Constipation is more than an uncomfortable issue. It can be a sign of something serious or it could be as simple as not eating the right foods. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Dehydration: One of the purposes of the large intestine is to draw off fluids from the stool. If you are dehydrated, it can draw off enough fluid to make a bowel movement difficult and the stool to be painfully solid.
Lack of fiber: Without enough fiber, food doesn’t move through the intestines and colon very quickly. As stool moves through the large intestine, the length of time it stays there allows too much fluid to be drawn off.
Eating the wrong foods: Chocolate, dairy products and red meat are known to cause constipation. In dairy products, it’s not completely understood why it’s a problem, but lactose is the leading theory. Bananas and caffeine can play a role in constipation, but surprisingly they can also relieve it. A green banana could cause it, but a ripe one could relieve it.
Medications: There are several types of medications that can cause constipation. Strong painkillers are a good example. This is an area that needs medical intervention. It’s not something you’ll just “get over.” Often laxatives are required. If you are on a medication that can cause constipation, talk to your doctor.
Things that Help
Decaffeinated fluids: Caffeine and alcohol can act as diuretics. They increase the likelihood of dehydration and therefore the likelihood of constipation. Six to eight glasses of water or other fluids that don’t cause dehydration are recommended.
Fiber: Because the body can’t digest fiber, it provides bulk that helps the intestines move stool through the body faster. This is why some doctors recommend bulk fiber to patients with frequent constipation issues.
Stool Softeners: It’s very difficult to pass hard stools whether or not constipation is a problem. A good stool softener can make it easier and less painful.
Laxatives: If constipation is an occasional problem, laxatives can be beneficial. They shouldn’t be used regularly as that will cause a dependency issue. For those who prefer the natural route, senna is the easiest on the body. In fact, it is found in some over-the-counter products.
Your doctor: There are some serious medical conditions that can cause constipation. There are a few that can be made worse if there is constipation. If you have this problem on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about it. Also, if you take medications, have had a heart attack or just given birth, talk to your doctor. These issues can only be addressed on a professional basis.