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The cause of constipation may be as close as your plate of food. Many of the common foods in our diet can lead to the condition. Experts have noted that the key similarity between these foods is their lack of fiber (the part of plant foods that the body can’t break down). And so when you eat such poor fiber foods, there is no extra bulk that usually would help keep stools soft and speed digestion. Stools get dry and hard to pass, causing constipation.
If you have ever been constipated, then you would be familiar with those sausage-like stools with cracks on the surface; the separate hard lumps, like nuts; or the bloody stools due to tearing of hemorrhoid and anal fissures. How about the grunting or other noises made as you strained and your face turned red with visible large veins? Not a charming condition. Is it? Apart from the pain caused by constipation, it can give rise to many different ailments, including bad breath, headache, gas, hernia, appendicitis, insomnia, indigestion, obesity, malabsorption syndrome and varicose vein. Constipation may even be involved with the development of a more serious disease like colon cancer. Note that the colon is the holding tub for waste matter, which should be removed within 24 hours. After this period, harmful toxins can form. Am sure you do not want these toxins to overload your system. Nobody does. To avoid this, beware of constipation! And if you get constipated often, do yourself a favour and take a close look at your menu. But apart from lack of fibers in our diet, certain foods and other causative factors can give rise to constipation. Let’s see what’s contributing to your block-up:
Drugs: For a host of conditions, like indigestion, depression, muscle spasms, seizures, pain, kidney problems and high blood pressure can trigger constipation. So can iron supplements and high levels of calcium.
Poor diet: Heavy consumption of junk foods, like pastries, cookies, cakes, and other treats with refined sugar, low in fiber and fluids, and high in fat causes constipation.
Fried foods: French fries, onion rings, and even heavily breaded good foods, like fish, may be very inviting and almost impossible to pass, but, sadly are full of fat and are hard to digest.
Dairy: Too much cheese and milk. Though you may not have to give up dairy, you have to eat less of it and check your choices too.
Laxative abuse: The nerve cells in the wall of the colon can be damaged by long-term, habitual use of laxative.
Pain: A thrombosed hemorrhoid, anal fissure, or a pocket of infection at the anus can create a spasm of pain strong enough to contract the muscles and hinder the evacuation of stools.
Low levels of thyroid hormone: A metabolic disturbance that can lead constipation. Other health issues, which may be linked to constipation include, diabetes, irritable bowel system, spinal cord damage, neurogenic disorders, muscle disorders and structural abnormalities.
Anxiety: May affect the muscles that control how you go to the bathroom.
Aging: As some people advance in age, they are most likely to get constipated, partly because of less activity or their body is slowing down.
Dehydration: Excessive sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol; lack of exercise; not drinking enough fluid and not going when you feel the urge are other factors that can lead to constipation.
If your bowel habits get sluggish and stool becomes hard, you don’t have to rush out to buy a laxative. The following recommendations may help normalise your system:
High fibre foods: Eating high-fibre foods would be my first option. It is recommended that about 25 grammes and 35 grammes respectively should be taken by women and men. Good examples are fresh fruits, raw green leafy vegetables and brown rice. Also beans, cabbage, carrots, okra, peas, sweet potatoes and whole grains.
Stay hydrated: If you add more fiber to your diet, be sure to drink more fluids too. Drink at least eight glasses of water every day, whether you are thirsty or not. You can also get a lot of the water you need at mealtime from fruits and vegetables.
Pectin-in addition to fibre: You should consume foods high in pectin, such as beet root, apples, bananas (good and ripe), okra and citrus fruits.
Aloe vera: Has powerful healing and cleansing effect on the digestive tract. Drinking half a tumbler of fresh aloe juice in the morning and night would help in forming soft stool. Mix with a cup of herbal tea, if desired.
Senna leaf: This is very beneficial and will help loosen tight stools. A teaspoon of the leaf powder infused in hot water and taken 2x daily is all you need.
Dandelion: Use this vegetable to aid liver function and to enhance bile output to soften stool. It can also be drunk as tea.
Nettle-like dandelion: Nettle can be drunk as a tea. Take a teacup first thing in the morning for its mild, natural laxative effect.
Flax seed: Freshly ground flax seeds help to soften stools. Sprinkle over cereals, oats, salads and other foods.
Exercise: Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is good for your health. Physical activity is said to speed the movement of waste through the intestine.
Listen to nature’s call: Never repress the urge to defecate. If you do, you are asking for a case of constipation.
Do not depend so much on laxatives. They may help soften the stool in your intestines so it’ll pass more easily. But they’re not a cure, and if you use them too often, your body can “forget” how to go on its own.
Most constipation passes on its own or can be taken care of by eliminating its triggers and with lifestyle changes. See your physician if you’re still having trouble after a few days, if there’s blood in your stool, or you have serious stomach pain.