What causes this? If you’ve ever experienced any of these symptoms, and I hope you haven’t, these are the nasty side effects of constipation. Gross, are we really going to talk about constipation?
In short, yes. Constipation is when you don’t pass a stool for greater than 3 days, hard stools –what I call rabbit turds, or the need for excessive straining while trying to defecate. If you’ve experienced any of these you’ll know that along with the lack of going to the toilet you can also experience rather stinky –sort of rotten egg type gas, stomach bloating, and sometimes pain.
Why are we talking about this? Frankly, because I’ve just had surgery, if you missed the article you can read about it by clicking here, and one of my biggest worries, concerns and stresses at this moment is going to the bathroom. To put it bluntly, it hurts and I don’t want to blow my stitches by straining. In the first few days after surgery, passing gas and going to the toilet was very painful. Now, these are things I am actively working to avoid.
While I have my own constipation concerns, I’m writing about it because I’m not alone. My reading suggests that up to 80% of people living in the developed world, Canada, United States, Germany, Australia etc, will suffer from constipation, at some point in their lives. 80%, that’s a staggering number. Women are more likely than men and children are more likely than adults to suffer.
Lets be clear, constipation is not fun and since my concept of a healthy lifestyle includes lots of fun, constipation has no place here. In case you haven’t picked up my free e-book “The Principles of a Healthy Lifestyle – So You Can Choose!”. I invite you to join our mailing list to receive your free copy. As I was saying constipation is not part of a healthy lifestyle and as such, is something we can all work to either eliminate or avoid.
The common culprits:
- Eating a low fiber diet (Daily Recommended intake is 25-35gm)
- Eating foods that are highly processed a.k.a a low fiber diet
- Not drinking enough water – sorry folks coffee, tea and alcohol only serve to dehydrate you so you can’t count the water/ soda water you put in these.
- Not getting enough exercise
- Some medications – Panadol, Advil and others best to read the product label.
- Thyroid issues – hypothyroidism
Take a moment to go through the list and evaluate yourself for your risk of constipation. When I did this exercise I saw that, in my current immobile state, I am at risk for constipation. Here’s why.
- I don’t have much of an appetite so eating the recommended amount of dietary fiber/day is difficult.
- I’m definitely not exercising, being bed ridden; I’m not getting 20-30 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week. I’m very happy about my jaunt to the toilet every x minutes, which means I’m drinking lots of water.
- I’m not mentally stressed, but my body has definitely been physically stressed and I suspect this will play out in my bowels.
- Medication, I’m on pain meds every 4 hours alternating Panadol and Advil to give my liver a bit of a break. This is definitely going to contribute to my constipation.
- Last, but not least Thyroid issues. Wouldn’t you know it that I’m lucky enough to have Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism? These diseases slow the movement of the stool through the intestines?
Result – I’m at high risk for constipation. Where did you come out on your own checklist? If you, like me, said yes to one or more of these risk factors then here’s what we can do to reduce our risk of constipation.
Increase the dietary fiber in your breakfast. I eat an apple or a pear on waking with a coffee and then have a bowl (40gms) of All Bran cereal either with milk or yogurt. The All Bran alone provides about 12 grams or half of my minimum daily fiber requirement.
Lunch – I’ve been eating a lot of chicken soup with hard-boiled eggs – zero fiber Sometimes I have bean and vegetable stew with brown rice – fiber content 5-7 grams. Eat a hearty green salad can add 5 grams of fiber. Yesterday, after my doctor’s apt we went through McDonald’s drive thru I ordered a filet-o-fish and Vic and I split a small fries and Fanta. – zero fiber.
Dinner – Here I try to make up for what I didn’t get in the day, lots of salad and vegetables long with brown rice, beans or legumes and some form of protein beef, chicken or fish (which have zero dietary fiber)
My snacks have included nuts, Kettle Chips, homemade oatmeal cookies, popcorn and ice cream. The popcorn and nuts are good sources of fiber the others little to zero fiber.
Here’s the thing, if you know you’re not getting enough dietary fiber and you’ve evaluated and if possible improved your behaviours related to diet, exercise, stress and water consumption then I suggest taking a natural laxative to get your bowels moving. You see it is not only not fun to be constipated it can be dangerous. The waste from our ingestion – eating – must be passed in a reasonable period of time. If it does not do so we are at risk of developing colon cancer, hemorrhoids, diverticular disease, cardiovascular disease and irritable bowel disease to name a few.
I’m not saying your going to get any of these diseases, but it is important to be aware of how frequently you get the call of nature. For some it’s a morning constitutional, for others twice daily, if you’re one of those that the call comes less than twice per week you’ll need to have a good look at your lifestyle and make some positive lifestyle adaptations.
It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. If you need a little stool softener until you can slowly increase you dietary fiber, that’s OK.
Add high fiber foods to your diet slowly, over time, to prevent gastric distress. Drinking more water can be done by substituting one non-water drink for a glass of water or drinking a glass before a meal. Of course you’re exercising, but maybe you can do a bit better on this front too. The thing is constipation is a multi-pronged approach and if you suffer it’s likely your lifestyle choices could use some tweaking.
As for me, I’m off to take my own stool softener, Duphalac. There are lots out there you could try Metamucil or Senokot. If in doubt or unsure talk to your pharmacist or doctor about which product is best for you as a short-term solution.
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Till next time, feel free to leave a comment.