Constipation is a common problem faced by people. It is said to occur when one is unable to pass stools daily, or faced pain in passing hard stools (feces). This is majorly caused due to lack of fiber in our diet and dehydration. Sometimes it can be a side-effect of medicines, or due to an underlying medical condition. The treatment of constipation is by laxatives which are a group of medicines that are easily available. To avoid constipation follow a healthy lifestyle- by eating healthy fiber rich food and drinking plenty of fluids.
Eat foods that contain plenty of fiber & Drink 2 Liters of Water per day
Fiber (roughage) is that part of plant food that is not digested but adds bulk and softness to the stools. Slowly increase the fiber content in your diet (salads, fruits, bran etc.) over a period of one week. Initially one may face bloating of the stomach and excessive wind but, as the gut gets used fibrous diet- the bloating and gas reduces. It is advised to start with 30 grams of fiber per day with about 8 to 10 cups of water. The excess water will pass as urine and the absorbed water in the gut softens the stools and aids digestion. Avoid alcohol as it leads to lack of fluid in the body (dehydration).
Include Sorbitol in your diet
Sorbitol is a naturally occurring sugar that is not digested. This absorbs water and remains in the gut in turn the stools get soft and ease constipation. Fruits and natural fruit juices have a high sorbitol content.
Fruits with high Sorbitol content:
Apples, apricots, gooseberries, grapes, pears, plums, prunes, raspberries and strawberries
Dried fruits like raisins contain 5-10 times higher sorbitol compared to fresh fruit. These dried fruits can be used as snacks or in between meals. Prunes are very effective to treat constipation, consume six prunes twice a day and say good bye to constipation.
Regular Exercise is important
Physical activity is important to keep your gut moving. Regular exercise aids digestion and helps prevent constipation. It is observed that bed-ridden people or disabled persons face problem of constipation more than active people.
Maintain a Toilet routine
Never suppress the urge to visit the toilet to pass stools. If delayed for a long time, the stools get backlogged and harden inside the rectum. This results in painful defecation later on. Ideally the best time to go to the toilet is- first thing in the morning or after about 30 minutes after a meal. The movement of stools through the lower bowel is greatest in the mornings, due to the gastrocolic reflex. One should visit the toilet once awake and this should be unhurried. One should spend ample time on the toilet seat ensuring that the bowels are empty. Squatting is considered the best posture to pass stools. For western style toilet seats, one can use a small footstool under the legs to help in posture. The best posture is to relax, lean forward and rest your elbows on your thighs. Gently rub your back in case of hard stools. One should not strain or hold the breath while passing stools.
Even if diet and lifestyle changes do not help, try taking laxatives to ease the discomfort. Laxatives are medicines which can be taken to ease constipation. Laxatives can be stopped once the stools (feces) become soft and easier to pass. Chronic constipation is said to occur when the problem persists for at least 12 weeks out of the past 6 months. If you suffer from long term chronic, or persistent constipation, it is advised to visit your physician.
Complications due to constipation:
Sometimes a minor tear in the soft anal skin (an anal fissure) can occur during passage of hard stools. This can be painful with some fresh blood spots on the toilet paper. Severe or chronic constipation results in fecal impaction- where a large mass of hard feces blocks the rectum. This mass stretches the rectum and may cause fecal incontinence – i.e. one loses control control over liquid feces leaking out. It is advised to visit your doctor who will examine the anus and remove the hard blocking fecal matter.
Constipation treatment during pregnancy
Constipation is very common during pregnancy. This can be eased by changing the diet to include more fibrous food and by drinking plenty of fluid throughout the day. Daily physical activity and regular walk helps ease the condition. Consult your doctor before consuming any medicines or laxatives, to be safe.
Other reasons for constipation:
Certain medicines can cause constipation as a side-effect. Regular use of painkillers (codeine or morphine based), antidepressants and iron tablets cause constipation as a side effect. Medical conditions like an underactive thyroid gland, Irritable bowel syndrome, diverticular diseases, Colon cancer, can cause constipation.
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