Updated: Apr 22
Having a healthy bowel movement is very important in maintaining good gut health. If your bowel movements are anywhere between three days a week or three times a day are considered normal and there is nothing to worry about passing stools more than two times a day. But when you have fewer than three bowel moments a week is called constipation. Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal problems faced by many people irrespective of age and gender. Only in the United States, studies reveal that at least 2.5 million people suffer from constipation and see the doctor each year for treatment. Constipation happens when the colon absorbs too much water from the stools, making it hard and dry and difficult to evacuate. The stools are dry, hard and lumpy and extremely painful to pass with small amounts of blood in stools.
What are the most common factors that can cause constipation?
Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle
Lack of fiber in the diet
Eating highly processed foods
Not drinking much of water
Consuming high amounts of milk and cheese
Lack of exercise
Resisting the urge of defecation when you have the bowel movement
Certain medications such as pain killers and antidepressants
Certain medical conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, diverticular disease, and colorectal cancer may cause constipation
In some cases, structural defects in the digestive tract like fistula, colonic Artesia, volvulus, malrotation or imperforate anus can cause constipation
Pregnancy: Most women experience constipation during pregnancy
How Can You Manage Constipation with a high-fiber diet?
The best relief from constipation comes from making great modifications in your diet. Having a high fiber diet helps people in a great way in relieving constipation and keeping the digestive system healthy. Plant foods are the major source of fiber which includes fruits, vegetables, grains, and pulses. There are two different types of fiber soluble fiber, insoluble fiber. The fiber in any of these forms plays a very significant role in maintaining good health and digestion.
Soluble Fiber: Soluble fiber has an affinity for water. When soluble fiber comes in contact with water, it attracts water and turns in to a gel-like substance during the process of digestion.
Soluble fibers have got the following advantages:
As they are soft and delicate, soluble fibers aid in improving the lazy bowel movement and softening the stools.
Soluble fiber also slows down the digestion and keeps the stomach fuller for a longer time and reduces unnecessary cravings.
Soluble fiber helps greatly in reducing cholesterol and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Sources: Fresh fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, and legumes are the best sources of soluble fiber.
Insoluble Fiber: Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water but adds bulk to the food ingested.
It aids in the movement of the food in the gastrointestinal tract.
Insoluble fibers help to soften the stools and support regular bowel movement and relieve constipation.
Certain insoluble fibers are fermentable by the gut bacteria in the colon and contribute to promoting colon health.
Sources: Whole grain bread, cereals, nuts, seeds, wheat bran and the outer skin of fruits are the excellent sources of insoluble fiber.
Apart from following a high fiber diet, cutting back on high sugars, salt, processed foods can help to a great extent. Reducing stress and going on a regular exercise can help manage constipation naturally. Do not forget to stay hydrated.
How much fiber do you need daily?
Males: 30gms per day
Females: 25gms per day
What to do if your constipation is chronic?
It is advisable to seek the help of Gastroenterologist, when constipation does not resolve within three weeks or more, despite changes in the diet and lifestyle. You must see the doctor when you experience symptoms such as
Severe pain in the lower abdomen
Loss of appetite
Your gastroenterologist may conduct physical examination and laboratory diagnosis to identify the causes of constipation and treat you accordingly. Dr. Nancy Lau, MD, certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine can help you treat constipation and various gastrointestinal disorders such as acid reflux, diarrhea, abdominal pains, IBS and Liver diseases. Book your appointment today.