Parenting Tips

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dealing with Constipation

Of late, while visiting my mum, she shared that she has constipation. When I ask around, I found that a lot of people also have this problem. So what is constipation, what are the causes and how to go about treating it ? ? ?

What is constipation?

To different people, it means different things. Basically, it refers to infrequent bowel movements. However, some will interpret it as a decrease in the amount of stool. Others describe it as difficulty in passing motion or a sense of incomplete evacuation. When this happens, they usually seek medication to help pass motion.

Ideally, one should clear his/her bowels after every meal. For some peope, it can vary from three times a day to three times a week while some may go a week or more without experiencing discomfort or harmful effects. Bowel habits are affected by diet. The average Singaporean diet includes 12 to 20 grams of fibre per day. This is below the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fibre.

About 80% of people suffer from constipation at some time during their lives. While brief periods of constipation are normal, it is advisible to seek help when the situation prolongs. The general assumption if that if motion is not passed out, it will result in poisons in the body. This can lead to overuse and abuse of laxatives.

What causes constipation?

Many factors may cause constipation. This include inadequate fibre and water intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and environmental changes. It may be aggravated by travel, pregnancy or change in diet. For some people, repeatedly ignoring the urge to pass motion may result in constipation.

More serious causes of constipation include growths or areas of narrowing in the colon. Hence, it is wise to seek the advice of a doctor when constipation persists. Constipation can also be due to nervous or endocrine disorders or diseases like thyroid, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, stroke and spinal cord injuries.

Treatment for constipation

Below are some tips for treatment of constipation:

  • Eat well balanced, regularly scheduled meals to promote normal bowel function.
  • To ensure roughage, eat foods that are high in fibre such as bran, shredded wheat, whole grain breads and certain fruits and vegetables. The recommended fibre intake is 25 to 30 grams per day for proper bowel function.
  • With high fibre diet, this will also help lower cholesterol levels, prevent symptomatic hemorrhoids and reduce the risk of developing colon polyps and caner.
  • Ensure that you drink enough fluids to help keep the stools soft. Try to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of liquid each day in the form of juice, milk, coffee, tea, soup, water or other fluids.
  • An increase in activity such as exercise will also help the bowel move.
  • Alternatively, fibre supplements may be taken as these are not harmful to the body.
  • While laxatives stimulate the colon to work more rapidly, prolonged usage may stretch and weaken the colon. Hence, it is advisible to avoid laxative unless recommended and monitored by doctors.
  • A change in lifestyle may also help. Having a specific time each day to have a bowel movement may be helpful. In some cases, bio-feedback may help to retrain poorly functioning anal sphincter muscles.
  • Only in rare circumstances are surgical procedures necessary to treat constipation. Your doctor can discuss these options with you in greater detail to determine the best treatment for you.
  • Last but not least, try Reiki. After learning this technique, I now have more frequent bowel clearance.

Metaphorically, the intestines represent garbage that are to be disposed. Parents, if you still have a lot of cluttered items, why not take this opportunity to spring-clean them. Who knows, your bowels may be smoothier. . .


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