What is constipation?
Constipation is a condition where there are infrequent, irregular or difficult bowel movements. One is said to be constipated when one passes lesser than three stools a week and has a sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement. Constipation is associated with a general feeling of ill-health, loss of appetite, ulcers in the mouth, acne, acidity and sometimes heartburn. When waste products are not eliminated, it causes an accumulation of toxins in the system which can lead to disorders like arthritis and high blood pressure.
What causes constipation?
- Medications can cause constipation. Overuse of laxatives is one of the many causes of constipation.
- Diet is another cause. Much of the food that is consumed today is deficient in roughage or fibre and this results in chronic constipation. Fibre helps to maintain soft bulky stools.
- Habits such as suppressing the urge to defacate frequenty, or ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement can result in constipation. This is especially true for children.
- Diseases that affect the colon, and hormonal disorders also cause constipation. These include irritable bowel syndrome and probems with the colon, rectum or intestinal function.
- Lack of physical activity is another cause of constipation. This can especially be seen in older people.
Treatment for constipation
A healthy diet. Many times, adding fibre or roughage to the diet is all that is needed to ensure regularity in stools. Fibre adds mass to the stools and stimulates the colon to push things along. All foods in their natural state contain fibre. Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables like apple, pear, prunes, guava, grapes, the bael fruit, spinach, onion, cabbage, brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. In addition to fruits and vegetables, it is recommended that we include lots of whole-grain cereals. Dried beans and legumes are also an excellent source of fibre, and one should also cut back on refined and overprocessed foods. Chewing food properly also aids in digestion.
Drink lots of fluids. Drinking an adequate amount of liquids may help to alleviate constipation or prevent it from happening in the first place. When you drink insufficient fluids, the stools dry out makes it hard to pass. Drink at least 8 cups of liquids a day. Avoid drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks. Caffeine is said to act as a diuretic taking fluids out of the body when you actually want to retain it. Also, water should not be taken with food as it dilutes the gastric juices essential for digestion. Water should be taken half an hour before or after meals.
Exercise helps treat constipation. Exercise not only boosts fitness, but also regularity. One should be more active. A simple walking workout helps. Toning up the muscles helps in the treatment of constipation. Exercise helps to strengthen and activate the muscles and helps prevent constipation.
Cut down on laxatives. Laxatives, which seem to be the easy solution for constipation may cause other problems if taken indiscriminately. One real danger is that people get dependent on them and laxatives have various side effects. A number of prescription and over the counter drugs lead to constipation. It is advisable to ask the doctor or pharmacist if a particular medicine may lead to constipation.
Don’t suppress the urge to pass motion. Often because of erratic schedules or any other reason (public toilets or while travelling), one tends to suppress the urge to have a bowel movement. If done over a period of time, it may block the urge completely, leading to constipation.
Home remedies for constipation
- The bael fruit (Stone apple, Bengal quince) is the best of laxatives. Its regular use is said to throw out even old accumalated waste matter. Eat a cupful of the pulp of a ripe bael fruit and a tsp of jaggery everyday in the evening before dinner. For chronic constipation, have this regularly for 4-6 weeks.
- Soak 2-3 dried figs and 2-3 almonds for a coupe of hours. Stone the figs, remove the skin of the almonds, mash them together, and have them with honey twice a day.
- Drink a glass of warm water with a spoonful of honey every night before going to sleep.
- Pulp from the mature fruit of Cassia fistula, (the golden shower tree) when consumed every evening (about half a gooseberry size) after food helps relieve constipation.
- Eating five fresh leaves of Eclipta prostrata in the morning is said to cure constipation.
- Terminalia belerica (Belliric Myrobalan) is a mild laxative. Its pulp is taken with rock salt, or flavored with cloves and cinnamon. Regular use of this decoction relieves the person of constipation