Constipation can be very uncomfortable, but it usually doesn’t signal disease or a serious problem. The “cure” for constipation consists of correcting the sort of dietary habits that make bowel habits irregular.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. They serve as natural stool softeners, thanks to their fiber content. Some fiber absorbs water like a sponge, turning hard stool into large, soft, easy-to-pass masses.
- Eat other foods high in fiber, like whole-grain breads and cereals and bran.
- Drink plenty of water and other liquids, to give the fiber plenty of water to absorb.
- Get plenty of exercise, to help your bowels move things along.
- Don’t resist the urge to eliminate or put off a trip to the bathroom.
- Keep in mind that drugs such as antacids and iron supplements can be binding, and stay away from them if you get constipated easily.
- If necessary, you may need an over-the-counter stool softener. Ask your doctor.
Try these measures before you consider resorting to laxatives. If you rely on laxatives for a prolonged time, your body loses its natural elimation reflex – the bowel can’t evacuate as well on its own. Long-term use of stimulant laxatives can also lead to a mineral imbalance.
Enemas can relieve a serious case of constipation. But don’t use them regularly.
If you’re still constipated no matter what you try, ask your doctor for advice. Constipation can be the side effect of certain medications (including diuretics) or result from a medical problem (such as hemorrhoids, anal fissures, or an underactive thyroid gland) or problems with the large intestine (such as a tumor or diverticular disease).
Used with permission from A Year of Health Hints by Don R Powell, PHD and the American Institute for Preventive Medicine, copyright 2010. www.healthylife.com