A “normal” bowel movement differs from person to person, although most experts say the ideal minimum is about three times a week. Anything below this number may already be considered constipation. Other symptoms include straining to complete a bowel movement and hard, dry stools. You may also feel bloated and that your bowels are not completely empty even after you’ve gone to the toilet.
While constipation is definitely uncomfortable, it’s rather easy to manage. There are also plenty of ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. Here are some tips so you can get relief and avoid getting constipated in the future:
Eat More Fiber-Rich Foods
One of the most important things you can do to help relieve and prevent constipation is to eat more fiber-rich foods. The prime candidates, of course, are fruits and vegetables. Some more specific examples include:
- Chia seeds
- Green peas
Whole grains also have high dietary fiber content, so make sure to go for those options when you get pasta, cereals, and bread.
Note that if you aren’t used to a high-fiber diet, you may feel gassy at first. If you feel uncomfortable, start slow and then build up once you get used to eating high-fiber foods. You should also avoid high-fructose fruits (like pears) if you have bowel sensitivity; if you don’t have the condition, however, feel free to eat your fill of high-fiber foods.
Drink More Water
Being dehydrated is one of the causes of constipation. In short, you need to drink more water. Besides, when you start eating high-fiber foods, you’re going to need more water anyway because fiber pulls moisture into the gut. This will leave other parts of your body a little dry, so you’re going to need extra hydration.
Do note that different people have different hydration requirements, depending on various factors like age, gender, and weight. That said, 2 liters of liquids per day is a good benchmark. Some experts say it can also be good to drink warm fluids to help jumpstart your stomach’s movement. For intestinal stimulation, juices like prune juice can work wonders.
Take Some Supplements
If, for any reason, you aren’t able to eat certain high-fiber foods, you may want to consider taking fiber supplements. These will add bulk to your stool, making them softer and therefore easier to pass. There are plenty of fiber supplements to choose from, however, so ask your doctor which one will be most suitable for your unique situation.
Another supplement you can take to relieve and prevent constipation is a probiotic pill. Sometimes, constipation is caused by a lack or imbalance of “good bacteria” in their gut. If this is your case, a probiotic supplement might help.
Get Some Exercise
Remember that the stomach and intestines are muscles, so they need a bit of a workout to stay in good shape. Of course, you can’t literally exercise your stomach and intestines. The next best thing is to get in some physical activity, even low-impact, low-intensity ones like brisk walking or biking. The bodily movement will also increase the movement in your gut, which helps prevent constipation.
If you need immediate relief from constipation, one of the best things to do is to use a laxative. There are different types you can use and one can be more effective than the other depending on your condition. Some popular forms of laxatives include:
- Stool softeners, which moisten the stool and make it easier to pass.
- Lubricants, which help stool move more easily through your colon.
- Osmotics, which help increase the fluid secretion in the intestines and stimulate the bowel.
- Stimulants, which cause contractions in the intestines to move their contents.
Go to the Bathroom When You Feel the Need
Last but certainly not least, you can prevent constipation by going to the bathroom whenever you feel the urge. Of course, this may not be always possible (e.g., there are no nearby bathrooms). Just remember that while holding it in isn’t immediately harmful, it can result in complications like fecal impaction and incontinence in the long run.
To make things a little easier, try to squat or use a toilet stool. This position will help you pass your stool more easily, because it relaxes your rectum and straightens your colon.
Obviously, it’s important to monitor what you eat and drink. However, you shouldn’t forget about what comes out either. Passing stool is the body’s way of getting rid of undigested food, bad bacteria, the lining of your intestines that gets shed every few days, and other waste. This means constipation can possibly lead to a lot of health complications.
Take note of the tips above to relieve and prevent this condition. If you get constipated too frequently, consult your doctor. There may be underlying health conditions that affect your digestion or your capability to pass stool.