are they?
They are bacteria that can promote digestion in the gut. You can get them from food (such as yogurt) or in supplements. But do they work for constipation?
The answer is still debatable, not fully known. While some studies suggest that there is a link between some probiotics and constipation relief, others studies find that the evidence is not yet ‘strong enough’.
In general, getting probiotics from food is worth a try and also safe for most people. But if you take them in supplement, it’s recommended to check with your doctor first!
It is high in omega-3 fatty acids, very good for your heart. But did you know that it is also good for your digestion? According to some studies, omega-3s have contribution to help relieve symptoms of ulcerative colitis, including constipation.
You can get fish oil from food (such as in mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring) or with supplement. It’s recommended to begin with foods! But if you think it’s not enough, fish oil supplement may be your option.
Since high dose of fish oil carry some health risks (such as bleeding risk), it’s recommended to consult first with your doctor – especially true if you have bleeding disorders or if you’re taking certain medication (such as blood-thinning medications).
The use of laxatives
Laxative is a common medicine prescribed to help empty bowels. In fact, most of doctor visits for constipation result in a prescription for the use of laxative. It can be used when lifestyle measures are not enough to relieve constipation.
There are some types of laxatives, and each type has pros and cons (side effects). These include:
- Bulking-agent, (fiber) laxative. It is the most common type recommended for constipation. It can add bulk to the stool, making it easier to pass in a bowel movement.
- Stimulant laxative. It can be prescribed if you need almost instantaneous relief or if you’re completely miserable from constipation. It stimulates the intestine’s lining, making the stool move faster through colon. It can be the stool’s hydration booster, too. But it may cause laxative dependency and weaken the natural ability of the body to defecate.
- Lubricant laxative, such as mineral oil. It can help make the stools slippery (as the name suggests), making them move through the bowel more easily.
- Stool softeners (emollient laxatives). They work by drawing more water from gut to help moisten the stool.
- Osmotic laxative. It usually contains hydrating agents to draw more water from the surrounding tissues into the gut so thus you have softer stools.
This yellowish liquid oil is used to help treat several conditions, including for a quick constipation relief. Its laxative-substance content is the main reason.
But don’t take it before your bedtime because it works quickly (its quick effect may make you wake up)! Another drawback, it has bad taste. However, you can take it with orange juice or another sweetener. Taking chilled castor oil is also good idea to cope with its bad taste.
Although it is safe for most people, but take it in moderation! Taking it in large amounts may cause overdose.
How about herbs?
It’s undeniable that herbal therapy is one of the oldest treatments in many different cultures around the world. And there are also some different herbs for constipation to choose from. But in general, they can be categorized into two main groups: herbal therapies with stimulant laxatives and fiber laxatives.
Stimulant herbs include the use of aloe, senna, and cascara segrada. And for fiber-laxative herbs, these include barley, fenugreek, and flaxseed (not flaxseed oil).
Many people are looking for alternative treatments such as herbs because they believe that these natural approaches come with no risk. But in fact, not all herbs are safe! For instance, the use of senna for constipation may lead to cramping.
Therefore, it’s better to consult with a professional herbalist before taking any herbs! And if you’re taking other medications, talk first with your doctor!
Other medical interventions
Laxatives are often prescribed for constipation. But they are not the only one. Here are other constipation medications: