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Constipation: Causes and How to Prevent It

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Constipation affects all of us and sometimes it is extremely bothersome. But when constipation happens more often than normal, this can have a negative effect on the body and can even become dangerous. This is why it’s important to know when to see the doctor.

Constipation is when your bowel movements are reduced, and stool becomes harder as it becomes more difficult to pass out of the body. Common symptoms of constipation include reduced bowel movement, hard dry stools, small stools, straining to go to the bathroom, bloating. However, if your symptoms include blood in your stool, vomiting, pain in your lower back or abdominal region then this might be a sign to visit your doctor.

Why does it happen?

Constipation happens when your colon absorbs too much water from waste (stool) so this in turn makes your stool dry and difficult to pass. This is why consuming fibre-rich food is important because this helps stool to pass through easier.

On the other hand, low-fibre foods such as dairy products (milk, cheese etc) can increase constipation. Dehydration is also another common cause because when there is not enough water in the body, there is less water to form softer stools.

Other causes can be due to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) which is a condition affecting the digestive system, eating disorders, extreme stress, or even pregnancy or medication. Changes to lifestyle can affect your bowel movement and lead to constipation too.

There are other more serious causes of constipation including colon cancer (or other problems with the colon or rectum), Parkinson’s disease or diabetes. This is why it’s important to be aware and reach out to a doctor if you feel like it’s more serious than your average constipation struggle. The doctor will decide what to do from there onwards, whether you should do a colonoscopy or imaging tests.

How do we prevent it?

Mild or moderate cases of constipation can be taken care of at home through self-care. The most important is your lifestyle and diet. High-fibre diets are ideal for preventing and treating constipation. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods, or bran cereal. Shop gluten free oats for a good breakfast as they are also high in fibre content. Drinking plenty of water such as 8 glasses a day can matter a lot because sometimes, we forget to drink water in our busy lives.

Exercise is also important to help move the muscles in the digestive system, even just 30 minutes per day can make all the difference to your body. Exercises such as swimming and biking are great to stay healthy as they are extensive but also fun and keeps you moving.

Laxatives can be used however it’s best to get a healthcare professional’s advice to prevent your body from getting used to the laxatives. Other medication can also be used to help with the advice from a doctor. Constipation is a topic most of us like to avoid talking about, however, we need to talk about it to be aware so that if anything feels off and out of the normal, we know when to consult a doctor. If it’s serious and left untreated, the condition can become even worse. It’s always better to prevent the disease altogether.

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