Constipation can be frustrating and limiting - it can be hard to carry out daily tasks when you suffer from bowel issues! Here, we will discuss what constipation is, how it happens and what you can do to help it yourself.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a super common condition - most of us have been constipated at some point. For some people, it can happen regularly and become quite life-limiting; it can be hard to carry out normal activities when you are constipated!
Constipation is the inability to poo regularly or completely empty your bowels. When you do poo with constipation, it is common for it to be a hard consistency and abnormal size compared to your regular bowel movements.1
Who gets constipation?
Anybody can suffer from constipation, but some are more at risk than others. A change in eating habits, insufficient fibre, dehydration, certain medications, mental health issues and ignoring the urge to poo can lead to constipation.1
Children can be considered particularly at risk, as they may not have the knowledge and proper toilet training to understand when they need to poo. Fear of pooing, ignoring or misunderstanding the feeling and poor diet can all lead to constipation in children.1
1 in 3 children suffers from constipation, which reduces to 1 in 7 for adults. Pregnant and older people are at a higher risk than the general population.
Do I need to see a doctor for constipation?
Constipation isn’t usually serious and will pass on its own most of the time. If you’ve had mild constipation for over 3 weeks, have blood in your poo, stomach pain or unexplained weight loss, seek medical intervention.2 Constipation can be a sign of many underlying health conditions; a doctor can run tests if they are concerned.
If you are not passing stools at all, don’t wait 3 weeks to see your doctor. Severe constipation may need treatment, such as a laxative or enema, to dislodge a possible blockage. With treatment, even severe constipation can be treated relatively easily most of the time.
Can probiotics help constipation?
Consuming probiotics, including a daily supplement, can help relieve constipation. Probiotics from the Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Saccharomyces families, in particular, have been shown to alleviate IBS symptoms, including constipation.3
Consuming probiotics increases your short-chain fatty acid reduction, reduces the pH of the colon and increases your bile salt metabolism, all of which help you to go to the loo that bit easier.3
Taking a probiotic that contains prebiotic fibre can help alleviate constipation by adding weight to your stool; a bulkier poo is easier to pass, meaning prebiotics can reduce your chances of constipation. Fibre can also be found in whole grains, legumes, berries, oranges, pears, carrots, leafy greens, broccoli and nuts.4
What else helps constipation?
Hydration is key for avoiding constipation; you will struggle to process what is consumed if you do not have enough fluid in your digestive tract. To prevent food from becoming stuck along the way, ensure you are consuming enough fluid in the food and drink you consume.5
As well as drinking plenty of water, 100% fruit juice, low-fat milk, decaffeinated teas and raw fruit and veg also contain that necessary fluid to avoid constipation.
Caffeine can be a natural stimulant for the digestive tract muscles, so having a cup or two of coffee can help relieve constipation. Drinking too much caffeine can cause dehydration, so don’t overdo it!6
Exercising can help to stimulate the muscles and nerves in the digestive tract, particularly in the mucosal lining of your intestines. The intestinal muscles can then squeeze efficiently, and constipation will be eradicated.7 Something as simple as a 10-minute walk can go a long way to preventing constipation.
If you have constipation, don’t fret - consume some fluid and fibre, do some exercise or drink some coffee and see if you can get things moving! As always, seek medical intervention if you are concerned about constipation or if it reoccurs frequently.
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