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Easing everyday constipation

It’s a subject few people feel comfortable talking about—even with their doctors. Yet, at some point in our lives, most of us have suffered with constipation.

Many people think they are constipated when, in fact, their bowel movements are normal. What’s natural for you may not be natural for someone else. “Natural” can be three times a day or three times a week. However, if you experience a sudden change in your normal bathroom routine, you may have a case of constipation.

What causes constipation?

Lack of exercise, a new diet, not enough water or certain medications and vitamins can all lead to the occasional bout with constipation.

If you fail to heed nature’s urgent call, you might also miss an opportunity that won’t come around again soon. People often ignore the sensation to have a bowel movement because they are too busy or do not want to use public toilets. Unfortunately, the use-it-or-lose-it rule applies, and once the urge passes, it can lead to constipation.

Fast relief

If you suffer from constipation now and then, it’s probably no cause for worry. You can take some simple steps for fast relief:

  • Examine your diet. You may not be eating enough fiber, found in vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Since the body can’t digest fiber, it forms a soft bulky texture that makes it easier to pass stools.
  • Determine whether your medications are the culprits. Certain antihistamines, diuretics and even antacids can lead to constipation. Vitamins can cause temporary constipation until the body becomes accustomed to them. If medications are to blame, talk with your doctor about alternatives that may work better for you.
  • Take a look at your lifestyle. Sometimes, a change in daily routine can bring about constipation. This might occur if you go on vacation, suddenly stop exercising or become disabled from an illness or injury. An increased activity level is your best bet to jump-start the body into functioning for you.
  • Drink plenty of water. Liquids add fluid to the colon and bulk to stools, making the elimination process flow more smoothly. Avoid alcohol and the caffeine found in coffee and colas, which all tend to cause dehydration.
  • Consider over-the-counter remedies if you need a little extra help. Fiber, laxatives and stool softeners are available in liquid and pill form.

Chronic constipation may be a sign of more serious disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome, colorectal cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Talk with your healthcare professional if your constipation persists for several weeks or if you experience any bleeding, pain or unusual symptoms.