21 Nov How to deal with irregular bowel movements.
Constipation is an unpleasant condition defined as the infrequent and difficult passing of hard, dry stool. It is not usually a serious condition, however frequent and healthy bowel movements are important to overall health, and a good way to know that your gastrointestinal tract is functioning properly. If you go more than 2-3 days without a bowel movement, the faeces in your colon may harden and dry out, which is what makes them more difficult and sometimes painful to pass.
Constipation is often caused by a lack in fibre in the diet, but sometimes is also caused by; antacid and other medicines (check your warning labels), sudden changes in diet or activity levels, pregnancy hormones, dehydration, and also some serious conditions like colon cancer.
Some of the most common and useful ways to manage constipation start with adding fibre to your diet. Adding extra vegetables and fruit, breakfast cereals with wholegrains or bran, switching to a wholemeal or multigrain bread, and even taking a fibre supplement like Metamucil are great ways to do this. The increase in fibre helps to retain water in your stool, softening it and making it larger. This makes it move and pass through your gastrointestinal tract faster and easier.
Some foods may be worsening your constipation, try limiting the amount of dairy, white rice and flour, and red meats, as these have been known to increase constipation.
Staying hydrated is also very important in maintaining healthy bowel movements. The dietitians association of Australia recommends drinking 1.5 to 2L of water per day. Also avoid diuretics like alcohol and coffee, which can add to dehydration by increasing urine output. By staying hydrated, your stool will be softer and easier to pass.
Exercise is also an important aspect of healthy bowel movements. Regular exercise is important for overall health and can decrease the time it takes food to pass through the gastrointestinal tract. The less time it takes stool to move through the intestines, the less amount of water will be removed from the stool, and the easier it will be to pass. It has also been said that exercises which target abdominals may be specifically effective, by increasing blood flow to the intestinal area.
If none of these natural remedies are working for you, a short duration laxative treatment may be a viable option, however it is often advised to not rely on laxatives for long term relief from constipation. There are two common types of laxatives often used; stimulants and stool-softeners. Stimulants increase bowel muscle contractions, and stool-softeners add water content to stool. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist to decide which will work best for you.
When dealing with constipation, and bowel movements in general, the position you sit in while on the toilet is very important. When sitting normally with your feet on the ground, the angle of your colon is twisted, and your muscles can only partly relax. By assuming a more squatted posture the colon angle straightens out and your muscles can fully relax allowing easy and complete bowel movements. You can achieve this achieve this posture easily at home by resting your feet on a step or other raised surface, bringing your knees closer to your chest. This posture allows for smoother and quicker bowel movements and will help prevent straining.
Straining while on the toilet can be bad for your pelvic organs and pelvic floor. Straining occurs when we contract our abdominal muscles is order to push out bowel movements. This dramatically increases the pressure within our abdomen and over time can cause many issues including; haemorrhoids, prolapse, incontinence, and a weakening of our pelvic floor. A good way to tell if you are straining is whether or not you are holding your breath. Bowel movements should occur only when you feel the natural urge, by easy relaxation of your colon muscles.
Constipation is a very common condition which can often be managed by simple lifestyle changes, however if your constipation is sudden, or you are unable to pass any stool or gas, a visit to your doctor is important to stay safe and rule out any serious condition