While constipation is typically not life-threatening or exceedingly serious, chronic constipation can have quite an effect on a patient’s quality of life. Between pain, feeling uncomfortable, and feeling anxious about having a bowel movement, constipation can certainly disrupt and ruin your day. However, there are some preventative measures everyone can take to avoid constipation, some of which may be surprising. Read on to learn about the most common causes of this common problem, and how you can prevent constipation before it begins.
Quick and Easy Fixes
While it’s true that some lifestyle changes can help you avoid constipation, there are also some steps to follow to alleviate the problem that are easy to do–and remember. One of the most important things to do to avoid constipation is to go as soon as you feel you need to. Ignoring the urge can lead to impacted stools, and pain and pressure later on. When you feel you need to go, stop and take a break, and use the bathroom.
Another good thing to remember is to stay on track or routine. Traveling often causes constipation because your body is simply thrown out of whack. A simple change in routine is quite a common precursor to constipation. One of the best things to do is to keep a routine, daily schedule. When you are traveling, do the best you can to stay true to your body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Diet, Medication, and Lifestyle Factors
Your diet and lifestyle also have a profound effect on your colon. Too much dairy and too little water are both common causes of constipation. While dairy is necessary for calcium and other nutrients, keep an eye on your daily intake if you feel constipated often. Also, too little water can cause hard stools. Just a simple two to four extra glasses of water per day can alleviate the problem. When it comes to diet, one lacking in fiber is linked to constipation. Choose whole grains and fiber-rich foods whenever possible. Adding prunes to the diet, drinking warm liquids in the morning, and exercising often can also help manage your constipation relief. Exercising helps because it moves the muscles making them stronger. Just as with your other muscles, it can help strengthen and loosen your intestines as well. Simply amping up your intake of fruits and vegetables can help, too.
Medication use is also correlated with recurrent constipation. Overuse of laxatives can cause problems, along with prescriptions such as narcotic pain relievers. Try to limit your intake of calcium-rich antacids as well. There are also other components of medications linked to constipation. If you take supplements, over-the-counter medications, or prescriptions containing aluminum, bismuth salts, or iron, these may be responsible. In addition to opiates, antidepressants, anticholinergics, anticonvulsants, and calcium channel blockers can also cause hard stools.
Constipation and Health Concerns
While recurrent constipation is typically solved with following the tips above, particularly the diet and lifestyle changes, some patients may not feel relief. This is when it’s a good idea to speak with a gastroenterologist about other possible medical issues that may be occurring. Frequent constipation has ties to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a colonic disease that is relatively easy to manage under a physician's care. Constipation, however, is linked with other more serious diseases, such as colon cancer, underactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, and nerve problems in the digestive system. If your constipation is not relieved after a diet and lifestyle change, or if you see blood in the stool, inform your physician immediately. If you need more information on how to prevent constipation or have questions about other digestive or gastroenterological issues, make an appointment today at Cary Gastroenterology. We are here to provide care for every level of gut health and digestive issues.