Constipation may be a taboo topic, but it’s an important one. Constipation is a common digestive complaint. Many people suffer from it in silence and don’t know what to do about it. It can cause various issues such as bloating, irritability, hemorrhoids, anal fissures and weight gain. While many studies have linked chronic constipation with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, a meta-analysis that included 250,000 participants from 1966 to 2011 concluded that there’s no link. If you’re over 50, or have a family history of colorectal cancer, ask your doctor when and how you should be screened. http://alturl.com/zdse5
Constipation occurs when waste moves too slowly through the digestive tract. A healthy adult should easily and comfortably pass a solid, firm bowel movement at least three times per week and as often as one to three times per day. Signs of constipation include going less than three times per week, straining, having small, dry, hard stools and feelings of incomplete evacuation.
It’s not unusual to be occasionally constipated such as when you’re on vacation – perhaps due to a change in diet, sporadic access to bathrooms or uncomfortable surroundings. If you’re chronically constipated, your first step should be to see your doctor to rule out underlying medical causes. According to the Mayo Clinic, causes may include pregnancy, diabetes, neurological problems such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, certain cancers, an underactive thyroid, problems with pelvic muscles and bowel obstructions. Make sure your doctor knows about any medications and supplements you’re taking. Certain medications such as water pills and pain killers and supplements such as iron and calcium can cause constipation. Extended use of over-the-counter laxatives can exacerbate constipation. Some psychological conditions such as depression and stress can cause constipation.
Once medical reasons for your chronic constipation are ruled out, you can begin to implement lifestyle modifications. Inactivity and poor eating habits are not conducive to a healthy digestive system.
When you exercise, food travels through your body more quickly, the amount of water absorbed from the stool into your body decreases and the contractions of the colon’s muscles increase. All of this leads to faster gastric emptying. Thirty minutes of daily mild-to-moderate intensity aerobic exercise, all at once or spread out throughout the day, can play a protective role against constipation.
Walking is an excellent form of exercise and can relieve constipation. So is dancing, rebounding (jumping on a trampoline) or lower-impact activities such as swimming. The higher impact of running encourages gastric motility but can trigger the urgent need to evacuate at inconvenient times. If you’re taking up outdoor running, you may want to plan routes that include accessible washrooms. Some endurance runners find that running causes cramps and diarrhea; therefore, running may not the best exercise for everyone.
Although yoga is not aerobic, some poses may be helpful. Try the down-facing hero’s pose: Lie on your back, bring your knees towards your chest and touch your forehead to your knees. Hold for thirty seconds. Another one is child’s pose: Kneel on a mat with knees wide apart. Rest your forehead on the mat with arms extended forward on the mat. Yoga is excellent for stress reduction which can alleviate constipation.
Did you know that excrement is made up of 75 per cent water? When you’re dehydrated, your stool is dry and harder to pass. Drinking more water can help with constipation. Caffeine is a stimulant and can cause colon contractions which help move waste. However caffeine is also a diuretic (as is alcohol) and can cause dehydration and worsen constipation.
It’s advisable to eat fewer processed and fatty foods and more roughage – such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains or other foods high in fibre. Grandma knew what she was doing when she ate prunes.
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria available in supplements and found in cultured foods such as yogurt. A meta-analysis of 14 studies on the effectiveness of probiotics versus a placebo on constipation found that on average, probiotics increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.3 and helped soften stools. However, more studies are needed to determine the most effective type and dosage of probiotic. http://tinyurl.com/h75ebrc
Colon cleanses are products you purchase and drink to empty your colon. These products are medically unnecessary and often come with anecdotal, scientifically-unproven claims such as they remove toxins. These products can have unwanted side-effects and are potentially unsafe for people with certain medical conditions.
Follow my common-sense strategies and your constipation should work out in the end.