You think constipation is a problem for older people? Get a reality check.
Today, constipation is one of the most common GI issue among the younger lot too, and the number of people facing tense mornings, bloating, unease due to it is actually large.
Often people self-medicate with over the counter laxatives, which in the long run could turn a small problem into big trouble.
Plus, severe constipation can lead to release of toxins into your bloodstream, as a clean colon means more good nutrients and fewer baddies in your blood.
While there is no textbook definition for this malady (everyone’s normal could be different), you might need doctor intervention if you have fewer than one movement a week and this lasts more than two weeks, or if there is a sudden decrease in the number of bowel movements or if you have blood in your stool, or pain while passing one.
Usually, though, constipation can be very easily prevented by making a few food and lifestyle changes.
Know the Culprits
Low fibre and water in the diet, lack of physical activity, over use of medications like antacids, laxative abuse (these are habit-forming to the point where you need more and more until they simply stop working), sudden lifestyle changes (travel, different work shift), ignoring the urge when it does strike (your body soon gets trained to ignore it every time), and medical issues like blockage of the bowel due to a hernia or some growth, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), low levels of thyroid hormones and depression could be some reasons to look out for
Get Enough Fiber
Most of us eat only 5-14g of fiber a day, when the recommended intake is 25-35g. Also you need to score both the kinds of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fiber (also known as roughage) increases feeling of fullness, stool size and bulk, and helps reduce constipation and haemorrhoids.
It is found in wheat bran, most wholegrain cereals and vegetables. Soluble fibre forms a gel and acts like a stool softener. It is found in all fruits, oats and barley.
You can score get enough fibre by opting for wholewheat flour for cha-patis, including oats or even millets such as barley and bajra in the diet, getting five servings of fruits and vegetables and two of pulses each day.
Sample day plan:
2 figs with oat porridge and wheat bran, a guava for breakfast
2-3 rotis made with atta that has wheat bran in it, a katori of dal and 100g of any vegetable for lunch
Evening snack of fruit chaat.
(Adding a plate of raw salad once or twice a day will help immensely too.)
Three foods that help big are,
Okra - contains constipation-fighting insoluble fibre, as well as vitamin B6 and folate, both of which are great for our digestion.
Prunes - they are packed with insoluble fibre, as well as the natural laxatives sorbitol and dihydrophenylisatin.
Amla - is high in fibre and helps in regularising bowel movement. It also stimulates the secretion of gastric juices.
Don’t Forget Hydration
Fiber is more beneficial if it was accompanied by enough water (2-3 litres) a day. Dehydration is often the hidden cause in most cases of constipation.
Get Enough Magnesium
Prop Up the Good Bacteria
When the balance between the good and the bad bacteria gets skewed (due to antibiotics, stress or wrong eating) then too constipa-tion is often a symptom.
Here, probiotics, the 'good' bacteria can help restore the balance and get our digestive tract working again.
Foods that deliver healthy bacteria (natural probiotics) include fermented foods, buttermilk, kefir, miso soup or paste, kanji etc. Also important to eat a diet rich is prebiotic foods like fruits, pulses, vegetables, as the probiotics feed the probiotics in the gut.
Follow That Old Common Sense Rule
Eating a heavy meal just before sleeping is asking for constipation next morning. Rich meal and sleep together slow down digestion leading to unease next morning.
Also, avoid processed foods as much as possible as they are completely devoid of fiber.
The Stress Connect
There is no escaping stress. And not many know that there is a direct connection between stress, anxiety and depression and your stomach and it actually works both ways.
Not only can constipation cause stress, stress can mess you up too! Ongoing stress and anxiety can suppress the gastrocolic reflex (an unconscious action by the gastroin-testinal tract that precedes a bowel movement) and may also slow down (sometimes even stop) the digestive juices, which are needed for the breakdown of food.
So get a handle on stress. meditation, yoga, biofeedback, and relaxation techniques helps.
Acupressure and massaging the abdomen may help relax the muscles that support the intestines and get your bowels moving too.
And please don’t self prescribe medications, anti depressants or abuse alcohol, all of these will further imbalance the gut, dehydrate stools and suppress intestinal peristalsis and add on to the problem.
Very often lack of physical activity also contributes to constipation. Ex-ercise, even if bare minimum can help make your bowel movements more regular and also help reduce stress. Even a 10- to 15-minute walk a couple of times a day helps. So does stretching and yoga