Often it's the simple things in life that make the difference between a great day and a not-so-great one. The inability to have a good bowel movement can cause not just frustration, but also considerable discomfort and listlessness.
How can you tell if you’re truly constipated? It’s true that your bowel patterns are different from anyone else’s. Everyone’s bowel marches to the beat of a different drummer. You might normally poop once a day, while someone else's typical pattern is three times each day. Your neighbor? Maybe three or four times per week, tops. And if all of you have consistent, solid bowel movements that aren’t difficult to pass, none of you are constipated. Only you know the normal frequency of your bowel movements.
But pooping should not be a constant difficulty for you. If you find yourself struggling to pass feces, feeling like you are weighed down by the need to defecate, or having fewer than three compact, difficult bowel movements in a week, you are most likely constipated and need to seek relief. Here are some ways to relieve constipation.
- Drink more water. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of constipation. If you’re constipated, drink more water and fewer liquids that ultimately dehydrate you – like alcohol, coffee and tea. This can provide great relief.
- Eat more fiber. This is one of the best remedies. As you drink more water, add a greater amount of fiber to your diet. A lack of fiber can definitely cause problems, and many of us don’t eat enough of it. However, make sure you increase your water intake if you increase fiber consumption. Although it's a great treatment for constipation, eating more fiber while dehydrated can worsen the problem.
- Get some more exercise. Regular exercise is part of the preventative picture as well. In conjunction with increased water intake and fiber consumption, exercise can help you learn how to get rid of constipation and prevent it from returning.
- If you feel the need to poop, don’t wait for a more convenient time. Some people don’t like to poop at work. (In fact, nobody likes to do that!) But the longer you wait to go to the bathroom, the more moisture exits the feces inside your body, leaving it increasingly desiccated and harder to pass. Far better to swallow your modesty than to become constipated.
- Schedule a visit to the doctor. You may need to get medical treatment. If these adjustments to your diet and lifestyle don’t relieve the problem, or make only a small impact, then schedule an appointment with your doctor for a full evaluation. Ask him how to get rid of constipation. A doctor can determine whether prescription medication is to blame, or whether there is a physiological or underlying medical condition responsible.
- Medications. Antidepressants, drugs for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and also some blood pressure medications can cause constipation in the user. But even overuse of laxatives, counter-intuitively, can lead to problems.
- Underlying conditions. Most of the time, a person can relieve constipation by making those simple dietary and lifestyle adjustments described above. But occasionally an underlying medical condition is responsible. Waste matter moves through our intestines and out of our rectum by a process of muscle contractions that we are rarely aware of (and thankfully so). But sometimes these muscles don’t behave in the ways they should; if you suffer from what is called pelvic floor dysfunction, your muscle contractions are not properly in sync, causing constipation.
- Impaction. If you have been constipated painfully for an extended period of time, it is possible that you have developed an impaction of feces that is too tough for you to pass on your own. In these cases, it’s quite urgent that you seek medical attention to remove the impaction.
Now you know how to treat constipation. It is a very common problem, and typically one within our ability to relieve and prevent by altering our diet and lifestyle. Only very rarely does constipation indicate a more serious medical concern such as cancer. Try the simple fixes first and, if you find no relief, schedule an appointment with a doctor.