Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
What is constipation?
Constipation is the most common gastrointestinal illness in which there are fewer than three bowel movements in a week. However, the rate at which you ‘go’ varies from one individual to another. Bowel motions can occur three times a day in some persons, three times a week in others, and once a day in the majority. Therefore, as long as you have no less than three bowel movements in a week, your bowel pattern is normal.
Some studies have shown that around 22% of the adult Indian population have this condition with 13% complaining of severe constipation. Few symptoms that you may experience due to constipation are:
- Passing of dry and hard stool
- Painful and difficult bowel movements
- A feeling that the stomach isn’t fully empty
- Stomach ache and cramps
- You can feel bloated and nauseous
You can experience constipation due to factors like an unhealthy lifestyle or making certain lifestyle changes, a bad diet, or other underlying diseases. Here is a list of some of the top causes of constipation.
Most usual causes of constipation:
- Not going when there is an urge to have a bowel movement
- Frequent alcohol consumption
- Lack of exercise or no exercise
- Changes in everyday patterns like traveling, eating, or sleeping at different times
- Regular consumption of laxatives
- Consuming processed grains and their products like white rice, white pasta, and white bread
- Eating large amounts of dairy products
- Drinking less than four litres of water in a day
- Not including enough fibre in your diet
- Consuming fried and fast foods
- Regular consumption of red meat
Some conditions that can cause constipation:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Intestinal obstruction
Constipation is an easily manageable and preventable condition, and most people choose to implement some lifestyle and dietary changes to cope with it. Some over-the-counter laxatives can also help manage the condition, but they should be taken under the guidance of a medical practitioner because consuming laxatives without prescription can give rise to other health complications.
Some dietary tips to help you manage constipation at home:
- Drink plenty of water: Constipation usually occurs when you become dehydrated. Your intestines cannot add enough water to the feces, which causes hard, dry, and lumpy stools due to dehydration. Drinking plenty of water can help manage the condition as it eases the process of excretion.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is enriched with good bacteria which is also known as probiotics, and it may help manage constipation by promoting gut health and softening stools.
- Pulses: Pulses like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are nutrient-dense food enriched with fibre. Consuming pulses promotes healthy digestion and may help prevent constipation.
- Broccoli: Broccoli contains a substance called sulforaphane which promotes gut health and also aids digestion by preventing the overgrowth of some intestinal microorganisms that interfere with the digestion process.
- Apple and pears: Apples and pears are enriched with several nutrients like fibre and fructose, and also have a high water content that improves the digestion process and prevents constipation. Apples and pears are more beneficial when consumed raw with the skin intact.
- Grapes: Grapes are enriched with fibre and a lot of water which helps in managing constipation. Consume a few handfuls of washed raw grapes to obtain their complete nutritional value.
- Kiwis: Kiwis are a great source of fibre and also contain an enzyme called actinidine. Consuming kiwi regularly can add bulk to feces and promotes the movement of the upper gastrointestinal tract which helps in managing constipation by improving digestion and increasing the intestinal flow.
Some lifestyle tips to manage constipation:
Consuming a healthy diet alone is not enough to manage constipation. You also need to bring about some other changes in your lifestyle to manage the condition, which includes the following:
- Consuming your meal around the same time every day
- Drinking a glass of lukewarm water right after waking up
- Walking a little after every meal
- Sleeping no less than seven to eight hours every night
- Drinking water at regular intervals to prevent dehydration
- Include regular exercises in your routine
Constipation is a condition that should not be ignored and the aforementioned preventive measures should be taken to manage it. If overlooked and left untreated, it can lead to severe health complications like hemorrhoids and anal fissures. If your routine includes any of the above-mentioned causes of constipation, it’s time to bring about changes in your diet along with some healthy lifestyle changes to prevent and manage the condition.
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