Constipation is one of the most common problems all over the world. We all poop. It is a natural phenomenon of our body to get rid of waste matter and make space in the digestive tract. Smooth and timely passage of poop makes you comfortable and has a positive impact on your digestive health. But sometimes, due to faulty eating habits, faulty lifestyle, certain medications, etc., it may lead to difficulty in passing out stools and lead to constipation. The daily need to smooth the passage of stools may vary from person to person. If a person has difficulty or experiences pain in passing stool, stool becomes dry and hard, or has three or fewer stools in a week, it is called constipation. As per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, around 16% of adults suffer from constipation symptoms. Women suffer more than men. Constipation affects around 20% of people in the United States, leading to 4 million doctor visits per year. In India, around 22% of people suffer from the problem of constipation. In this blog, we will discuss how to relieve one of the most common problems being faced by humanity—constipation.
What are the causes of contipation?
Constipation is generally caused by not paying attention to the call of nature in a timely manner. Further, sedentary lifestyle, irregular and unhealthy eating habits faulty lifestyle and stressful conditions may impact digestion and can be a reason for chronic constipation.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
Constipation may have some significant negative impacts on physical and mental health, affecting your quality of life. Constipation may have the following symptoms:
- fewer than three bowel movements in a week.
- pain and strain in passing out stools.
- hard, dry, or lumpy stools.
- a feeling that all the poop has not passed out.
How to relieve constipation?
There are several ways to relieve constipation, which can be done in your home. Your diet plays a vital role in preventing constipation.
A few of the remedies to relieve constipation are mentioned below:
Drinking an optimum quantity of water may help in relieving constipation. As per the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, the following is the recommended daily fluid intake. The need to take fluids per day also depends upon other conditions like daily activities, exercising, medications, etc.
- For men, it is 3.7 liters (125 ounces).
- For women, it is 2.7 liters (91 ounces).
Drinking water (preferably warm or hot) in the morning can play a vital role in relieving constipation. But drinking too much water is not good for your health. <= To read more, click here.
Drinking carbonated water may also help some people to get relief, particularly in people with indigestion, dyspepsia (discomfort in the upper abdomen), or people with idiopathic constipation. However, drinking carbonated drinks like sugary soda may have harmful health effects and can make constipation worse in some people.
Eat fibrous food
To relieve constipation, use fibrous diet. Fiber add bulk to your stool and softens it, thus enhancing bowel movements. Plan your diet in a way, so that you can get at least (25 grams for females and 38 grams for males) of fiber every day. Some of the good sources of foods containing fibers are-
- Whole-wheat pasta
- Lentils and split peas
- Raspberries and blackberries
- Artichoke hearts
- Brussels sprouts
- Chia seeds
- Oat meal
- Whole grain bread.
Different dietary fibers have different effects. There are many types, but in general they fall into two types. One is insoluble fiber and the other is soluble fiber.
Insoluble fibers: They are present in wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains and add bulk to the stools. They facilitate easy movement of the bowels.
Soluble fiber: They are present in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, and peas. They are also present in some fruits and vegetables. They absorb water and make a gel-like paste, which helps in softening and improving the consistency of stools.
To relieve constipation, psyllium as non fermentable soluble fiber, plays a significant role. As per a review in the year 2020 it was stated that psyllium is 3.4 times more effective than insoluble fiber wheat bran for relieving constipation.
Regular exercise helps in maintaining healthy bowel movements. Even simple walking exercises can help to keep your bowels moving. Movements and exercise can help to stimulate the abdominal muscles and increase blood flow in the intestine. For more reading, click here. Exercise therapy in patients with constipation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials“
Sedentary lifestyles have been associated with constipation, as per a few studies. Simple exercises like walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, etc. can help to relieve constipation. More studies are needed.
