No one wants to talk about it, but many are suffering with chronic constipation.
Some constipation episodes may lead to fecal impaction, requiring professional intervention, including a hospital visit.
Yep, it’s true!
Constipation is a problem for about 4 million of us and leads to approximately 2.5 million doctor visits each year.
We try to control it ourselves, but we still seem to be affected.
Researchers are learning more to help us improve our gut health. We now know the importance of having a balanced gut and how our overall health is impacted.
There are ways to spot a gastrointestinal, or GI, problem and prevent it from getting out of control.
Is Constipation Your Problem?
Realizing that constipation could be what is causing your discomfort will be the first step in treating and hopefully preventing it in the future.
Being aware (and perhaps honest) about the number of bowel movements you have is important to knowing if your usual pattern is healthy. No one should be embarrassed to discuss this aspect of their body with their healthcare professional.
Constipation is often thought to occur when there are fewer than three bowel movements per week. Symptoms include cramping, gas, hard stools, straining, and feeling like you need to go but can’t.
If you experience any medical issues, such as blood in stools, vomiting, rectal bleeding, unexplained weight loss, or other symptoms, it is time to talk with the doctor about your GI system.
Common causes of constipation:
- Not enough water!
- Inadequate activity or muscle weakness
- Not using the bathroom when you need it – delaying a bowel movement
- Insufficient fiber in the diet every day
- Certain medical diagnosis, such as Parkinson’s disease and MS
Nutritional Solutions to Constipation
Changing up some parts of our diet can help fight constipation.
Adding some more fiber to the diet and finding ways to increase the amount of fluid you take in each day will help you tremendously to get back on track and stay there!
Our fiber intake should be about 25 grams and our fluid 48-64 ounces a day, but many of us don’t come close to that amount. In fact, most of us struggle to eat 15 grams of fiber each day.
Strategies to get enough of what your bowels need:
- Keep a pitcher of water full so that you will know exactly how much fluid you need or have left to finish.
- Include foods that contain fluid to offset drinking water if that may not be your favorite beverage. Foods with fluid include fruits and vegetables, such as grapes, watermelon, celery, lettuce; gelatin; soup, and other fluid containing foods.
- Flavor your water with lemons, limes, oranges, fruit fusions or herbs like mint or veggies like cucumber slices to punch up the taste.
- Use whole grain bread, rolls, pasta and crackers instead of white.
- Add legumes in all forms to meals and recipes, such as black bean burgers, hummus, baked beans, bean and corn salad, bean taco, pea soup, and a million other great recipes with beans as the star.
- Add fresh, raw vegetables to snacks, such as celery, carrots, and pepper strips for dipping or crunching.
- Have a side salad each night at dinner with darker green leafy salad fixings instead of iceberg. Toss in nuts, seeds, and fresh veggies to add more fiber.
- Snack on a handful of nuts, popcorn, or dried fruit instead of potato chips. Better yet, make a trail mix using all three.
- Have a serving of fresh fruit for dessert instead of a baked good.
- Make a smoothie with fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Use whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, barley, and farro, with your main meal.
- Eat a whole grain breakfast food such as bran cereal, bran muffins, oatmeal, or cream of wheat.
- Eat the skins on potatoes (you can even eat carrot skins, eggplant, zucchini, and other vegetable and fruit skins after washing).
- Winter squash such as butternut, acorn, or spaghetti, is a great side dish and available all year long.
- Add probiotics (active cultures) to your diet to replace good bacteria for gut health.
Keeping your bowels healthy with a few of these strategies will bring a smile to your face instead of a pain in gut!