Ever had one of those days where you feel so heavy and bloated? Your belly is so uncomfortable and the worst part is that you cannot even use the loo. Ever gone a few days without doing a "number 2" at all? Or, have you felt like you are carrying your stool around in your bowels and it just won’t come out? You could have even done a "number 2", but still feel like something has been left inside. Well, you are not the only one! Studies show that about 14% of people experience constipation at some point in their lives.
Constipation is a condition of the digestive system where an individual has hard feces that are difficult to expel. In most cases, this occurs because the colon has absorbed too much water from the food. The slower the food moves through the digestive tract, the more water the colon will absorb from it. As a result, the feces become dry and hard. When this happens, emptying the bowels can become very painful. In extreme cases it can result in a condition called piles or hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are enlarged blood vessels around the anal canal. They are more common among people who are often constipated, or who find themselves spending long periods of time in the toilet, straining to open their bowels. These can make constipation and using the toilet particularly painful.
Constipation can be caused by a variety of factors, from lack of fibre in one’s diet as a result of low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high consumption of processed foods, which are hard to digest, lack of physical activity, to lactose intolerance to name a few.
What can I do about it?
Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables like apples, pears and spinach can help relieve constipation by adding bulk, softening the stool, decreasing gut transit time and increasing stool frequency. People with constipation should eat between 18 and 30 grams (g) of fibre every day.
Drink more water: Consuming lots of water can help to rehydrate the body.
Exercise regularly: Regular exercise is a critical factor in improving symptoms of constipation and developing a healthy bowel habit. This can help to make bodily processes more regular, including the passing of stools.
Avoid holding in stools: Responding to your body's natural urges to pass stools when they happen is key to reducing the impact of constipation.
Elevate your feet: Placing your feet on an elevated surface, such as a step, while stooling can also help reduce constipation.
With the busy lives we live today, our eating and exercise habits can adversely affect our digestion and also the expulsion of toxic waste from our bodies. Constipation is a clear sign that the body is out of balance. Next time you experience constipation, take a step back and assess what you may be lacking in your lifestyle.