Constipation is a common gastrointestinal problem experienced by millions of Americans. If the stool is drier and harder than normal, it may be difficult to have a bowel movement. If someone is unable to pass a bowel movement at least three times a week, then that is considered constipation, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Constipation is harmless in most cases, but if the problem persists for more than three weeks, a doctor’s visit may be necessary.
What people put into their bodies has a lot to do with preventing constipation. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is full of processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat. Conversely, they are low in fiber and fluids. This diet is tailor-made to cater for people with constipation. Medications and neurological disorders can also cause constipation. A few simple dietary changes can relieve constipation symptoms and prevent this common gastrointestinal problem from occurring.
The causes and symptoms of constipation
Poor diet is often cited as the cause of constipation, but there are many factors that can contribute to the development of this problem. Factors that increase the likelihood of constipation include:
- Don’t eat enough high-fiber foods
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not getting enough exercise
- Not maintaining a healthy weight
These factors can easily be changed with little to no medical help. Other causes of constipation require medical attention. These include:
- medication. Several species cause constipation.
- The early stages of pregnancy
- Conditions such as diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and Parkinson’s disease
Everyone has different bowel habits and experiences constipation differently. Typical constipation symptoms include difficulty passing stools and fewer stools than usual. Other symptoms are:
- loss of appetite
- nausea or feeling full
- abdominal pain or cramps
- Dry, hard and lumpy stools
- Stool that is unusually large or small
It’s important for people to see a doctor if they start noticing symptoms of constipation, such as rectal bleeding, weight loss, or fatigue.
There are many treatment options for people with constipation. These solutions vary depending on the severity of the constipation. Fortunately, constipation can be cured with some lifestyle and diet changes. Diet changes that can help relieve constipation include:
- Eat more whole grains
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat more nuts and seeds
- Eat more beans and legumes
Most adults don’t get enough fiber when eating the typical American diet. The recommended daily fiber intake is 21 to 25 grams per day for women under 50 and 30 to 38 grams per day for men under 50, according to the American Heart Association. Fiber helps people have regular bowel movements and helps food pass through the digestive system easily. Fiber intake should be increased gradually to avoid uncomfortable bloating, cramps and excess gas. If changing your diet isn’t enough, laxatives can help. Laxatives can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by a doctor. There are different types of laxatives, so people should consult a doctor to find out which one is right for them.
There are many home remedies that people will often try to relieve their constipation. Changing your diet is the first thing many will do, but there’s more. Along with food, liquids make a small difference. This includes drinking more water and, for people who like it, more caffeinated coffee. There is also prune juice!