Our bowel movements tell us a lot about our overall health:
The color, consistency, and smell of stools say a lot about our health, and, of course, our diet.
What is constipation?
Constipation equals infrequent or difficult bowel movements, usually characterized by small, hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass. There may also be straining during elimination, abdominal discomfort or pain, bloating and an uncomfortable sensation of a full bowel.
Four most common causes of constipation and what to do about them.
Problem 1: Dehydration.
The large intestine plays a primary role in water balance and excretion. As food makes its way through the large intestine, the intestine absorbs water from it and stools form. By the time the stool reaches the rectum, most of the water has been absorbed and the stool becomes harder.
Solution: Make water your beverage of choice. Water is the most healthful beverage, Talk with your Physician about how much water is right for you.
Problem 2: Inadequate fiber intake.
Fiber is the part of grains and produce that the body cannot digest. It adds bulk to stool and keeps it soft, making stools easier to pass. Fiber also stimulates the production of healthy flora in the gut, moves food efficiently through the digestive tract, and binds and transports bile acids and cholesterol for excretion out of the body.
Most of us do not get enough fiber in our diets. The average American consumes 5 to 14 grams of fiber a day, even though experts recommend 20 to 35 grams.
Solution: Increase fiber intake.
Eat a well-balanced, high-fiber diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates.
When you need extra help…
Oat bran (which increases the bulk of stool and softens the stool). Glucomannan (which absorbs and binds components within the bowel movement).
Problem 3: Inadequate peristalsis.
Peristalsis consists of a series of smooth muscle contractions in the digestive tract.These contracting waves move food along through the large intestine. Inadequate levels of calcium and magnesium can lead to inadequate peristalsis and consequent constipation.
Solution: Take magnesium and calcium supplements, which support the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, allowing for optimal absorption of nutrients. This also helps maintain a balanced microbial population in the gut. A lack of bulk from low fiber can also lead to inadequate peristalsis since the bulk stimulates natural contractions.
Problem 4: A salt imbalance.
People on low-sodium diets can have problems with constipation, Sodium is an important mineral that helps regulate the body's fluid balance.
Solution: Adjust your salt intake. Discuss with your physician what your salt intake should be.
What not to do:
Most people with constipation don't need strong medication. Over time, laxatives become habit-forming, as the body comes to rely on them in order to have a bowel movement.
Other causes of constipation to consider:
May occur as a side effect of medications. Symptom of a disease such as a neurological disorder (multiple sclerosis) or metabolic or endocrine condition (diabetes or hypothyroidism). Not exercising enough can lead to constipation.