Constipation? Your digestive system is remarkably efficient. In the space of a few hours, it extracts nutrients from the foods you eat and drink, processes them into the bloodstream, and prepares leftover material for disposal. That material passes through about 20 feet of the intestine before being stored temporarily in the colon, where water is removed.
The residue is excreted through the bowels, normally within a day or two. Depending on your diet, age, and daily activity, regularity can mean anything from three bowel movements a day to three each week.
What is Constipation? Causes and How To Get Rid of It
As fecal material sits in the colon, the harder the stool becomes and the more difficult it is to pass. A normal stool should not be either unusually hard or soft, and you shouldn’t have to strain unreasonably to pass it.
What Causes Constipation? Our busy, modern lifestyles may be responsible for most cases of constipation: not eating enough fiber or drinking enough water, not getting enough exercise, and not taking the time to respond to an unmistakable urge to go to the bathroom. Persistent, chronic constipation may also be a symptom of more serious conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, depression, or an underactive thyroid gland.
Bowel habits tend to vary with age and circumstances. Bottle-fed babies, for example, tend to have firmer stools and more bouts of constipation than breast-fed babies. Some children become constipated when they start school or other activities because they are embarrassed to ask permission to use the toilet.
Toddlers often become constipated during toilet training if he or she is unwilling or afraid to use the toilet. Being sensitive to pain, children may avoid the toilet if they have minor splits or tears in the anus from straining or other irritations. Kids can also become constipated from consuming certain foods, such as dairy products.
Older people, especially those who are more sedentary, tend to develop constipation more often. Medications that can cause constipation include narcotics, diuretics, iron supplements, antacids, and drugs for blood pressure, seizures, and depression.
Constipation Treatments — Starting With Good Habits
One way to keep things moving is by getting enough fiber in your diet, which makes stool bulkier and softer so it’s easier to pass. Gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet until you’re getting at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily.
Good fiber sources include: Bran and other whole grains found in cereals, bread, and brown rice Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, and asparagus Fresh fruits, or dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and prunes Beans
While you’re having an issue with constipation, limit foods that are high in fat and low in fiber, like cheese and other dairy products, processed foods, and meat. They can make constipation worse. And on the subject of diet, water is important for preventing constipation, too. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Also, exercise regularly. Moving your body will keep your bowels moving, too.