Constipation is a common stomach disorder that affects most people in their lives. It can be very uncomfortable because of the bloating that is usually associated with it. Constipation is a condition where an individual has difficulty in passing stool and has less than three bowel movements per week. Other common symptoms of constipation are passing dry and small stool, which is painful to pass.
The most common causes of constipation are related to the diet. Consuming foods with a deficiency in fibre may trigger constipation. Besides, constipation can be caused by other several factors: for example, hormonal imbalances, unhealthy lifestyle patterns (for example lack of exercise) and medication (for example antihistamines). Constipation has various symptoms and they may differ from one person to the other.
How to treat constipation using natural remedies
There are several ways which are recommended for relieving constipation by experts and these are:
1. Drinking more water.
Drinking enough water is very important in keeping the body hydrated, and this also helps to treat constipation because dehydration is one of the major factors that trigger it. One should take at least 2 litres of water every day to keep the body hydrated. Carbonated drinks such as Pepsi and Coca-cola are not recommended because they can worsen the symptoms of constipation.
2. Eating foods that are high in fibre.
Fibre plays an important role in treating constipation because it helps the stool to move easily through the digestive system by softening and bulking it. Examples of high-fibre foods are whole-wheat brown bread, sorghum, millet, raw fruits and vegetables. It is important to drink a lot of water with high fibre foods so that they move more easily through the digestive system.
There are two main types of fibre, namely soluble and insoluble fibre. They both have slightly different effects on relieving constipation. Soluble fibre helps in absorbing water and forming a jelly paste which softens the stool, thus helping to relieve constipation. Soluble fibre is found in foods like peanuts, oats, beans and peas.
Insoluble fibres help to add weight or bulk to the stool, which helps it pass easily through the digestive system. Examples of insoluble fibres are wheat bran and sorghum. Experts recommend an average of at least 25 to 40 g of fibre per day. One should consume 2 raw fruits and 2 cups of cooked vegetables per day to meet the requirements.
Being sedentary (lacking enough physical activity) is one cause of constipation. It is therefore important to exercise to get stool moving through the gut and relieve constipation. Exercises like walking and jogging can help relieve constipation, and these are relatively easy to do.
4. Drinking coffee.
Coffee contains substances that activate digestive system muscles. In addition, coffee stimulates the digestive system more than water and other fluids. Furthermore, coffee also contains soluble fiber, which helps in softening stool and relieving constipation.
5. Eating foods which contain probiotics.
Probiotics refer to bacteria that live in the digestive system, helping it to function effectively. Imbalances of probiotics in the gut may cause constipation. Probiotics help in treating constipation by producing fatty acids which improve movements of the digestive system, making it easy to defecate. Examples of foods which contain probiotics are yogurt and fermented foods like pickles.
7. Trying the low FODMAP diet.
Constipation may be a symptom of a more serious condition called ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome,’ IBS. Experts specifically designed a low FODMAP diet to help treat IBS and constipation that is associated with it. FODMAP is an abbreviation for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. This diet involves reducing or avoiding foods high in FODMAPs for a specific period. Someone can then reintroduce these foods into the diet to determine those which are tolerated well by the body.
8. Avoiding dairy products for a few days to determine if you have lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which a person cannot digest a sugar called lactose, which is found in milk. It can occur in both young people and adults. In people with lactose intolerance, consuming milk causes constipation and other symptoms like diarrhoea and bloating.
People with constipation can therefore avoid milk for about 3 days to see if the symptoms relieve or stop. If they relieve and stop completely, then it is most likely they have constipation because of lactose intolerance. For confirmation of lactose intolerance, experts recommend seeking a further evaluation from a medical practitioner.