Constipation means different things to different people. For most people, it simply means infrequent stools. For others, however, the condition can involve:
• Hard stools that are difficult or painful to pass
• A sense of incomplete emptying after a bowel movement occurs
• Feelings of nausea, anxiety, headache and general discomfort
Constipation in most instances is caused by the slow passage of digesting food through any part of the intestine. More than 95% of the time, this ‘slowing’ usually occurs in the colon.
A frequently over-looked cause is medications. Simple measures such as increasing dietary fibre can often be effective, or substituting a less constipating non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) to help with pain relief.
Hormones can also affect bowel movements. For example, too little thyroid hormone, and too much parathyroid hormone (which raises calcium levels in the blood) can cause constipation.
At the time of a woman's menstrual periods, oestrogen and progesterone levels are high and may cause constipation (however, this is rarely a prolonged problem). Constipation tends to be more pronounced during pregnancy and causes may include the pressure of the baby on the bowel, as well as the production of high levels of oestrogen and progesterone.
Other causes may include:
• Not drinking enough water
• Not exercising regularly
• Hormonal disorders
• Colon diseases
• Suppressing the normal urge to go to the toilet
There are many treatments for constipation, but the best approach relies on a clear understanding of the underlying cause.
Dietary fibre is important and the best source is from increasing the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables you eat. When increasing amounts of fibre, it is important to drink large amounts of water to help prevent ‘hardening’ of the fibre and blockage of the intestine.
In some cases, this means a minimum of five servings of fruits or vegetables every day. For many people, however, this amount of fruit and vegetables per day may be inconvenient or may not provide adequate relief from constipation. In this case, fibre supplements can be useful. This website also contains some excellent natural fibre resources, so take some time to browse.
Check with your doctor to discuss which constipation relief medication is best for you. Laxative products can help stimulate and soften a bowel motion, and can be an effective way to relieve the discomfort of constipation. However, prolonged use is not desirable and may lead to dependency.
A lifestyle based on regular exercise, drinking 8 -10 glasses of water a day and a diet of fresh foods and grains is the best approach to avoiding constipation.
This is because fibre and water are very important for bowel regularity and provide a vital and necessary balance to overall well-being. Soluble fibre such as psyllium (or apple fibre) has the ability to absorb a lot of water and produce a soft stool, while insoluble fibre such as wheat and oat bran, produces a larger, harder stool.
Please contact your doctor to develop a personal treatment plan. Your local pharmacist is also an excellent source of information about the appropriate constipation products that may be helpful in your treatment.
For most of us, a regular bowel habit is something we take for granted, until we have a problem. When nature lets us down, Herron Sennetabs can help. Herron Sennetabs contain a natural stimulant laxative derived from the Senna plant and are formulated to provide effective overnight relief of constipation.