Drinking caffeinated coffee in the morning can help you poop. Although caffeinated drinks may lead to dehydration. As per studies in 1998, it was stated that caffeinated coffee helps in stimulating digestive tract muscles. The effect of caffeinated coffee is around 60% stronger than the effects of drinking water or decaffeinated coffee. For more reading click here “ Is coffee a colonic stimulant? “
Coffee may also have small amounts of soluble fibers, which may help in balancing gut bacteria and prevent constipation. For more reading click here “Conceptual study on maillardized dietary fiber in coffee “
Consider taking senna
To relieve constipation Senna can be an effective and safe option as a herbal laxative. Senna contains glycosides as plant compounds and helps to activate nerves present in the gut, thus helping fasten bowel movements. Senna is safe for short time use. Consult your healthcare provider before using Senna. Generally it’s use in pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and people with health conditions like inflammatory bowel disease is not recommended.
To relieve constipation, you can use a laxative after consultation with your healthcare provider. If the other options like increasing fiber content in the diet, drinking an optimum quantity of fluids, exercising, etc. are not working, laxatives can be used. Generally, laxatives should not be used for a long time, and their use should be stopped in a gradual manner. Abruptly stopping laxative use can have an effect on your colon’s ability to contract. For long-term use, your healthcare advisor’s advice must be sought.
There are different types of laxatives that can equally relieve your constipation. The following are the types:
- Bulking Laxatives: Bulking laxatives are fiber based laxatives, they act by increasing water content to the stool, thus increases bowel movements.
- Stool softening laxatives: They soften the stools by adding oil content and enables stools to pass through gut easily.
- Stimulating laxatives: They increase bowel movements by stimulating nerves present in the gut and relieve constipation.
- Osmotic laxatives: They increase water content in the stool by obtaining water from tissues surrounding digestive system by the process of osmosis. e.g. Magnesium citrate.
To relieve constipation, Eat prebiotic foods
If the constipation is due to imbalanced gut flora. Then prebiotic foods can play a vital role in improving your gut microbiome (gut microbiome consists of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, that play a vital role in maintaining your health). Prebiotics include oligosaccharide and inulin. They contain indigestible carbohydrate fiber. Prebiotic fibers improve gut health by feeding the the gut microbiota. For more reading click here Gut Microbiota and Chronic Constipation: A Review and Update
Few prebiotics relieve constipation by increasing the frequency of bowel movements and also they contribute in making the stools softer.
A few prebiotic foods are:
- Jerusalem artichokes
Garlic and onions can aggravate the symptoms in people with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
Probiotics may relieve constipation.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, they naturally occur in our gut. Probiotics consumption leads to many health benefits and helps in maintaining healthy gut flora. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria are few examples. Probiotics helps in relieving chronic constipation. Few people with chronic constipation have imbalanced gut flora. Probiotics helps in restoring balance and relieve constipation.
As per a study in 2019, it was observed that consuming probiotics for 2 weeks may help in increasing stool frequency and consistency, thus relieving constipation. For more reading click here “Gut Microbiota and Chronic Constipation: A Review and Update”
Some of the fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics or have probiotics added to them are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, sourdough bread, etc.
Try consuming a low FODMAP diet.
Consuming a low FODMAP diet may help in relieving constipation related to IBS. Certain carbohydrates may cause digestive problems in some people. The carbohydrates are abbreviated as “FODMAPs.” (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, and polyols). They are present in foods like dairy, apples, broccoli, wheat, and lentils. They also are a rich source of fiber and nutrients, your body needs. Therefore, try cutting individual foods from your diet. And avoid food which is causing constipation.
Prunes may help in relieving constipation as besides fiber prunes contain sorbitol. Which is a sugar alcohol with laxative effects. Some studies have suggested that they can be more effective than fibers like psyllium. For more reading click here “Randomised clinical trial: dried plums (prunes) vs. psyllium for constipation”
To relieve constipation, try consuming around seven medium-sized prunes or 50 grams two times a day. People with IBS may avoid prunes, as the sugar alcohols are high FODMAP foods.
