Lifestyle Nutrition

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Continuing Education

Constipation: Let It Go!

Posted on February 5, 2017 at 9:50 AM

This information is solely provided to assist you in a conversation with your physician. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any information provided to your symptoms or medical condition. Only your physician is qualified to determine what is right for you and your specific health concerns

 

Constipation generally means that you have three or fewer bowel movements a week. But it can also mean straining to have bowel movements or passing stools that are small, hard, and dry.

It is not uncommon to find that changes to your normal routine can cause problems with your digestive system, resulting in constipation. Putting off going to the bathroom when you feel you need to defecate, changes in exercise, and changes in diet. If you get constipated, first take time to go to the bathroom a few times during your day. Without straining or stress, just relax and give your body some time to respond. Usually 10-15 minutes of reading during these times will help your body get back into your normal rhythm. If you have changed your diet to a healthier one then give your body time to adjust to the changes. Eating lots of healthy, high-fiber foods, exercising, and drinking water are adjustments that will bring about health benefits over time.

 

Check out your medications/supplementation. When you have made dietary changes, the same medications/supplements may contribute to a temporary bout of constipation. Some common medications that can cause constipation are diuretics, antacids (with aluminum and calcium), narcotics, antidepressants, supplements, anticonvulsants, and blood pressure treatments.

Constipation can also be caused by the very medications taken to treat them; laxatives. Americans spend more than $700 million on these constipation treatments annually, but just like some other over-the-counter and prescribed medications, laxatives can become habit-forming. Taking them too often may cause your digestive system to become too dependent on them.

 

Treatment depends on the cause, but could include: •Removal of the impacted feces – which may involve enemas, stool softeners and a short-term course of laxatives.

•Dietary changes – such as increasing the amount of fiber in the daily diet. Physicians generally recommend about 30g of fiber every day for patients that present with chronic constipation. Good sources of fiber include high fiber cereals, fruits, vegetables and legumes. The intake of foods such as cow's milk, cheese, white rice, white flour products and red meat should be lessened because they tend to contribute to constipation.

•More fluids – liquids help to plump out feces. However, it is important to restrict the intake of diuretic drinks such as tea, coffee and alcohol. Water works best until constipation is remedied.

•Fiber supplements – these may be helpful in addition to the patient including more fresh fruits or vegetables in their daily diet. If fiber has been low, boosting fiber too quickly via fiber supplements could possibly aggravate or cause constipation, so begin with small doses of fiber supplement to ease the transition.

•Exercise – one of the many benefits of regular exercise is improved bowel motility. Ideally, exercise should be taken every day for about 30 minutes. People with a condition that affects mobility need to be as active as possible each day, as every little bit of regular exercise helps.

•Laxatives – there are two main types: bowel stimulants and bulking agents (stool softeners) that increase the water content of the stool. Bowel stimulants increase bowel contractions, but may cause cramps. ·Dried fruit such as apricots, figs and prunes help. Dried fruits contain soluble fiber and in the stomach this turns to a gel that binds with other digestible material, softening stools.

 

Resource: American Journal of Gastroenterology.

 

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