Chronic constipation can have many underlying causes, such as poor diet and exercise habits, stress, or functional problems in the digestive system. There are several tactics that can help ease your symptoms and make bowel movements more regular.
Be Mindful Of Your Fluids
You should try to minimize caffeine, which will reduce the amount of water available for your large intestine. Try choosing caffeine-free beverages for most of the day. If you enjoy coffee or other beverages containing caffeine, limit them to once or twice per day. Keeping yourself hydrated can prevent stools from becoming hard and difficult to pass. Another potential concern in your diet is the amount of salt you consume, which can also reduce the amount of fluids freely available for your digestive system. Try limiting processed foods and learn to replace some of the salt in homemade foods with more herbs and spices.
Ease Into Fiber
Fiber is tricky when it comes to chronic constipation because inadequate fiber intake is not always the problem. If you want to increase your fiber, do it slowly. Chia and/or flax seeds are a good choice. Not only do they contain fiber, but when combined with water, they create a gel-like substance. This gel consistency may help make stools softer and slip through the colon easier. Start with a teaspoon on a salad or use the seeds to make pudding for a sweet treat.
If you do not experience any adverse effects, such as increased gas and bloating, add another teaspoon after a week. If you need more versatility, powdered fiber supplements can be added to liquids or sauces without changing the taste or consistency. When you are increasing your fiber, be sure to increase your caffeine-free fluids so the fiber has something to absorb. Otherwise, you might make constipation worse.
If your constipation is difficult to manage through diet, there are retail and prescription medications that may help. Although it is tempting to use laxatives, it is best to avoid them. People who use laxatives frequently, no matter how natural they are, can become dependent on them to have a bowel movement. If you want to use any medication available over-the-counter, try stool softeners. They will not increase the urgency of bowel movements or give you diarrhea but can prevent your stools from becoming hard. You may need to take stool softeners regularly to see the benefits.
Another option is to speak with your family practice doctor to determine the exact cause. Two common problems that might manifest as chronic constipation are chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Your doctor can determine which condition best fits the array of symptoms you might experience. It is important to take into consideration other issues beyond constipation, such as infrequent episodes of diarrhea, gas, bloating, and/or the feeling of an incomplete bowel movement. Fortunately, both conditions have prescription medications available that may help.
Most people will experience constipation, but when it becomes an ongoing problem it is time to find a solution. A combination of dietary changes and medications can give you ongoing relief.
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