Dealing with constipation

Dealing with constipation

Constipation is an uncomfortable problem with a number of underlying causes. It is an incredibly common problem. It can be caused by foods you eat or those you avoid, lifestyle choices, medication or disease. But for many people, the cause of their chronic constipation is often unknown. This is referred to as chronic idiopathic constipation.

Constipation is characterized by less than three bowel movements per week. However, it can also involve other unpleasant symptoms, such as discomfort when going to the toilet, abdominal bloating and pain due to stools being hard, dry and difficult to pass.

Unfortunately, constipation can have a serious negative effect on quality of life, as well as your physical and mental health.

There are many natural ways to help relieve constipation. You can do these in the comfort of your own home:
1. Drink more water: Being dehydrated regularly can make you become constipated. To prevent this, it’s important to drink enough water and stay hydrated
2. Eat more fibre, especially soluble, non – fermentable fibre: increasing fibre intake is thought to increase the bulk and consistency of bowel movements, making them easier to pass.

There are many different dietary fibres, but in general, they fall into two categories:
l Insoluble fibres: Found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole grains. They add bulk to your stools and are thought to help them pass more quickly and easily through your digestive system.

l Soluble fibres: Found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and peas, as well as some fruits and vegetables. They absorb water and form a gel-like paste, which softens the stools and improves the consistency.

FACT: To prevent constipation, you should aim to consume a mix of soluble and insoluble fibres. The total recommended fibre intake per day is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men.

3. Exercise more : Bottom line: Exercise may reduce the symptoms of constipation in some people.
4. Drink coffee, especially caffeinated one: coffee can help relieve constipation by stimulating the muscles in the gut. It may also contain small amounts of soluble fibre.
CAUTION! Too much caffeine is unhealthy especially for the cardiac area.
5. Take senna, a herbal laxative: The herbal laxative Senna is commonly used to relieve constipation. It is available over-the-counter and can be taken orally or rectally.
6. Eat probiotic foods, e, g yoghurt or take probiotic supplements: People who have chronic constipation have been shown to have an imbalance of bacteria in their gut.
It’s thought that probiotic foods could help improve this balance and prevent constipation.
7. Eat prunes: Prunes and prune juice are nature’s remedy for constipation.
In addition to fibre, prunes contain the natural laxative sorbitol. This is a sugar alcohol that has a laxative effect.
8. Over the counter or prescription laxatives: speak to your doctor or Pharmacist regarding the choice of this.

l Retšelisitsoe Nkhahle is a Mosotho pharmacist based in Botswana. She is pursuing an Msc. in Pharmacy.

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