We've all experienced constipation, yet it continues to be a hush-hush topic often swept under the rug. Constipation is one of the most common digestive issues in the United States. In general, 16 out of 100 adults experience constipation; the rate increases for older demographics as 33 out of 100 individuals over 60 suffer from constipation. Many people are still in the dark regarding constipation, its causes, and how to treat it. Let's fix that.
Constipation means that bowel movements are difficult to pass or occur less frequently than usual. The standard amount of time between bowel movements varies widely from individual to individual. Some people go as often as three times a day. Others only have them a couple of days per week. There is no such thing as the perfect bowel movement schedule; however, going more than three or four days without one is usually too long. After three days, the stool becomes increasingly difficult to pass as time goes on.
There are several causes of constipation. Some of the more common ones include:
Lack of water intake or fiber
Overconsumption of dairy products
Sometimes, individuals will experience chronic constipation. In such instances, not only does constipation occur more often, but the degree of constipation may also intensify. Some causes may include:
Medication (narcotics, antidepressants, and iron pills)
Antacid medicines that contain calcium or aluminum
Irritable bowel syndrome
Nerve or muscle dysfunction in the digestive system
Constipation symptoms include but are not limited to:
Infrequent bowel movements
Difficulty passing stool
Excessive straining when passing stool
Lumpy or hard stools
Feeling as though you are unable to eliminate your bowels
Lower back pain
If you are having a hard time going to the bathroom and experiencing any of the above, then you may be constipated.
Luckily, mild cases of constipation can often be treated from home. Here are some DIY remedies to help alleviate your constipation:
Consume more water than usual to aid in hydration
Drink plenty of warm liquids, especially in the mornings
Incorporate more fruits & veggies into your diet (in particular: leafy greens, legumes, lentils, prunes, pears, and apples) to increase your fiber intake
Try to exercise daily to stimulate your intestines
Unless advised otherwise, take over-the-counter laxatives (always be sure to follow the directions thoroughly)
More complex cases of constipation may require professional medical intervention. Always discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician to determine the best course of action.