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Tips for constipation relief

Constipation is a common digestive issue where bowel movements become infrequent or difficult to pass. It often results in hard, dry stools and discomfort. Relieving constipation and bloating involves a combination of dietary, lifestyle, and self-care measures. Here are some effective strategies to help alleviate these discomforts:

  • Increase fiber intake: Incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your diet, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. Fiber adds bulk to stools and promotes regular bowel movements.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep stools soft and easier to pass. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water daily.

  • Physical activity: Engage in regular physical activity to stimulate bowel movements. Even a brisk walk or light exercise can help alleviate constipation and reduce bloating.

  • Prune juice: Prune juice is a natural laxative that can help soften stools and promote bowel movements. Drinking a small glass of prune juice may be effective.

  • Probiotics: Consume foods rich in probiotics, like yogurt and fermented foods, to promote a healthy gut flora and aid digestion.

  • Avoid processed foods: Minimize intake of processed and fatty foods, as they can contribute to constipation and bloating.

  • Avoid overeating: Eat smaller, more frequent meals to prevent overloading your digestive system and reduce the likelihood of bloating.

  • Peppermint tea: Peppermint tea can help relax the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract, relieving bloating and gas.

  • Avoid carbonated drinks: Carbonated beverages can lead to gas and bloating. Opt for non-carbonated alternatives.

  • Warm compress: Placing a warm compress on your abdomen can help soothe bloating and provide relief.

  • Avoid chewing gum: Chewing gum can lead to swallowing air, which can contribute to bloating. Minimize gum chewing if you're prone to bloating.

  • Gentle abdominal massage: Gently massaging your abdomen in a circular motion can help stimulate bowel movement and ease bloating.

  • Stool softeners: Over-the-counter stool softeners may provide short-term relief by making stools easier to pass. Consult a healthcare professional before using any medications.

  • Consult a primary care provider: If constipation and bloating are persistent or severe, consult a doctor. They can provide tailored recommendations and rule out underlying medical conditions.


Constipation causes

Constipation can arise due to various factors that affect the normal functioning of your digestive system. Some common causes of constipation include:

  • Low fiber intake: Not consuming enough fiber-rich foods can lead to difficulty in passing stools, as fiber adds bulk to the stool and promotes regular bowel movements.

  • Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake can result in hard and dry stools, making them harder to pass through the intestines.

  • Lack of physical activity: Leading a sedentary lifestyle can slow down the digestive process and contribute to constipation.

  • Poor diet: A diet low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and high in processed foods, can disrupt regular bowel movements.

  • Ignoring the urge: Ignoring the natural urge to have a bowel movement can lead to a buildup of stool in the intestines, causing constipation.

  • Medications: Certain medications, such as opioids, antacids with calcium or aluminum, and some antidepressants, can contribute to constipation.

  • Medical conditions: Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hypothyroidism, and neurological disorders can affect bowel movements.

  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy and pressure on the intestines can lead to constipation.

  • Age: As people age, the muscles involved in bowel movements may weaken, leading to constipation.

  • Stress: Chronic stress can impact the digestive system and contribute to constipation.

  • Changes in routine: Travel or changes in daily routine can disrupt the body's internal clock, affecting bowel movements.


Constipation signs and symptoms

  • Infrequent bowel movements: One of the primary signs of constipation is having fewer bowel movements than usual. This might mean passing stools less than three times per week.

  • Hard and dry stools: Stools that are hard, dry, and difficult to pass are a hallmark of constipation. They may require straining during bowel movements.

  • Straining: Feeling the need to strain excessively while trying to pass stools is a clear indication of constipation. This straining can lead to discomfort and even pain.

  • Incomplete evacuation: You might feel like you haven't fully emptied your bowels after a bowel movement, which is a common symptom of constipation.

  • Abdominal discomfort: Constipation can cause abdominal discomfort, cramping, or bloating. You might experience a sense of heaviness or fullness in your abdomen.

  • Painful bowel movements: Passing hard stools can cause pain and discomfort during bowel movements, leading to a reluctance to use the restroom.

  • Excessive gas: Constipation can lead to a buildup of gas in the intestines, causing increased flatulence and discomfort.

  • Rectal bleeding: Straining during bowel movements can sometimes cause small tears in the anus or rectum, leading to traces of blood on the toilet paper.

  • Decreased appetite: Some individuals with constipation might experience a reduced appetite or general feelings of malaise.

  • Mucus in stools: Constipation can result in the production of excess mucus in the colon, which might be visible in the stools.

Occasional bouts of constipation are common and often resolve on their own. However, if you experience persistent or severe symptoms, or if constipation becomes a recurrent issue, consider scheduling an appointment with a St. Joseph Health primary care provider.

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