What is constipation?
Constipation is defined as having hard, dry bowel movements or passing stool fewer than three times a week, says Healthline1. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases2, about 30 percent of adults older than 60 have constipation.
To find out what causes constipation, let’s look at the colon. Your colon is responsible for absorbing water from the food you’ve eaten. Then, it creates a stool. Your colon’s muscles push out the stool through the rectum. However, if the stool sits in the colon for too long — it becomes harder and difficult to pass, says Healthline3.
The main culprit of constipation? Poor diet. Healthline4 suggests adding more dietary fiber and water intake to help move things along. A few other common causes, include5:
- Low exercise levels
- Delaying the impulse to have a bowel movement
- Travel or other changes in routine
- Medications, including certain antacids, pain medications, diuretics, and some treatments for Parkinson’s disease
If adding more water and fiber-rich food didn’t do the trick, you still have other treatment options, says Healthline6. Let’s take a look:
- Alcohol and caffeinated drinks cause dehydration, so see if you can cut back.
- If you feel the urge to have a bowel movement, don’t wait. The longer you delay, the harder your stool can become.
- Ask your doctor about bowel training to get your body used to passing stool 15 to 45 minutes after breakfast each day. Also, see if any of the medications you’re currently using could cause constipation.
- Put your feet on a footstool when having a bowel movement.
- Don’t rush. Relax your muscles. Give yourself plenty of time.
- Use laxatives sparingly.
Add these foods to your diet
According to Healthline7, eating fiber-rich foods is key to keeping you regular. Why? Fiber increases the bulk of the stool, making it easier to pass. Here are a few to try:
- Beans, peas and lentils
- Spinach and other greens
- Citrus fruits
- Sweet potato
- Whole grain rye bread
As you can see, there’s a variety of foods — from fruits to vegetables to bread — that can give you some relief. Remember to drink plenty of water and see if that helps get things going!