What is Constipation?Constipation refers to bowel movements that are infrequent or hard to pass. It is a common cause of painful defecation. Constipation, if severe, is known as obstipation where the individual is not able to pass stool or gas. In case of bowel obstruction, it is known as fecal impaction. Generally, constipation is result of either obstructed defecation or colonic slow transit. Nearly 50% of patients with constipation suffer from obstructed defecation. Obstructed defecation is due to mechanical and functional causes. On the other hand, colonic slow transit can be due to hormones, diet, heavy metal toxicity, side effects of medications, etc. In children, constipation usually occurs after starting formula or processed foods. Their stomach, at that stage, is not acquainted to digest processed foods, and therefore takes time to pass it through. This, however, subsides after a while when kid starts eating processed foods on a regular basis. Some kids can even experience constipation during their toilet training or soon after starting their school.
However, there are no clear-cut guidelines to diagnose constipation, as every person has a different digestive system. But, usually, people who have bowel movements thrice or less than that per week are said to be constipated. Also, in this case, they face difficulty during defecation and always have a sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation.
Causes of Constipation
Largely, causes of constipation can be divided into three categories primary, secondary, and congenital. The most common cause is primary and it is not life threatening. In this case, symptoms can be present for greater than six months with no medical explanation and no known organic cause. On the other hand, secondary constipation can be due to insufficient intake of fiber and fluid, decreased physical activity, hormonal imbalance, side effects of medications, obstruction by colorectal cancer, etc. Below are some of the causes of constipation.
Constipation can be caused due to insufficient intake of fiber in diet, low intake of liquid, or dieting. It is one of the major causes of constipation.
Certain medications show constipation as a side effects. Some of these categories are diuretics, antispasmodics, opiods, anticonvulsants, antihistamines, antacids, etc.
Metabolic & Muscular
Metabolic and endocrine problems may also lead to constipation. Some of these problems are hypothyroidism, cystic fibrosis, hypercalcemia, diabetes mellitus, and celiac disease. Symptoms of constipation are also very common in people with muscular and myotonic dystrophy.
Structural, Functional Abnormalities
Conditions like spinal cord lesions, colon cancer, Parkinson's, anal fissures, pelvic floor dysfunction, and proctitis can also cause constipation.
Neurological conditions like anismus, descending perineum syndrome, and Hirschsprung's disease can also lead to chronic constipation or obstructed defecation.
Some of the psychological causes of constipation can be voluntary withholding, fear of public restrooms, out-of-home settings, fear of pain, etc.
Symptoms of Constipation
Some common symptoms of constipation are as under :
Infrequency and Irregularity in Elimination of Fecal Matter
It is one of the most common symptoms of constipation. People with constipation have to face hard time eliminating fecal matter. In addition to this, their bowel movements tend to be very infrequent and irregular
Foul Breath, Headache, Coated Tongue, Insomnia, etc.
Again, these are classic symptoms of constipation. Because of accumulation of fecal material in stomach, one tends to have foul breath and coated tongue along with infrequent headaches. These symptoms make the individual uncomfortable, leading to insomnia, restlessness, dark circles, nausea, mouth ulcers, etc. Conditions like varicose veins, pain in lumbar region, fullness in abdomen, acidity, heartburn, etc. can also denote constipation.
In addition to changes in bowel movements, a person suffering from constipation can exhibit symptoms like constant bloating, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, etc.
Home Remedies for Constipation
Bael is regarded as one of the best fruits for constipation. Its laxative properties make it an agent anti-constipation agent. Generally, nearly all fruits, except jack fruit and banana, are considered to be beneficial in constipation. All the fruits are rich in fiber and clean and tone the intestines, especially bale. Regular intake of bael fruit for 2 - 3 months can treat even most chronic constipation. Prefer taking bael in original form before dinner. Around 50 - 60 grams per serving is considered sufficient for an adult.
Pears can be very beneficial in treatment of constipation. Patients suffering from chronic constipation should adopt an exclusive diet of this fruit or it's juice for a few days. Alternatively, a medium-sized pear taken after dinner or with breakfast can help a great deal to relieve constipation.
It is another great remedy to treat constipation. Guava is rich in fiber and provides roughage to the diet. It helps in normal evacuation of the bowels. Generally, one to two guavas taken per day can help with constipation.
Grapes can overcome constipation pretty effectively. The combination of the properties of the cellulose, sugar, and organic acid in grapes make them a great laxative. Grapes also tone up the stomach and intestines and relieve the most chronic constipation. One can consume up to 350 gm of grapes daily to achieve desired results. Alternatively, in absence of grapes, raisins can be soaked for twenty-four to forty-eight hours and eaten early in the morning, along with the water in which they have been soaked.
Oranges are also beneficial in treatment of constipation. One to two oranges at bedtime and again in morning can help stimulate the bowels. The general stimulating influence of orange juice excites peristaltic activity and helps prevent the accumulation of food residue in the colon.
Papaya and Figs
Other fruits specific for constipation are papaya and figs. Half a medium-sized papaya should be eaten as breakfast. Fresh and dry figs also have a laxative effect. Have four to five dry overnight-soaked figs in the morning.
Spinach is considered a great food for the entire digestive tract. Raw spinach contains finest organic material for cleansing, reconstruction, and regeneration of the intestinal tract. About 100 ml of raw spinach juice mixed with an equal amount of water can cure the most aggravated cases of constipation within a few days.
Squeeze half a lime in a glass of hot water and add half a teaspoon of salt into it. It is an effective remedy for constipation.
