Constipation may not be a topic everyone wants to talk about, but it is one that affects a large portion of the population – and it’s important to discuss. According to the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 42 million people in the U.S. are affected by constipation every year. Medically speaking, constipation is defined as going more than three days without a bowel movement, or having stool that’s difficult to pass because it’s hard and dry.
If you don’t manage constipation efficiently, it can lead to more severe health problems. Constipation that occurs frequently can become chronic, and adverse effects of constipation can include hemorrhoids and anal fissures, which are small tears in the skin of the anus. Constipation can also cause fecal impaction, a condition where fecal matter is trapped in the rectum because it is too hard and dry to be expelled naturally.
Fortunately, there are many ways to deal with constipation at home. Here are some ways to solve your constipation problem yourself:
You probably already know fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, but what is it? Fiber is carbohydrates from plant foods that humans can’t digest. Even though you don’t digest it, fiber plays a vital role in your digestion. Fiber pushes through your digestive tract, helping to clean it out and keep bowel movements regular. Think of it as a broom for your intestines!
Many Americans don’t get enough fiber. The recommended daily allowance is 20 to 30 grams per day, but most people only get about 15 grams. Diets low in fiber can lead to constipation. Conversely, adding fiber can help alleviate constipation. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Some foods that are high in fiber include oatmeal, apples, berries, beans, prunes, broccoli, carrots, and nuts.
Many people who don’t get enough fiber from their diets choose to take a supplement. Supplements contain fiber-rich ingredients, such as psyllium husk, inulin, methylcellulose, or wheat dextrin. According to the Mayo Clinic, taking a daily fiber supplement is safe, but may cause gas and bloating when you first begin taking it. If you decide to take a fiber supplement, take just a little at a time until your body adjusts.
Olive Oil and Flaxseed Oil
Olive oil and flaxseed oil are good for your heart, but they may also be good for your digestive tract. A 2015 study from Brazil showed that taking either of these two oils successfully treated constipation for hemodialysis patients. These oils contain good fats, which can help your stool become softer and easier to pass. Try taking one tablespoon of olive or flaxseed oil every day on an empty stomach. Do note that this home remedy is not recommended for children, though.
Humans digest food with the help of microorganisms living in the gut. These beneficial microorganisms make up your gut microbiota, but lacking enough of the helpful probiotics may be a cause of constipation. A 2005 study found that chronic constipation patients lacked the helpful microorganisms Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Introducing more helpful microorganisms into your gut by consuming probiotics may help manage constipation. Probiotics are present in fermented foods, such as kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi. They are also available in supplement form.
Can getting the body moving help waste get moving too? Yes, according to the Nurses’ Health Study. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed surveys from 62,036 female nurses and found that those who exercised daily were less likely to experience constipation. To keep your body regular, aim to exercise a total of 150 minutes per week. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous; walking or simple yoga poses can relieve constipation. Finding an exercise you enjoy can help you stay motivated. Try running, swimming, playing sports, or taking an aerobics class. Regular exercise can help you maintain better overall health, in addition to relieving constipation.
Not drinking enough fluids can cause constipation. A 2003 study conducted in France found that hydration is a crucial factor in preventing constipation. Keep a water bottle with you throughout the day, and drink any time you feel thirsty. Try to drink an extra two to four glasses of water every day. Water is the best beverage to prevent constipation, but limited amounts of fruit juices can help as well. Stay away from milk, caffeine, and alcohol as much as possible.
Make Time for Bowel Movements
In our busy world, it can be hard to find enough time to have a bowel movement. However, avoiding bowel movements can cause constipation. You may find it’s easier to have a bowel movement 20 to 40 minutes after a meal. Make the time you spend in the bathroom quiet and peaceful. Light a scented candle, bring an entertaining book, or play quiet music. Setting aside this time for your body to naturally rid itself of waste will help you relax your rectal muscles and pass feces more easily and comfortably.
Adopting and keeping a healthy lifestyle can help you stop the uncomfortable feeling of constipation. However, if you’re unable to alleviate your constipation on your own, it’s time to contact your doctor.
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