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Healthy Tips



Freedom from Constipation


Constipation is defined as having a bowel movement fewer than three times per week. With constipation stools are usually hard, dry, small in size, and difficult to eliminate. Some people who are constipated find it painful to have a bowel movement and often experience straining, bloating, and the sensation of a full bowel.

Constipation is a symptom, not a disease. Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their life, and a poor diet typically is the cause. Most constipation is temporary and not serious. Understanding its causes, prevention, and treatment will help most people find relief.

Who gets Constipated

Women and adults ages 65 and older are most often get Constipated. Pregnant women may have constipation, and it is a common problem following childbirth or surgery. Self-treatment of constipation with over–the–counter (OTC) laxatives is by far the most common aid

What causes constipation?

To understand constipation, it helps to know how the colon, or large intestine, works. As food moves through the colon, the colon absorbs water from the food while it forms waste products, or stool. Muscle contractions in the colon then push the stool toward the rectum. By the time stool reaches the rectum it is solid, because most of the water has been absorbed.

Constipation occurs when the colon absorbs too much water or if the colon’s muscle contractions are slow or sluggish, causing the stool to move through the colon too slowly. As a result, stools can become hard and dry. Common causes of constipation are:
  • not enough fiber in the diet
  • lack of physical activity (especially in the elderly)
  • medications
  • milk
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • changes in life or routine such as pregnancy, aging, and travel
  • abuse of laxatives
  • ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • dehydration
  • specific diseases or conditions, such as stroke (most common)
  • problems with the colon and rectum
  • problems with intestinal function (chronic idiopathic constipation)

What should I eat?

Eat plenty of fiber. Two to 4 servings of fruits and 3 to 5 servings of vegetables a day is ideal. Add extra fiber to your diet by eating cereals that contain bran or by adding bran as a topping on your fruit or cereal. If you are adding fiber to your diet, start slowly and gradually increase the amount. This will help reduce gas and bloating. Make sure to drink plenty of water too.

Tips on preventing constipation

The "cure" for constipation consists of correcting the sort of dietary habits that make bowel habits irregular.
  • Don't resist the urge to have a bowel movement.
  • Set aside time to have a bowel movement. A good time may be after breakfast or any other meal.
  • Eat more fiber.
  • Drink plenty of fluids--at least 8 glasses a day. Fluids can include water, juices, soup, tea and other drinks.
  • Don't take laxatives too often.
  • Exercise or move around more.
  • If necessary, you may need an over-the-counter stool softener, Ask your doctor.
  • Drugs such as antacids and iron supplements can be binding, and be stay away from them, if you get constipated easily.
  • Enemas can relieve a serious case of constipation. But don't use them regularly
Try these measures before you consider resorting to laxatives. If you rely on laxatives for a prolonged time, your body loses its natural elimination reflex--the bowel can't evacuate as well on its own. Long-term use of stimulant laxatives can also lead to a mineral imbalance.

If you're still constipated no matter what you try, ask your doctor for advice. Constipation can be the side effect of certain medications (including diuretics) or result from a medical problem (such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or an underactive thyroid gland) or problems with the large intestine (such as a tumor or diverticular disease).


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