Water kept overnight in a copper vessel when had first thing in the morning gives great results. When taken regularly, it can treat constipation.
It is extremely useful in difficult cases of constipation. Swallow a teaspoon of linseed with water before each meal. It provides both roughage and lubrication.
Drinking a glass of hot water is also known to stimulate bowel movements but this may not suffice in severe cases of constipation.
Microscopic "good bacteria" can do wonders for the digestive system. These can relieve constipation. Have a probiotic supplement containing at least 4 billion active organisms once daily to relieve constipation.
Bile acids help to soften the stool and move it more quickly through the colon. Dandelion root stimulates the production of bile and can help relieve constipation in a natural way. Just boil 2 tablespoons of fresh dandelion root to have it as tea. Alternatively, you can have its extract (250-500 mg) with meal.
Apples contain insoluble and soluble fiber. The first helps with bowel movements and the second forms a gel in the intestines, protecting the walls from bad cholesterol, (LDL), sticking to it as the waste moves through.
Berries have insoluble fiber which draws water to the bowels, not only making it softer, but heavier which allows it to move more quickly through the system. Berries also help prevent bowel acids from turning rancid leading to a cancerous form.
These are great for constipation. Rich in fiber, brown rice draw large amounts of water, making the stool heavier and softer, allowing it to move quickly through the body.
While one or two cups can stimulate the intestines, more than that can have the opposite effect.
Sugar in honey can stimulate bacteria in the intestines causing it to draw water which will aid in relieving the constipation. Have honey mixed with foods, salads, fruits or in warm milk.
A handful can give you 3-4 grams of fiber. Raisins also have a special acid that acts as a natural laxative.
Prunes and prune juice can help against constipation. Prunes contain a lot of fibers and other natural chemicals that have a laxative effect. Eat them raw or dried
Dates are rich in fiber and are very suitable as a constipation treatment. Eat them with a glass of milk and it will relieve you from constipation.
A fiber-rich fruit salad eaten on a regular basis can keep constipation at bay. You can use papaya, guava, apple and some other fruits to make it highly effective.
Diet to Relieve Constipation
Natural, Simple Diet Consisting of Unrefined Foods :
The most important factor in curing constipation is a natural, simple diet containing unrefined foods like wholegrain cereals, bran, honey, lentils, green and leafy vegetables, fresh and dry fruits, and milk products in the form of butter, clarified butter, and cream.
Avoid Certain Foods
Limit your intake of low-fiber and high-fat foods like red meats, cheese, and other processed or refined foods. Also, steer clear of unhealthy artificial drinks and juices or alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. Avoid hurried, irregular meals.
LIST OF FOODS TO AVOID
- Products made of white flour
- Fleshy foods
- White sugar
- Hard-boiled eggs
LIST OF FOODS TO ENCOURAGE :
- Dried apricots
Preventive Measures for Constipation
Chew Food Properly
Chew your food properly and avoid hurried meals.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Keep yourself well hydrated with a good intake of water and fresh fruit juices. Make sure you drink enough fluids. Water keeps the intestines lubricated, helping waste to pass through easily. Adults should consume between 8 and 10 glasses of water or non-caffeinated beverages per day. Avoid alcoholic beverages and caffeine can increase dehydration, and should be avoided.
Include Fiber in Your Diet
Include bulk of fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet. Have a bran muffin or bran cereal for breakfast, and try eating a piece of fruit for a mid-afternoon snack.
Make a Schedule
Schedule time each day for a bowel movement (after breakfast, for example). Establishing a daily routine can help a great deal. Meals at odd times should be avoided.
Other Treatment Methods for Constipation
Fresh air, outdoor games and exercise tone up the muscles and also help in the treatment of constipation. Fresh air, outdoor games, walking, swimming, and exercise play an important role in strengthening the muscles, and thereby preventing constipation. Exercise more often. When you are up and moving, so are your bowels. The more you sit, the more slowly your bowels move. Just walking regularly can have a positive effect on your regularity. Try gentle exercise. Take a short walk each day. Gradually increase your walking time until you are walking for at least 20 minutes.
Yoga is particularly noteworthy as a physical fitness regime in relieving constipation. Yoga comprises of a variety of postures and movements, many of which stimulate and encourage the bowel functions. Practicing yoga can thereby enhance the digestive system functioning and eliminate the occurrence of digestive disorders like constipation. In addition to this, yoga also corrects breathing. Most of people today breathe in a wrong manner; short and shallow. It disturbs various bodily systems and triggers stress hormones. Meditation can also help in many areas of life. Take time to quiet the mind and relax the body. You will find it to be a refreshing break you look forward to.
Talk to your doctor before using an enema. Your doctor may need to check your symptoms or may suggest a different way to treat your constipation. A rectal glycerin suppository can do the trick quickly. Follow the directions on the label. Do not use more often than recommended on the label.
In difficult cases of constipation, it is better to try a saline (osmotic) laxative, such as Fleet Phospho-Soda, Milk of Magnesia, lactulose, or Miralax. Osmotic laxatives do not irritate the colon or cause dependence on laxatives like stimulant laxatives. However, you can occasionally try a stimulant laxative, such as Ex-Lax or Feen-a-Mint. Overuse of stimulant laxatives decreases the tone and sensation in the large intestine, causing dependence on laxatives. Do not use laxatives for longer than 2 weeks without consulting your doctor. Try a stool softener, like Colace, if stools are very hard.