Constipation has various formal definitions. People sometimes mean different things when they talk about constipation. Constipation is defined as the infrequent passage of stools i.e. passage of stool less than three times a week, difficulty in passing stool, or incomplete defecation. Stool consistency may be hard, large, or small.
Constipation is a common symptom in today’s world. Approximately 12% of people suffer from self-defined constipation worldwide. Here are some of the causes;
- Intestinal causes e.g. intestinal obstruction etc
- Metabolic causes like low blood potassium, high blood calcium, deficiency in thyroid hormones, etc.
- Drugs e.g. morphine, codeine, iron
- Neuromuscular causes such as diabetic nerve damage, spinal cord injury
- Anorectal causes such as anal fissure, hemorrhoids, etc
- Others like; low-fiber diet, dehydration, immobility, long-term use of laxatives, etc.
Improving your metabolism reduces your chances of developing constipation. As a result, a healthy metabolism is a cure for constipation. Here’s how to improve your metabolism;
Increase your fiber intake: To prevent constipation and digest your meal faster, eat meals that contain fiber. Fiber absorbs water in the bowels, which makes stools softer and easier to pass. It may take days before you see the effect, and as such, a high fiber diet should be added gradually to give room to your gastrointestinal tract to adjust and prevent bloating. Examples of meals rich in fiber include potato, carrot, pear, avocado, broccoli, oats, whole wheat, vegetables, etc.
Increase your fluid intake: You should drink at least two liters of water daily especially when you increase your fiber intake. When you drink enough water, a certain quantity gets passed out in the digestive tract and this helps to soften the stool. It is important to note that taking alcohol might lead to dehydration which can worsen constipation. It is counterproductive to take tea and coffee while constipated because of their diuretic effects. So, reduce their intake as much as you can and make it a point to take an extra glass of water for every drink of coffee or tea.
Avoid a sedentary lifestyle: Avoid living a sedentary lifestyle such as sitting in one position for a long time. Immobility keeps your body inactive as well as your digestive tract. The less you move, the more likely you are to be constipated. So go out there today, exercise, and get moving.
Sorbitol-rich diet: Sorbitol is a naturally occurring sugar that draws water into the digestive tract thereby softening stools. You can include sorbitol-rich meals in your diet such as apples, grapes, raspberries, etc. Dried fruits are a great idea for snacks and the concentration of sorbitol in dried fruit is five to ten times higher.
Practice a good toilet routine: Once you feel the urge to defecate, go and defecate. Don’t postpone defecation for a later time as the accumulation of stools can make it difficult to pass later. Try to go to the toilet early in the morning or about 30 minutes after a meal because bowel movement is best at this time, a phenomenon called “gastrocolic reflex”
Constipation in itself is a symptom, and it can be a pointer to a more serious illness as earlier stated. You need to speak to a doctor immediately if constipation goes on for a long time, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as abdominal pain, blood in stool, etc.