Few other suggestions to relieve constipation are:
- Check your medications: Some medicines on consumption may cause constipation. consult your healthcare provider for alternative medication.
- Correct your toilet posture: To pass your stool easily, you can adopt squat posture or raise your legs.
- Massage abdomen: Bowel movements can be increased by massaging your own abdomen in a certain pattern.
- Enemas: To pass out your stools you can take enema. ( a procedure in which liquid or gas is injected into rectum to expel contents.
- Suppositories: There are certain medications that can be inserted in rectum to expel stools. They work faster than oral laxatives.
- Fix your time: Besides using treatments to relieve constipation, fix your time to go to the toilet and sit for sometime.
There are certain things that should be avoided:
Certain foods which are low in fiber and high in fat, like cheese, processed foods, and meat, can further aggravate constipation. Therefore, their use may be restricted.
Do not strain or push yourself. Straining may lead to rectal bleeding, rectal pain, pressure, or prolapsed rectum (part of intestine gets pushed out from anus).
Regular use of laxatives may cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Therefore they should be used under consultation with your healthcare provider.
When to consult your healthcare provider
In spite of having made changes in lifestyle, eating habits, exercising regularly, and medications, if your constipation is not being relieved, It is time to consult your healthcare provider.
Untreated constipation may lead to many health problems. A few of which are hemorrhoids, fissures ( tear in the thin, moist tissue that lines the anus, which can bleed ). If too much pressure is applied while passing stools, a part of intestine may come out (rectal prolapse). That may require surgery. If you have following symptoms consult your doctor.
- Stomach pain
- Blood in your stool
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Inability to pass stool.
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
If you are facing the problem of constipation for more than three weeks and treatments to relieve constipation are not working. Then the cause of your constipation may be physical and physiological.
Ayurvedic tips to relieve constipation
Ayurveda suggests certain remedies to relieve constipation which can facilitate smooth and uninterrupted bowel movements. As per Ayurveda, constipation can be due to Vata imbalance. Following are the few tips:
Follow vata balancing diet
To relieve constipation adopt diet, that can balance your Vata dosha. Avoid cold drinks and cold foods, dried fruit, salads, and beans. Consume warm foods, warm drinks, and well and freshly cooked seasonal vegetables.
Use Triphala [ (Amla or amalaki), (Harar or Haritaki), (Baheda or bibhitaki) combination] Triphala churna is a brown-colored powder made from three important herbs mentioned above. They are all known to relieve constipation. Triphala is believed to be one of the best remedies to relieve constipation. It strengthens your digestive system and acts as a mild laxative. Consume 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of Triphala powder with water. If taste is the problem, you can consume it by mixing it with honey.
Consume ghee with hot milk: As per “The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Remedies” “taking one or two teaspoons of ghee in a cup of hot milk at bedtime is an effective and gentle means of relieving constipation. This is especially good for vata and pitta constitutions”
Consume bael fruit pulp: Consuming a half cup of bael fruit pulp with a teaspoon of jaggery added to it in the evening before dinner, can help in relieving constipation.
Liquorice root: Consume one teaspoon of powdered liquorice (mulethi) root and one teaspoon of jaggery with warm water to increase bowel activity. For regular and long term use, please consult your healthcare advisor as it may lead to increase in blood pressure or decrease in potassium levels.
Anjeer: Anjeer or figs are a rich source of fiber. Consuming figs soaked in warm water, especially in kids helps improving digestive process.
Fennel: One teaspoon of roasted fennel with a glass or warm water at bedtime act as mild laxative. Volatile oils present in fennel seeds help in improving digestion.
Following are the key points:
- Optimize your hydration levels. Drink four to five glasses of water in the morning.
- Consume a fiber-rich diet.
- Adopt a regular schedule of exercising for at least thirty minutes.
- Consume a lot of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
To relieve constipation, adopt the changes in your lifestyle and eating habits as mentioned above. For treatment, consult your healthcare provider.
For awareness purposes only.
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