Constipation is a problem faced by millions of people worldwide. It can be just a minor issue for some or a really distressing problem for others. Read on to know the lifestyle causes and steps you can take to get rid of this problem.
Is constipation a constant in your life?
Do you find your toilet habits a source of annoyance? Do you have to strain yourself every time in the toilet? Constipation is not about how many times you need to go but more about how easy it is to do the routine job of elimination.
Passing of stools should be a normal easy activity done effortlessly. However, today’s rushed, modern lifestyle and bad food habits deplete the body of vital energy to perform day-to-day normal physiological functions well and has contributed to the growing number of people who are constipated.
Many people today experience bowel movement only once in two or three days and consider it normal. Though there are is no fixed standard, natural hygienists believe a healthy bowel should move 2 or even 3 times a day.
Understand bowel movements
Undigested matter is passed onto the large intestine after the process of digestion. The stools are mainly matter which cannot be used by the body, consisting of chemicals, fibre etc which are left over after digestion. In an unhealthy state of the body, the intestine gets blocked with this undigested matter. This causes gas and hardening of the stools. Some of the waste may even be absorbed into the blood causing toxins to circulate to other parts of the body and causes further problems.
However, a good bowel movement means a feeling of complete evacuation. Further urge to defecate disappears until the next time the intestine fills up.
How about laxatives pills,castor oil, tea, coffee, cigarettes etc to relieve the pressure?
Dependency upon laxative pills may in time harm the ability of the bowel to eliminate naturally on its own accord. It produces a weakness of the muscles of the large intestine. Laxatives can also become habit forming and prevent us from looking for the root cause of the problem.
Tea, coffee, cigarettes also are habit forming and stop us from addressing the root cause. Tea and coffee are also acidic and disturb the body’s acid-alkaline balance.
So, rather than stop gap measures, an honest look at the lifestyle and correcting them is better.
What is constipation trying to tell you?
The problem of constipation is an indicator of the overall lifestyle pattern.
When we eat foods that are not as nature provided i.e refined, processed, packaged, dehydrated, overcooked, high in sugar and salt etc, i.e not in whole form, we are inviting trouble. These foods are very less in fibre content and lack natural water to facilitate smooth movement of waste in the colon.
Additionally, contrary to proper belief, the problem of constipation is not just limited to what we eat. So, what are the other factors?
Lack of rest, hurry and worry
As per the circadian cycle, morning between 4:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m is the time for elimination. The body has finished digestion and assimilation and is ready to send out the waste matter. Hence, in the morning, some time should be reserved for attending to our toilet duties. It should be a calm, no rushed affair where we allow the body to conduct its normal physiological duty without being distracted by electronic gadgets, hurry and worry. But if this is not honored, it becomes a rushed affair leading to partial evacuation. Over time, this habit becomes chronic and leads to painful and difficult passage of stools.
Constant travel also disturbs the body’s cycles. The irregularity of food, rest and toilet habits may also cause constipation issues.
We need to build movement into our life to aid the waste materials to move out. Constant sitting and lack of exercise also weakens the muscles of the colon leading to constipation issues.
Lack of proper sleep
Frequent late nights ultimately take a toll on the body. The normal cycle of the body gets disturbed, body gets depleted of vital energy needed to perform the elimination function and constipation symptoms start to appear.
In summary, an overall wrong choice of lifestyle habits over time builds up the problem of constipation. A body weakened by wrong habits may have weaker colonic muscles also which do not permit proper evacuation of the bowels. Constipation is an indicator of overall weakened energy of the body.
What actions can I start taking?
Correction of overall lifestyle will overtime correct the problem of constipation.
1) Improve your food pattern
Include a lot of fruits and vegetables, as much as in raw form. These foods are high in fibre. Eat only fruits till 12:00 p.m. Check our article on circadian rhythm to understand why. Avoid foods high in sugar and salt.
Listen to your body. Eat only when hungry and avoid snacking. When you are not hungry, the body is probably busy with other tasks like assimilation or cleanup of older wastes. When ready, the body will signal its readiness of food through hunger.
Reduce grains - Reduce number of times you have grains in a day in your meals. Instead of refined grains, have grains in whole form.
Reduce Non veg food and dairy . They have very less fibre. Try to avoid or lessen them till you come out of the problem.
Give digestive rest - Whenever possible or atleast once a week, be on juicy fruits, coconut water and / or salads, so body can conserve its efforts to clear wastes from the system.
2) Rest and sleep at the proper time. If possible for thirty minutes after food intake, sit quietly, take a stroll or deep breath to aid in digestion. Sitting in vajrasan is known to help in digestion. Make it a habit to sleep on time , atleast by 10:00 p.m most of the days in the week.
3) Use stress reduction techniques like meditation, journaling, affirmations to bring calmness to your life.
4) Evaluate your emotional state. Are you holding on to old, unhealthy emotions like anger, guilt, resentment etc? Forgive and let go.
While you address the root cause of the problem as described in the previous section, you can try some of the following alternatives to get your bowel moving
Soak 2 tsp of raisins or couple of figs in water overnight. Discard the water and eat them in the morning on an empty stomach.
You can try having a bowl of ripe papaya.
Have a beet-spinach salad . Beets and spinach are said to help in a constipated colon.
Have warm water, herbal tea made with herbs like ginger,mint etc and do some gentle stretching exercises before going to the toilet.
Constipation in children
Many parents complain of constipation in their children. The stools are hard and passing them out can be quite a painful affair. It becomes a vicious cycle as the child no longer wants to go for potty fearing the pain. The following points may help.
Make potty time a regular habit In the morning. Give them enough time in the toilet without making it a rushed affair. If needed, wake them up early to be in time for school.
Avoid giving sugary, deep fried snacks,packaged foods etc.These are dehydrating and hard to digest.While these are hard to avoid completely, it Is advisable to stay off it or reduce them till the child comes out of the problem.
Avoid hard to digest foods like roasted nuts or foods heavy in grains till there is relief.
Dairy is a known allergen and some kids who are allergic to dairy develop inflammation and face the problem of constipation. Avoid dairy for a period of time and see if this alleviates the problem. You can checkout out our recipes section to look at various dairy free recipes for kids.
Supporting procedures for constipation
Indian squat method – Actually our body is designed to eliminate feces in the squatting position. So using an Indian style toilet is better. If using a western style toilet, you can use a foot stool to get into a more natural squat position.
Abdominal wrap – You can wrap your stomach area with a wet towel for about twenty minutes and relax. It is supposed to help in improving digestive and constipation issues.
Massage – You can gently massage your abdomen around your navel area in a clockwise manner for a few minutes while all the while taking deep breaths before visiting the toilet.
Long term constipation problems should be discussed and evaluated by a certified health care professional. Please take this blog as a guide only.
Some medicines which you may be taking can also cause side effects of constipation. In such cases, discuss with your doctor about what actions can be taken.
If you were on a diet which had a majority of soft foods like maida, white rice etc , moving suddenly to a diet high in fibre like fruits, veggies and whole grains may cause bloating and stomach issues till the gut flora adapt. Transition slowly all the while listening to your body and gradually make changes.
In summary, constipation is a symptom of an overall lifestyle mismanagement issue. Hence evaluate your lifestyle and correct it to experience relief from constipation.
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