Constipation can be uncomfortable and painful. Many people suffer silently without realizing medical help is available for the common condition. Along with working with your primary care to develop a care plan, there are a few lifestyle changes that may help you manage the symptoms of constipation.
Include More Fiber in Your Daily Diet
Fiber is not fully digested by the body. However, as it moves through the digestive system, it helps make stool soft, bulky, and easier to pass. Consuming adequate amounts of fiber can help relieve constipation for many people. How much do you need?
- Men from 19-50 need 25 grams of fiber daily
- Men over 50 need 30 grams of fiber each day
- Women age 19 to 50 need 25 daily grams of fiber
- Women over 50 need 21 daily grams of fiber
- Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant need 28 to 29 daily grams of fiber
Nutrition labels contain the fiber content in foods. Try to choose foods that contain more fiber. You may also want to eat foods that are natural laxatives such as prunes. Be sure to spread your fiber consumption over the entire day to allow your bowels time to adjust.
Sometimes, simple changes are effective. For example, switch out white bread for whole-grain options. Start using long-grain brown or wild rice instead of white rice. Try bran cereal for breakfast some mornings. Pack fruit to take with you for a snack. Try new recipes with fiber-rich foods like beans or legumes. Other fiber-rich food choices include shredded wheat, oatmeal, nuts, flaxseed, popcorn, and fruits.
Drink More Liquids
Drinking enough liquids to stay well hydrated helps relieve constipation. But as you increase your fiber intake, you’ll need to drink plenty of water to help stools soften. Men need about 12 cups of liquid a day while women need around 9 cups each day. Most of your hydration needs to come from water, but other liquids can help increase your fluid intake. You can also drink milk, juice, soup, broth, coffee, and tea. Fruit juices are high on the glycemic index and do not contain fiber. Try to limit your fruit juices to only one-half a cup per day. To help you remember to drink more water, carry a bottle of water with you all the time. You may also try drinking a full glass of water as soon as you wake up each morning.
Pursue an Active Lifestyle
Part of a healthy lifestyle includes being active every day. Being active and moving around also help your bowels move regularly. Participate in some activity for about 30 minutes for at least five days each week. If you are not used to being active, start with about 10 minutes of activity. Then gradually increase the time you are active. For most people, the goal is a total of 150 minutes of moderate activity each week.
Small things you can do to help increase your activity level include parking further out in parking lots so you have to take more steps to get to the store. Right after breakfast, do some gentle exercises or take a walk. You may prefer to take a walk after your evening meals. Sign up for a new class at your gym.
If you are suffering from the symptoms of constipation and are concerned that you have a chronic problem, it is time to talk to a GI specialist. There are treatment options that can help you manage symptoms. Talk to a medical professional who can help diagnose and treat constipation today.