[toc]The inability to defecate due to hardened stools can be mentally stressful for some and physically uncomfortable for others. Most of us experience bowel movements once a day but this rule is not true for everyone. Some people pass stools twice a day while others may pass it 4-5 times a week. As long as the stools are soft and there is no exertion involved, it is considered normal. Passing stools three times a week is considered as mild constipation while once a week indicates a more severe condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Constipation can be caused by dehydration, a low-fiber diet, high intake of refined foods, inadequate exercise, stress and anxiety. It can also be caused by medication such as antidepressants, narcotic pain medication, anticonvulsants, calcium channel-blocking drugs and iron supplements. There are different ways to treat constipation and this largely depends on the severity of the condition. Severe forms of constipation can be treated surgically, manually or with prescription medication such as chloride channel activators (softens the stool).
Milder forms of constipation, especially passing episodes can be treated by changing certain aspects of diet and lifestyle. Eating fiber-rich foods, drinking more water to increase fluid content in the stools, exercising regularly and managing stres better are some of the most effective ways to deal with the condition. Aside from these, it is safe to take certain over-the-counter laxatives to ease discomfort.
5 Best Effective Ways To Treat Constipation
Increase Your Intake of Dietary Fiber
Fiber binds itself to water in the intestine and thereby ensures fluid retention in the stools making it softer and bulkier. Cutting back on refined foods and sugars is one way to make sure constipation does not get worse. Add at least 20-30 grams of whole grain foods to your diet. Wheat bran, oat bran, whole meal bread, brown rice and psyllium husk are excellent sources of fiber.
Eat 4-5 helpings of fruits and vegetables everyday. Peaches, rhubarb, berries, papaya, sprouts, asparagus, beans and greens can ease bowel movement. Dried fruits like prunes, raisins and apricots as well as legumes and dried beans like garbanzo beans, lima beans, black beans and pinto beans are good to eat when constipated. When you eat more fibrous foods, you may experience flatulence. To counter this, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
There are a variety of laxatives that can be used to treat constipation. Bulk-forming laxatives are like fiber supplements and are generally safe to take. Lubricant laxatives contain a mineral oil that coats the stools making bowel movement easier.
However, it has been found that long-term use of the same can cause vitamin deficiencies. Stool softeners rehydrate the stools while saline laxatives add water to the colon. Laxatives are effective in increasing bowel movement but are highly addictive. If you use them too frequently or continuously, your bowels can start relying on them to pass stools on regular basis. Use them only when the recommended dietary remedies fail.
Get More Physical Activity
Lack of exercise is linked to a long list of health woes. This is because it has a direct bearing on bodily functions. A body that is unhealthy, overweight and weak can experience recurring problems with digestion and bowel movement. Simply put, when you exercise, food gets digested quickly and stools reach the rectum while there is plenty of water left in them.
If you don’t exercise, food takes longer to digest. This means most of the water in the stools has been absorbed causing it to turn hard and dry. To improve the activity in your intestinal muscles and to ensure that your stools have enough fluid in them, exercise for 20 minutes every day. Go for a brisk walk, run, jog, swim or do aerobics. Make this a part of your daily routine to keep constipation at bay.
Drink More Fluids
Constipation is all about the lack of fluids in the stools that cause it to turn hard, thus making it painful and uncomfortable to pass. We tend to forget that glass of water after every meal and can go through the day on just 3 glasses of water.
You need to drink 6-8 glasses every day for proper bowel movement. If you were to drink a glass of water before and after every meal, you’re already drinking 6 glasses a day. To treat existing constipation, add a little prune juice to your diet as well. It is known to loosen the stools and improve bowel movement.
Manage Stress Better
When stress starts to get out of control, it can affect not just our mental well-being but also our physical health. When we get stressed, we stop reaching for healthy foods, rich in fiber but prefer junk food, snacks and sodas. This dietary change alone can cause episodes of constipation that coincide with highly stressful moments.
Decreased movement of the bowels or peristalsis is a common reaction in certain people. The best way to treat constipation brought on by stress is to manage it better. Maintain a journal to ensure you get the right amount of nutrition, exercise and fluids. Join a focus group that shares stress-busting techniques. Set aside time to sit back and relax. When the mind is relaxed, the body relaxes too. Such a relaxed state is necessary for comfortable bowel movement.