Always constipated? Here are some ideas that can help!
Constipation is a very common condition, affecting people of all ages. All of us at some point in our lives have dealt with constipation, and depending on how long your episode has lasted, you may feel like you're in dire straits. Constipation is one of the most common backdoor struggles, and 2.5 million Americans see the doctor yearly because of it.
Why Do We Get Constipated?
Constipation occurs when too few, or inadequate bowel movements occur. Stools are often dry and hard, and leaving a sensation of incomplete evacuation (there’s more left inside which doesn’t seem to want to come out) is common.
Risks of being constipated
There is a wide range of how severe constipation can be. While many people may experience constipation on and off, or only a handful of times in their life, for other people, this may be a chronic or long-term problem. If this is a more long-term problem, people may notice a lot of pain and discomfort, or may start to experience a problem called fecal impaction (which is where your stools start to collect in your rectum) or overflow stools, which is where you may be at risk of incontinence.
There are many factors that can make you more prone to constipation. These can include things such as:
• Not eating enough fiber
• A change in your normal routine
• Immobility or not exercising regularly
• Ignoring the urge to go to the toilet
• Not drinking enough liquids
• Being over or underweight
• Mental health concerns such as trauma, anxiety or d epression
• Several types of meications
• Hormonal changes, especially for women who are pregnant
• And lastly, some medical conditions may affect your risk of constipation as well.
Therefore, we recommend that you speak to your doctor if you are experiencing severe constipation or your symptoms do not improve with the diet and lifestyle changes you make.
What happens in our gut when we get constipated?
Your intestines are a long tube designed help you digest and absorb food. The lining of this tube is made of muscles, which help to move the food, and eventually fecal matter, through the gut. First of all, we need our stools to be soft enough to pass through all the way without getting stuck. However, at the same time, we need the stools to be solid and bulky enough to allow the muscles in the gut to have something to push against. Managing this balance of bulkiness and softness is something we can try to use our diet to influence.
When it comes to changes in lifestyle to improve bowel moment there are three pillars that are important for your gut health.
The first one is fiber, which is the go-to nutrient for getting things unstuck. If you've ever been constipated, the universal advice is typically to eat more fiber. 90 percent of women and 97 percent of men aren't getting enough fiber in their diet, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fiber is a friend to the digestive tract, but bathroom time can get strenuous when we fall short of getting enough. Luckily, there are many options for fiber-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Give your body ample fiber by aiming for 25 to 35 grams daily.
The second pillar is water. Without fluid, the fiber we eat will dry out our stools too much. This can result in hard stools that are difficult to move through the gut. Drinking enough fluid can help to make your stools softer. Water is essential to healthy digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients from food. In partnership with dietary fiber, water can help fiber do its job of aiding digestion. Consider drinking water from refillable bottles that stay cold, and have a flip-up spout for easy sipping. Every time you drink, count at least six sips. Be careful not to wait until you feel thirsty, but try to hydrate yourself with water throughout your day.
The last component is movement. The recommendation is to be physically active for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Physical activity almost acts like a massage for the gut, helping you to move the food through more smoothly. Any movement is better than no movement when it comes to our gut health, and stretching, gentle walks and housework also count! And a little extra tip here – research has shown that sitting in a squat position for some time before going to the toilet can help make it easier to move your bowels afterwards!