Constipation is a common dysfunction of the body’s digestive system, making bowel movements infrequent and/or difficult to pass. The stool released at the nether end tends to be hard, dry, and lumpy. Whilst occasional constipation is typically not a matter of concern, chronic or severe cases can significantly impact the quality of one’s life. Nevertheless, one can effectively manage and prevent constipation by implementing some lifestyle modifications and preventative measures. This article shall present practical, salubrious techniques, tips, and strategies on how to promote regular bowel movements and uphold a healthy digestive tract.

  • Increase Fiber Intake:

A diet rich in dietary roughage is essential for maintaining systematic bowel movements. Include an assortment of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts in your daily meals. As it cannot be broken down, fiber adds bulk to the stool and helps it pass through the digestive system more easily. It is optimal for adults to aim for at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day. (But gradually increase your fiber intake to reach this level to avoid bloating and gas).

  • Stay Hydrated:

Drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day keeps the stool soft and easy to pass. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day. Additionally, limiting the intake of beverages containing caffeine and alcohol can also help. This is because they are diuretic substances and can contribute to dehydration.

  • Regular Exercise:

Physical activity mechanically stimulates bowel movements and promotes healthy digestion alongside overall health by enhancing muscle contractions in the intestines. Engaging in moderate exercises such as walking, jogging, or cycling, for at least 30 minutes most days of the week is ideal.

  • Establishing a Routine:

Consistency is key to developing a regular bowel movement routine and training one’s body to maintain regularity. Allocate a specific time every day to use the restroom. Sit on the toilet for a few minutes, even if you do not feel the urge to pass stool. But do not strain yourself, as it can lead to abrasion, causing hemorrhoids and other unwanted conditions.

  • Avoid Holding Back:

Neglecting the urge to pass motion can lead to constipation. When you feel the need to pass stool, respond promptly and visit the restroom. Holding back causes the stool to become drier and harder to pass.

  • Manage Stress:

Exploring healthy ways of coping with psychological stress (e.g. deep-breathing exercises, yoga, meditation) is correlated with an improved digestive system.

  • Review Medication(s):

Certain medications, including but not limited to some painkillers, antacids, antidepressants, and iron supplements, can contribute to constipation. If you suspect your medication causing or worsening constipation, consult your healthcare provider. They may suggest alternative options or adjusting the dosage.

  • Be Wary of Laxatives:

While laxatives can provide short-term relief from constipation, they should only be used sparingly (as a last resort) and under medical guidance. Abusing laxatives can lead to dependency, worsening the problem. Overuse can cause dehydration and a deficiency of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium. Only use them when necessary and prescribed. Discuss usage with a healthcare professional.

  • Consider Probiotics:

Probiotics are “good” bacteria renowned for boosting gut health, thus regulating bowel movement, and improving overall digestive function. In Kerala, people use buttermilk-based drinks such as sambharam (സംഭാരം), as they are cooling, refreshing and a great source of probiotics. In recent years, drinking fermented beverages containing this beneficial gut flora, for instance, kombucha, have gained popularity amongst the urban youth. Other examples from the subcontinent having undergone fermentation include pickles (achaar), idli, dosa, dhokla, and kanji. Discuss with your physician about incorporating probiotic-rich foods into your diet or taking a probiotic supplement.

  • Seek Medical Advice:

If constipation persists despite following the points listed above; or if you experience severe pain, bleeding, etc., you should consult your physician as they can evaluate your condition, identify potential underlying causes, and provide appropriate treatment options.

In closing, while distressing, constipation is not normally a serious issue. It can be prevented and managed by adopting a holistic approach combining predominantly dietary and lifestyle changes, alongside the usage of certain prescription medications only when required. By adhering to the tactics outlined in this article, you too can have a gut free from the shackles of constipation.

Article Credits
Rohan Panicker, Creative Writer, CareMithra