While one-third of IBS patients suffer from diarrhea, another one-third of those people experience moderate to severe constipation. It is important to be specific to your doctor when describing your condition, because your definition of constipation may mean different things to other people. An appropriate treatment can be chosen when your bowel patterns are effectively distinguished to your physician from other patterns, such as one bowel movement every 3 or 4 days or an excessive straining or feeling of “incomplete emptiness” during a bowel movement.
Making lifestyle changes should be of utmost importance when faced with constipation and other symptoms of IBS, along with modifying your diet and whether or not to include any fiber supplements.
The amount of fluid taken in each day should be considered along with the amount of dietary fiber consumed and any present exercise programs established.
Fluid balance gauges much of the efficiency and overall health of the kidneys, heart, skin, muscles, and central nervous system. Increasing fluid levels can improve constipation, especially in people who are truly dehydrated. Aim to drink at least 64 ounces, or six to eight glasses of water, per day to ‘cater’ to your bloodstream.
Drinking warm fluids or eating food stimulates the stomach, causing the gastrocolic reflex within the colon. Many people will feel the urge to have a bowel movement 15 to 45 minutes after food enters their stomach. Patients with constipation should take advantage of this reflex.
Food Volume in Diet Does Matter
Two aspects of your diet should be focused on when zoning in on your constipation: volume and fiber content. The quantity of food you eat plays a huge role in your bowel health and is often overlooked. Stool needs to be large enough to pass through the colon. People who focus on a limited diet or are strict with their caloric intake often become constipated.
Dietary recommendations are currently favored to include 25 to 30 grams of natural fiber each day. People with severe constipation should incorporate insoluble fiber rather than the soluble variety because insoluble fiber absorbs more water and helps keep stool formed. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, typically causes less gas and bloating, but, is rather inadequate for constipation as it can break down in the GI tract.
In addition to providing bulk to the stool, fiber often eases evacuation and minimizes straining.
Establish a Consistent Time for Elimination
Adding daily exercise with routine, scheduled bathroom time, or “bowel training”, can eventually eliminate any signs of constipation. Normal bowel habits can be established when you swiftly respond to the urge of an expected bowel movement rather than ignoring it (causing a build up of stool). When the urge is ignored, people will describe any subsequent sensations as “crampy”, “pressure”, or “fullness”.
“Bowel training” shouldn’t be underestimated. The slimy mucus covering the stools can be absorbed back into the body if the stools are left too long in the rectum. This makes the stools hard, dry, and often painful to pass.
Here is a simple routine to follow to get your bowels on the right track:
- 1) Get up between 5-8AM each morning
- 2) Have breakfast, especially to help initiate the gastrocolic reflex
- 3) Drink a large cup of tea followed by a brisk walk (this will help further stimulate the GI tract). A cup of herb tea will suffice, otherwise add honey to it for a more delicious alternative
- 4) 30 to 45 minutes should be set aside to use the bathroom, typically after the morning meal occurs
Other actions that can be taken are to:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
- Take linseed with plenty of water
- Massage the abdomen (with or without oil)
- Try some abdominal and breathing exercises
Or try some traditional remedies to offset the constipation:
– Prepare 1/10 to 1/5 ounce of basil leaves, or flowering tips, in boiling water. After it is strained, continue to drink it and enjoy some of the antispasmodic properties from the basil
– Eat a raw apple, with skin intact, for breakfast every morning
– Prepare a bowl of soup by simmering two pounds of carrots in four cups of water for approximately one to two hours. Mix in a blender for final preparation
– Soak figs or prunes in water overnight. The prunes should be cooked before they are eaten, but the figs can be eaten uncooked. The water they have been cooked can be consumed as well
-Kiwi fruit can be eaten on occasion
– Natural licorice is an option, either as sweets or in regular stick form
– Gather 20 drops of marjoram and five drops of rose in two fluid ounces of vegetable oil. This blend of essential oils can be used during a massage when placed on your lower back
Take advantage of these simple treatments and remedies by communicating them to your doctor and setting up a plan. You will be able to find a right combination of these treatments to help stimulate more bowel movements. Always remember to practice stress management, as stress is believed to exacerbate the symptoms felt with IBS.