Constipation is a condition of the digestive system characterized by difficulty in passing the bowels or stools and it is usually linked with hardened feces.
The difficulty of passing the stools is usually caused by decreased gastrointestinal motility, inadequate fluids in the body, or lack of fiber. Other causes include eating dairy products, antacid medicines that contain calcium or aluminum, overuse of laxatives, nerve and muscle problem in the digestive system, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, decreased thyroid function, and stress.
Symptoms of constipation generally include decreased bowel movements, straining due to difficulty in bowel movement, hard or small stools, a sense that nothing came out, swollen abdomen or abdominal pain, and vomiting. While people have experienced constipation at one point in their lives, it is typically unserious. However, one would feel more comfortable if the digestive system is in its optimum function.
A person should seek medical advice if there is trouble with bowel movement for more than two weeks, to confirm a diagnosis of constipation. In addition, medical consult should be done because a change in bowel or bladder habit is one of the symptoms of cancer. According to Web MD, the doctor may advise an individual to undergo blood tests to check on hormone levels, barium studies to check for blockage in the large intestine, and an invasive procedure called colonoscopy, which also checks for obstruction in the colon.
Prior to pharmaceutical management, one can also do the following home remedies for constipation.
Drinking two to four extra glasses of water a day is a helpful way to eliminate constipation. Constipation may be caused by lack of water in the digestive system, which removes water from the feces or the stools and makes them hard. Thus, drinking extra glasses of water a day will provide the adequate amount of fluids to the digestive system, which prevents it from absorbing water from the stools, treating constipation. While increasing one’s fluid intake aids to eliminate constipation, it should be discussed with a physician because fluid intake should be limited in some health conditions, such as congestive heart failure.
Constipation can be also caused by lack of fiber in the diet. Dietary fiber, which is also known as roughage or bulk, is a substance that is found primarily in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It covers plant parts that the body cannot digest or absorb, unlike other food components like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. It just passes through the digestive tract via the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, acting as a sweep to remove excess fats, bad cholesterol, and toxins from the body.
In addition, fiber is best known for its power to prevent and get rid of constipation, not to mention its ability to help maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of having diabetes, hypertension, and heart disorders, as per Mayo Clinic. Thus, it is vital to include fruits and vegetables to one’s diet. Some foods that are rich in fiber include split peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, artichokes, peas, broccoli, and brussels sprouts, according to Greatist.
Aside from the typical fruits and vegetables that are accessible in the market, one may also consider combining prunes, bran, and apple sauce to relieve constipation. According to People’s Pharmacy, making the preparation just needs one cup of apple sauce, one cup coarse and unprocessed bran, and ¾ cup of prune juice. They are mixed together until they the consistency becomes pasty, similar to the consistency of peanut butter. Then, the mixture is kept in the refrigerator. One or two tablespoons should be taken daily, followed by a full eight ounces of water.
Following these home remedies, one may also need a very mild over-the-counter stool softener, according to Medicine Net. Saline laxatives have non-absorbable ions like magnesium, sulfate, phosphate, and citrate, which remain in the colon and draw water into it. Examples are magnesium hydroxide, sodium phosphate, and magnesium citrate (Citroma). Stimulant laxatives, such as cascara (castor oil), senna (Senokot), and aloe, prompt the muscles of the small and large intestines to push their contents with a faster speed while increasing the amount of water in the stool. While these laxatives help relieve constipation, they should not be used for two weeks without consulting a physician because laxative overuse can worsen the condition.
Above all, constipation can be prevented by eating a well-balanced diet with fiber, drinking adequate fluids a day (about 1 ½ to 2 quarts, unless the doctor advised a fluid-restricted diet), avoiding dairy products and caffeine, exercising regularly, and going to the bathroom when there is the urge.