Are you one of many women who complain of constipation?
Irregular bowel movements or constipation can be a very irritating complaint to deal with and is one of the most common conditions associated with the digestive system.
Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement less than three times a week, often painful and accompanied by straining, bloating and the sensation of a full bowel. If you feel the same way when you don’t have a bowel movement every day, you could be suffering from constipation.
You should be aware that there is no ‘right’ number of bowel movements. Normal passing of stools can occur three times a day or three times a week, depending on your system. It all depends on contributing factors that include the food that you eat and how much you exercise.
Everyone experiences being constipated at some point in life due largely to a poor diet. Though it is usually temporary and not serious, understanding what causes constipation can help you take steps to prevent it.
What causes constipation?
Constipation occurs when too much water is absorbed by the colon or when your colon's muscle contractions are slow, causing the stool to move slowly. As a result, stools can become hard and dry.
The main causes of constipation can be attributed to a variety of factors including:
- Low amount of fibre in the diet
- Low intake of water
- Lack of physical activity
- Some types of medication
- Changes in routine such as pregnancy, aging or travel
- Abuse of laxatives
- Ignoring the urge to use the toilet
How you can prevent it?
Dietary and lifestyle changes such as what you eat, drink and how much you exercise will help relieve and prevent constipation. Here are a few steps that you can take:
- Eat more fibre: Fibre helps form soft, bulky stools. It can be found in many vegetables, fruits, whole grains (whole-wheat bread and burghul) and legumes such as lentils, beans, peas and chickpeas. Make sure you add fibre to your diet a little at a time, to get your body used to it gradually.
- Drink plenty of water and fluids: Drinking plenty of water and other liquids including clear soups, and fruit and vegetable juices will help prevent constipation. Liquids add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass.
- Get enough exercise: Regular exercise helps your digestive system stay active and healthy. You don't need to become a great athlete. Simply taking a 20/30-minute walk every day will help a lot.
- Give yourself time: Our hectic schedules keep us feeling in a hurry all the time that we don't pay attention to our body's needs, especially to the urge to have a bowel movement. Allowing yourself enough time in the toilet will ensure that you ease your constipation troubles too.
- Consult your doctor before taking laxatives: Taking laxatives on your own for a period of time will get your digestive system used to them. This will lead to you not being able to have bowel movements naturally, when you stop taking the pills. So, whenever you have a significant or prolonged change in bowel habits, check with your doctor.