Have you been feeling some discomfort or bloating because of your inability to “go”? If your bowels don’t come as often as they should, you could be constipated. And this is not uncommon.
In fact, more than 4 million Americans regularly suffer from constipation, and most of them are women. This is mainly due to the effect of female hormones on the digestive tract as well as their slower digestion.
To know more about constipation and what you can do about it, keep reading this article!
What is Constipation?
Constipation is the condition when your stool loses too much moisture and gets stuck in your large intestines. This is mainly due to excess fluid absorption by the intestines.
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse of the National Institutes of Health describes constipation as having less than three bowel movements in a week as well as small, dry, and hard stools which causes pain or difficulty when you pass them out.
Other symptoms may include abdominal cramps, gas, bloating, and a feeling of unsuccessful satisfaction.
Women may naturally defecate a few times a day, while others normally do so a few times in a week. It’s not constipation unless you excrete your stools in much less frequency than usual.
What are the causes and symptoms of Constipation?
Chronic constipation may either be caused by abnormalities in the nerves (slow transit constipation) or a result of pelvic floor dysfunction (dyssynergic defecation).
● Slow Transit Constipation (STC) or Neuronal Intestinal Dysplasia (NID)
Wastes and food particles pass along the length of the intestines through rhythmic muscular wall contractions called peristalsis. Peristalsis is controlled by the enteric nervous system nerves.
When a person has STC, earlier known as NID, occurs when there is reduced motility or impairment of peristalsis due to irregularities of the enteric nerve functions. This can lead to bowel incontinence or constipation.
Other symptoms include:
● abdominal pains
● Poor or loss of appetite
● Blood in the feces
● Dyssynergic Defecation or Puborectalis Dyssynergia
Dyssynergic defecation, on the other hand, is a condition that involves problems in the function of pelvic floor muscles and nerves, or pelvic floor dysfunction.
The pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles found in the lower abdomen between the hip bones. These muscles support pelvic organs like the uterus, urinary bladder, and rectum.
Their primary function is to allow us to control our urination and bowel movements. The nerves and muscles in the region work with each other to keep things in until we decide to go to the toilet.
When these muscles, along with those of the anus relax in a certain coordinated manner, we are capable of normal bowel movement. However, their failure to do this leads to constipation.
Other symptoms caused by dyssynergic defecation and pelvic floor dysfunction include:
● Reduced ability to know when you need to defecate
● Weakened push for defecation or urination
● Inadequate rectal contraction
● Abnormal contraction of the puborectalis muscles and external or internal sphincters
● Straining to defecate
● Hard stools
● A need for digital evacuation (the use of fingers to assist defecation)
● A combination of these symptoms
Aside from Slow Transit defecation and dyssynergic defecation, the following may also be the reason/s you are constipated:
● A change in your diet or amount of water intake
● Not eating enough roughage or fibre
● A lack of movement or a sedentary lifestyle that causes your metabolism to slow down
● High stress levels, emotional suppression or trauma
● Malfunctions or disorders in your rectum, colon, anal sphincter, and peripheral or central nervous system
● Neglecting or ignoring the urge to defecate due to a bad habit
● Low iron levels in the body that drains your energy and prevents you from eliminating your bowels properly
● Old age
● Pregnancy or childbirth
● Different hormonal phases of the menstrual cycle that disturbs the normal digestive function
● Some medications such as antihypertensives, antidepressants, antipsychotics, analgesics, or iron supplements
● Systemic or organic diseases
● Viral infections
● Food poisoning
How to Fix Constipation Symptoms
Based on the different causes and symptoms of constipation, here are some helpful advice and tips to stimulate your bowel movement:
1. Eat a high-fibre diet.
By getting enough fibre in every meal, your stool gets softer and bulkier, allowing you to pass it out more easily. However, you should increase your fibre intake gradually until you consume a minimum of 20 or 35 grams per day.
Whole grains like those in rice, cereals, or bread; fresh or dried fruits like apricots, prunes, and raisins; vegetables like asparagus, brussels sprouts, and carrots; and beans are all good sources of fibre.
2. Drink enough water.
Water is also important to keep things going. Make sure to drink at least 8 glasses or 1.5 litres of water each day, preferably purified and at room temperature or warm.
3. Spice up your food.
Incorporate spices and herbs into your food and dishes. Examples like ginger, fennel, turmeric, liquorice, cayenne, and coriander can aid in the elimination of wastes and digestion. They also help cleanse and nourish your spleen, kidneys, stomach, and liver.
4. Drink Apple Cider vinegar.
Drinking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar on an empty stomach upon waking up. This enhances stomach acid production and improves food breakdown and absorption, as well as waste elimination.
5. Consume healthy fats.
Healthy fats provide extra lubrication for your stool to pass easier. You can get good fats from oily fish like sardines, salmon, herring, or mackerel; seeds; nuts; avocado; butter; and oils like olive, macadamia, or coconut oil.
6. Limit your protein consumption to about the size of your palm in every meal.
7. Consume magnesium bisglycinate. Magnesium relaxes the nervous system and your intestinal wall muscles.
8. Perform breathing exercises.
This helps you concentrate and relieves resistance, blockage, and tension in the body.
9. Get active.
Make it a habit to move or walk around. Rearrange your home or work place so that you’ll need to stand up and walk to get necessary things. This improves your metabolism and stimulates peristalsis.
Not only that, but it also helps in toning your core muscles and creating a healthy bowel movement.
Exercises, especially squats, help in encouraging bowel flow. Squatting helps in maintaining a natural pressure and angle on your system. It relieves tension from your colon, allowing for easy stool passage.
When any of these methods still don’t work, that’s the only time that you should turn to laxatives for constipation relief. Consult your doctor as to what is safe and recommended for your lifestyle and body type.
So there you have it! If you’re constipated, follow these tips. You might be surprised how simply pooping regularly and properly can change your mood, energy levels, and overall health.