By Dt. Sangeeta Malik, Dietitian/Nutritionist
What goes in must come out. You proved this by, sitting on the toilet this morning. Well, didn’t you?
Constipation is no fun. Sometimes it can be painful. But the cause of your sluggish bowels is often easy to find. It may be a lack of fiber in the diet, insufficient liquid intake, stress medications, lack of exercise and bad bowel habits.
Below are ways to remedy the situation:
- Are you really constipated? You think you have a problem, but do you really? Like all of us, you have been bombarded by laxative advertisements that try to give you the impression that a daily bowel movement is essential to good health, and this just isn’t so. The need to pass stools varies greatly from person to person. For some, a bowel movement three times a day may be considered normal, for others three times a week may suffice
- Are you getting enough fluids? The foremost menu items for battling constipation are dietary fiber and liquids. Lots of both are essential to keep stools soft and help it pass through the colon. A minimum of six to eight glasses of liquid should be a part of every adult’s diet. While any fluid will do the trick, ‘the best fluid is water’.
- Eat lots more fiber. A daily consumption of 20-35 grams of dietary fiber is needed for all adults and at least 30 grams for those who suffer from constipation. You can get your fiber (complex fiber) from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Top among the list are dried beans, peas, prunes, dried figs, raisins, popcorn/ makhana, oatmeal, pears, bananas, and nuts.
- Make pure ghee an integral part of your diet. (Most of our weight loss ‘diets’ tend to cut out all fats from our meals; even the healthy fats).
- Avoid adding fiber to foods in the bid to increase the fiber content of your meals. Try and eat fiber rich home-made foods and avoid junk foods.
- Avoid tea or coffee on waking up in order to help natural bowel movement and also post sunset.
- Take time to workout. Yes, exercise is good for the bowels too. Exercise helps the movement of the foods faster through the bowels.
- Take a walk. Walking is particularly helpful especially for pregnant women who often face the problem of constipation.
- Toilet train yourself. Many of us condition ourselves to go to the bathroom not when nature calls but when we feel it is convenient. Ignoring the urge to defecate, however, can lead to constipation in the long run. But it’s never too late to improve your habits. The most natural time to go to the toilet is after a meal. Everyday follow a routine and sit on the toilet for ten minutes. In time you will condition your colon to act as it naturally should.
- Slow down and take it easy. When you are stressed, tensed or frightened the bowels stop up just like our mouth dries or heart beats faster. It’s a simple part of the flight and fight mechanism. If you feel at the bottom of your constipation, the underlying cause is tension, take time to relax before you go to the toilet.
- Reconsider laxative medications. Commercial laxatives may do their job but at the same time they are also addictive. Habitual intake can make your bowels get used to them, and your constipation worse.
- Consider natural laxatives (only when needed and not as a rule). Laxatives marked ‘vegetable’ or ‘natural’, whose main ingredient is psyllium seeds, flax and oats are nonaddictive and generally safe. But be sure that these are taken with lots of water, or they can gum up your insides.
- Be cautious when using herbal remedies like Aloe Vera juice, senna rhubarb, dandelion root or plantain seeds.
- Review your supplements and medications. Medications like certain antacids (containing aluminum or calcium), antihistamines, anti-parkinsonism drugs, calcium supplements, iron supplements, diuretics, sedatives and antidepressants can bring about or exacerbate constipation.
- Beware of certain foods. Some foods may constipate an individual but not necessary everyone. Milk, for instance, can be constipating for one but cause diarrhea to another. Gas forming foods like cabbage, cauliflower, beans, whole pulses should be avoided by persons with a weak colon.
- Have frequent intake of water of about 3 liters or more per day.
- Eat smaller meals. Larger meals can distend the digestive tract, thus worsening constipation. Let your last meal be at least 2 hours before you sleep.
- Do not strain. Huffing and puffing your way out of constipation is not wise as it may lead to problems like hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Straining can also raise your blood pressure and lower your heartbeat. This is especially dangerous for elderly or cardiac patients.