Let’s be honest. Constipation is not a topic you’re likely to bring up with your friends, and you may be hesitant to bring it up with your doctor. Although most people have difficulty eliminating stool on occasion, chronic constipation is a different beast entirely.
However, there are compelling reasons to confront the issue head-on. Aside from the discomfort and, at times, pain, there are links between chronic constipation and your overall health.
What Exactly Is Constipation?
Before we get into why chronic constipation is important and how to change your bowel habits, let’s define what it is and isn’t.
Constipation is not defined by the number of bowel movements you have in a given day or week. This figure is determined by how much food you eat, how much exercise you get, and how well you hydrate. What is normal for you might not be normal for me. Many people have one bowel movement per day, but “normal” bowel movements can range from three times per day to three times per week.
Constipation is defined by the consistency of the stool, how difficult it is to pass, and other symptoms such as feeling full or bloated. According to a literature review conducted by the American Gastroenterological Association, the number of people suffering from chronic constipation is on the rise. Chronic constipation affects nearly 16% of all adults. However, the prevalence increased to 33.5 percent in men and women over the age of 60, and it was even higher in women.
Why Is It So Important?
Chronic constipation can have serious consequences for your health and quality of life, including an increased risk of several unpleasant and sometimes painful conditions:
Large hemorrhoids: These are painful, aggravating, and can make sitting or having a bowel movement difficult.
Anal fissure: A tear in the anus caused by stool trauma to the inner lining of the anus.
Rectal prolapse: It occurs when the rectum, the last part of the intestines before the anus, prolapses. Stool buildup in the rectum causes damage to the body’s normal attachments. This can result in the rectum sliding through the anus, a condition known as rectal prolapse. Women over the age of 50 are six times more likely to die than men.
Constipation for an extended period of time can increase your risk of cardiovascular and kidney disease. Science has also discovered a link between chronic constipation and Parkinson’s disease. This is most likely related to the gut-brain axis, which is the relationship between the gut and the brain.
How to Get Rid of Constipation
Because constipation is related to the amount and type of food you eat, how much exercise you get, and how well you hydrate, it stands to reason that changing these factors will have a significant impact on your experience. The changes are simple and do not always need to be drastic in order to alleviate your symptoms.
Water: You may have heard that drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day keeps you hydrated. However, the amount of water you require is determined by the foods you consume. As a result, the color of your urine is a better indicator. Throughout the day, it should be a light straw color, indicating that your body has enough water to support your kidneys and bowels in eliminating waste.
Exercise: Depending on how you define a joint, the human body has between 300 and 400. To put it another way, your body was designed to move. According to the National Health Interview Survey, only 23% of adults get enough aerobic and strength training exercise each week. Your goal isn’t to win the Olympics or Mr. Universe! However, your body requires 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, as well as movement throughout the day, to stay healthy.
Food: You don’t need to completely change your diet to relieve your symptoms, but you do need to add more fiber. Fiber comes in two varieties, and your body requires both. Fiber-rich foods are also delicious, so incorporating them into your meal plans is simple. Consider:
- Apples, pears, strawberries, avocados, raspberries and bananas
- Carrots, beets, broccoli and Brussel sprouts
- Lentils, kidney beans, split peas and chickpeas
- Quinoa, oats and almonds
If you find it difficult to eat enough fiber-rich foods to improve your symptoms, consider taking an organic, non-GMO psyllium husk supplement to help boost your fiber intake and feed the good bacteria in your gut, improving your overall gut health.
Although some people would prefer to take a pill to relieve their symptoms, constipation is a symptom of a dysfunction in your body caused by your lifestyle choices. In other words, it’s your body alerting you to a problem. When only the symptoms disappear, some of the other negative health effects associated with a low-fiber diet, dehydration, or lack of exercise may begin to manifest. However, armed with knowledge, it will be simple to make small changes over time that will have a significant impact on your constipation and overall health.