Staying regular from top to bottom

11Mar

It’s that condition which is uncomfortable to talk about and even more uncomfortable to experience… constipation! You might be wondering exactly how regular you should be and how you can make your trip to the bathroom go as smoothly as possible. Read on to learn more about the digestive system and how it relates to your bowel movements.

Generally, constipation is characterised by dry, hard stools which are difficult or painful to expel and may also be infrequent. There is no set number of times that an individual should empty their bowels each day or week but the average person will do so between three times a day and three times a week. Usually, constipation occurs because the colon has absorbed too much water from food, causing stools to become dry and hard. The more slowly that food moves through the digestive tract, the more time the colon has to absorb water from the food. This can be due to the types of food consumed or the effectiveness of the muscles involved in the process.

Apart from straining on the toilet, other symptoms of constipation might include feeling bloated or nauseous, stomach cramps, loss of appetite, a feeling of not being finished after passing a stool or feeling generally ‘blocked up’.

Some of the most common causes of constipation are outlined below as well as their respective treatments.

Diet

Certain foods increase the risk of constipation. Those which are low in fibre, high in fat and high in sugar can slow down the movement of food through the colon. You probably already know to limit intake of fried food and rich desserts, but even meat, eggs and dairy can cause a problem if they are not balanced out with good servings of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. Also, drinking enough water is important to keep things moving. Alcohol and caffeine can both cause dehydration so try to consume these in moderation and opt for more glasses of water. Making good food choices will help to soften stools and make them easier to pass.

Lifestyle

Most often, constipation is relatively easy to treat and prevent. Simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Physical activity is important for the body to function well in terms of metabolism. If your work keeps you sedentary for most of the day, make sure to get your body moving every chance you get.

Forming good routines and habits can help to keep you regular. Going to the toilet as soon as you feel the urge is always the best for your body. The longer the movement is delayed, the more chance the stool has to become hard. If possible, it is beneficial to set aside a time each day to go to the bathroom where you will not be rushed or strain unnecessarily. Elevating your feet on a small footrest can also make things more comfortable.

You may have noticed that when you are on holidays or out of your normal routine, your whole system is out of sorts. This is due to the changes in diet, activity and toilet habits which impact on your bowel movements. When travelling, try and maintain as much normality as possible by keeping active, eating well, staying hydrated and taking toilet breaks as needed.

Medical Conditions

Some health conditions mean that certain people are more susceptible to constipation. For example, the hormones associated with pregnancy can slow down the passage of food through the digestive system. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common cause of constipation as well as any conditions which affect the colon, rectum or anus. Constipation may also be experienced by people with diseases such as diabetes or thyroid problems. Furthermore, constipation is a side-effect of many common medications. Even laxatives, which are effective in treating constipation, can have the reverse effect if used excessively.

Age

As a person gets older, they are more likely to be inactive, which slows down metabolism. Also, the muscles of the digestive tract become less efficient. Conversely, children can sometimes be at increased risk of constipation due to factors such as fussy eating or simply forgetting to go to the toilet when they need to.

Most cases of constipation will resolve with simple lifestyle changes or an over-the-counter medication. However, if symptoms persist it is important to visit your doctor to investigate if there is any more serious underlying cause and to prevent complications such as haemorrhoids, rectal bleeding or anal fissures.

For more information on keeping regular and the products that might best suit your needs, please ask one of our staff at Chemistworks to assist you.