Constipation is one of the most common digestive complaints in the United States. Unfortunately this may have something to do with the traditional Western diet that is common to most people. This diet is often high in fats and processed foods and low in natural fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
The normal frequency of bowel movements will vary from person to person and sometimes from day to day. Some people have bowel movements one or more times a day and others may not have bowel movements more than three times a week. The definition of constipation is not the number of times that a person has a bowel movement but rather the consistency of the stool when it is passed.
Although constipation will affect anyone, it is more common in women and in people over the age of 65. Women who are pregnant, have just given childbirth or anyone who has just had surgery will also be at higher risk for constipation. Other medications such as pain relievers or some physical conditions such as multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries will also place people at higher risk for developing constipation.
While there are many different medications that can be used to increase the number of stools as well as improve the consistency of the stool natural remedies for constipation is the best method for improving this particular condition. Constipation is defined as stools which are hard, round like balls and difficult to pass. The individual often feels bloated or like they have not completely emptied their bowels. It can be painful and really ruin your day.
If you consider doing anything other than natural remedies to improve your condition you should be sure that you really are constipated. Many television ads bombard us on a daily basis with information about laxatives. Sometimes this can make individuals believe they are constipated. In other words they believe they may be constipated when in reality they aren’t. However, using natural remedies for constipation will not negatively impact your health in any fashion. In fact, using these processes will only improve your overall health.
One of the first things to increase if you may be constipated is your fluid intake. Bowel movements stay soft by the amount of water left in the stool. If the body is dehydrated and then it will pull as much water from the stool as possible in order to maintain hydration in the body. A minimum of six to eight glasses of liquid a day should be a part of every adults diet. While almost any fluid will do the trick the best one is water. Fluids that contain caffeine will actually do more to dehydrate you then they will to improve your condition.
Most individuals on a traditional Western diet do not get enough fiber. The American dietetic Association recommends at least 20 to 35 g of daily fiber a day for adults. It’s not hard to get those 30 g in per day if you look carefully at your diet. For instance, one half cup of green peas will equal 5 g, one small apple supplies 3 g or a bowl of bran cereal can give you as much as 13 g. However fiber heavyweights are cooked dried beans, prunes, figs, raisins, popcorn, oatmeal, pears and nuts.
Another factor in the fight against constipation is exercise. Any form of regular exercise will help to alleviate constipation because the continued movement helps to improve the peristalsis in the lower intestines. Peristalsis is the motion, or movement, of the intestines that pushes the stool through to the rectum. While any form of exercise will help, walking appears to be the best and is especially helpful for pregnant women who experience constipation as their babies continue to grow.
Interestingly, we can also train ourselves to go to the bathroom. Throughout most of our lives we choose to go when it’s convenient for us. However, ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can lead to progressive constipation. It is never too late to improve your bowel habits though. Our bodies have a gastric reflex which is triggered approximately 20 minutes after each meal, especially heavy meals. So pick a meal, any meal, and every day following that meal go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet for at least 10 minutes. Wait for between 20 or 30 minutes after the meal in order to begin this process. It won’t be long before your colon will begin to create a habit of evacuating within 20 minutes after your chosen meal.
If these dietary and lifestyle changes are not successful individuals may choose to add a little help. Eating a half a cup of sunflower seeds every day will help to increase the fiber, are tasty and will help move the stool along. Eating whole wheat bread, brand and even oatmeal will also help the problem, horseradish with your meals, dried figs and plums are also great.
Some individuals may also find that they suffer from pelvic floor dysfunction which is a condition in which the pelvic floor muscles do not function properly and do not allow the bowels to empty appropriately. Biofeedback therapy helps to teach individuals how to better coordinate the muscles and it improves the ability to defecate. Although biofeedback has only been explored as a treatment recently the results appear to be promising. For example, after six months biofeedback sessions were more effective than a laxative with 43 of 54 of biofeedback patients. Benefits appeared to last for at least two years.
One of the risks of constipation is the development of hemorrhoids and anal fissures, which are not only painful but can also aggravate your constipation. They do this by narrowing the anal opening and not allowing as much stool through with each evacuation. Straining can also raise your blood pressure and lower your heart rate which can cause elderly patients to black out and fall off the toilet.
Instead, if these methods are not successful in helping to alleviate your constipation you should seek the care and advice of your primary care physician or healthcare practitioner in order to decrease the problems that are associated with hemorrhoids and anal fissures.
University of Michigan Health Systems: Bowel Control Program
Everyday Health: 10 Foods that Help Relieve Constipation
What to Expect: Relieving Constipation During Pregnancy
Natural News: Relieving Constipation