Constipation is a problem that many are too embarrassed to talk about but it affects roughly 16% of all American adults and nearly a third of seniors over 60 according to a 2013 survey. Constipation is when bowel movements are hard to pass but you can also be considered constipated if you have less than three a week. Here are some tips to help you avoid and find relief from constipation.
Staying hydrated helps keep our bodies healthy and functioning. By drinking plenty of water, the digestive process is aided and will make stool easier to pass through your intestines. Generally, you should be drinking six to eight glasses of water a day.
Finding it hard to get enough water throughout the day? Check out our blog on the importance of staying hydrated for some tips.
Add Fiber to Your Diet
There's a saying that fiber keeps us regular and it's true. If you have regular problems with constipation, adding fiber to your diet can help. Avoid foods that are low in fiber like fast foods and anything processed or pre-made and frozen.
Great sources of fiber include fruits (especially berries, apples, and oranges), vegetables (especially broccoli, peas, and carrots), nuts, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), and whole grains (whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and rice).
Schedule When You Go
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one way you can lower the risk of constipation is to keep yourself regular with a schedule and try to go at the same time(s) every day. Having a bowel movement 15 to 45 minutes after eating can help as eating signals to your colon to move stool.
If you are finding it particularly hard to go, don't strain yourself trying to force it. You can inadvertently damage the muscles in your lower abdomen from pushing too hard. Just get up, do some light physical activity before trying again.
Talk With a Medical Provider About Medications
Some medications can make you constipated as a side effect. If you notice any changes like this (especially with new medications) speak with your doctor or medical provider about what adjustments need to be made. There are also over-the-counter stool softeners you can take to make bowel movements easier, but you should always consult a medical provider about taking them especially if you are taking other medications.
When to Seek Emergency Care
Constipation is usually not a major concern but you may want to seek emergency care if you experience bleeding from your rectum or in your stool, constant abdominal pain, vomiting, fever, lower back pain, or an inability to pass gas regularly. All of these could be signs of a serious medical condition.
Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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