Constipation is something that almost everyone experiences at some point in their life. While it can sometimes be a cause of embarrassment or frustration, usually it’s nothing serious. Older adults are more likely than younger people to become constipated, and because of the sensitivity of the subject, learning how to manage and overcome it is sometimes unknown.
Constipation is when you have fewer bowel movements than you normally do, those bowel movements take a longer time and more effort to pass, and the stools are hard and unyielding. Constipation is not itself a disease, rather it is a symptom.
Conventional wisdom is that you should be having a bowel movement at least once a day, but that isn’t necessarily true. There is no correct number of daily or weekly bowel movements. Every person is different, and therefore what is regular for one person may not necessarily be what is regular for another. For some people, having two bowel movements a day is normal and regular for them, and for others, maybe having three or four a week is normal.
If you think you may be experiencing constipation, here are several questions that doctors suggest asking yourself:
- Do you often have fewer than three bowel movements in one week?
- Do you often have a difficult time passing stools during bowel movements?
- Are your stools frequently lumpy or hard?
- Do you experience a feeling of being blocked from passing stools, or that you have not fully emptied your bowels?
An answer of “yes” to one or more of these questions may indicate a constipation problem, Otherwise, you probably are not experiencing constipation.
Oftentimes, it is not always certain what is causing someone to experience constipation. It could be any number of root causes, such as a poor diet, lack of sufficient exercise, overuse of laxatives, or more. Typical reasons include:
- Diet: Constipation may be experienced if your diet fails to include a sufficient amount of foods with a high fiber content, or too many sweet or fatty foods. Packaged and prepared foods are typically low in fiber.
- Exercise: Chronic inactivity can cause constipation.
- Medical conditions: Some problems, like stroke, diabetes, or intestinal blockage can cause constipation. Additionally, many medications can bring the problem about as well.
If you think you are experiencing constipation, first consult with your doctor to rule out a more serious issue. In the absence of a disease or a blockage, trying these changes can help.
- Add more fiber into your diet by upping your intake of fresh fruits, raw or cooked vegetables, and ditch white breads for whole-grain versions. Dried fruits are also very high in fiber.
- Get more fluids. Increasing your intake of hydrating liquids like water or juice can help you to have regular bowel movements.
- Exercise not only is important for your overall health, it will also help you to have regular bowel movements. Find physical things you enjoy doing, it could be as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood, and make them a part of your routine.