Are your ‘pipes' stuck? Fret not, constipation affects everyone from time to time. Constipation is defined as a difficulty in passing stools or the infrequent passage of hard stools. You may need to strain to pass motion or may be unable to complete emptying your bowels.
You may think that you are constipated if you don't have a bowel movement every day, but how regular you are differs from individual to individual. Normal stool elimination may be three times a day for one person or three times a week for another. What defines constipation is the consistency of your stool. Regular stools should not be hard or lumpy and be passed with ease.
Solutions for relief
Regular bowel movement is important to ensure that waste products and toxins are removed from the body and to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the colon. Here are some ways to keep your bowels moving regularly.
- Switch to a high fibre diet
Dietary fibre can help ease constipation. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre helps to increase the volume of the stool by absorbing and retaining water, making stool softer and easier to pass. On the other hand, insoluble fibre passes through the digestive tract to increase the bulk of the stool, thus speeding up bowel movement. Oats, barley, and peaches are high in soluble fibre while cauliflower, wheat bran and nuts are high in insoluble fibre.
It is recommended you consume at least 25 to 35g of total dietary fibre per day. If you are not used to a high fibre diet, increase your fibre intake slowly and increase water intake to avoid gas, stomach bloating and discomfort. Try to increase your fibre intake by 5g a day each week until you meet the daily requirements. Supplement your diet with soluble fibre such as psyllium husk, pectin and slippery elm can also soften stool.
- Increase your fluid intake
Water works hand in hand with fibre to improve regularity. Try drinking 2 to 3 litres of water a day, whether you are thirsty or not, this can include water, fruit juice and soup. Limit beverages that dehydrate the body such as alcohol, carbonated drinks and caffeine.
- Use natural laxatives
If you're looking for some speedier relief from constipation, try natural herbs such as senna which contains naturally laxatives called anthraquinone glycosides. Senna helps ease constipation by increasing the amount of water and electrolyte in the intestine and stimulating contractions of the colon muscles, which help to accelerate the passage of stool.
- Eat regularly
Research shows that one of the optimal times to have a bowel movement is 30-minutes after meals. This is because, when you eat, the food that reaches your stomach will stimulate intestinal peristalsis and this in turn will ease bowel movements.
- Get active
A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of constipation. Physical activity two to six times a week of has been associated with a 35 per cent lower risk of constipation. Simple physical activity such as jogging, walking and stretching are beneficial in stimulating the bowels.
- Reduce stress
Constipation due to stress is also known as psychosomatic constipation. This type of constipation happens when a person is under great stress or anxiety. Disruption of the daily routine such as when travelling or moving to a new environment may also cause short term constipation. If you are experiencing some form of stress, try taking vitamin B-complex and Ginseng. Calcium and magnesium are also beneficial in reducing stress as it helps the muscles to contract and relax.
- Go when you have to
If you have to go, go. Do not ignore the urge to move your bowels. Resisting or ignoring the urge use the bathroom may cause the rectum to be unresponsive. Eventually, stools become hard and difficult to move due to the re-absorption of water from the colon. To help regulate bowel movement, try to empty your bowels approximately the same time every day. Research shows that the bowels are most active in the mornings. Therefore, you should attempt to make time to empty your bowels first thing in the morning after waking up.
This article has been published with permission and is courtesy of GNC LiveWell, Malaysia